Heritage builder WS Lusher develops a reputation for restoration expertise
PUBLISHED: 19:31 06 October 2015 | UPDATED: 19:31 06 October 2015
Archant Norfolk 2015
Heritage builder WS Lusher & Son has a Royal Warrant to work on Sandringham House, has built sets for blockbusters, and has carefully preserved hundreds of churches. Sabah Meddings met the owners at their Sprowston base
According to third-generation builder Mark Lusher, the buzz word for working on historic structures is “patience”.
For repairing crumbling chimneys, decaying churches and stately homes requires a “thorough knowledge of traditional buildings”, and contains a degree of uncertainty,
“If you take something away there could be something else behind it,” said Mr Lusher’s daughter Kim, 28, who has recently taken on the role of general manager.
The firm, established in 1924 by Mr Lusher’s grandfather William, has developed a reputation for restoration expertise.
It has rebuilt all of the chimneys at sixteenth-century stately home Breccles Hall, near Thetford, and built pillars and steps at Norwich Cathedral when it was transformed into a film set. What appeared to be a castle in 2013-movie Jack the Giant Slayer, starring Ewan McGregor, was actually the city’s cathedral, carefully disguised by Mr Lusher and his team.
The firm counts the Queen among its customers, having secured a Royal Warrant of appointment to work on Sandringham House, and carries out ongoing maintenance on her Norfolk home.
All 37 of the WS Lusher & Son’s tradesmen are directly employed, allowing the carpenters, bricklayers and joiners to develop specialist knowledge.
But although cutting out contractors removes an element of risk for more difficult projects, Mr Lusher said it was a tough policy through the drought of the financial crisis.
The 61-year-old said: “It was difficult to stay by them all in the last eight years with the recession, but we are glad we did. We didn’t lose anyone.
“The recession was the toughest I can remember because it was so long. It wasn’t expected to last more than a year, but it went on and on.
“People across the board decided if they had any money they would keep it for themselves.”
Luckily for WS Lusher & Son, grants for churches continued.
“If we had all our eggs in one basket we would have been in trouble,” said Mr Lusher.
He said business was looking up, but it was not as “sure fire” as some companies said.
“It is still very tough. If we are up against other contractors in a tender situation then we are finding figures still very low.
“There are mixed messages. Some people are still a bit nervous about having the work done, but it is better than it was.”
Mr Lusher said turnover was sitting comfortably at about £3.5m.
And already an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Builders, he recently took exams in London to become a member of the Institute.
“I am spending a lot of time encouraging others to better themselves when all this time I hadn’t, so I thought why not,” he said.
While Mr Lusher has been at the helm for 30 years, his daughter has taken a bigger role, after a spell in London working in public relations.
“I am trying to see the areas we can improve to make sure we are always developing and keeping up with things,” she said.
“It is an old-fashioned family company, a lot of our work comes from long-standing customers.”