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The Family Tree

Following in his father’s footsteps, John Dartnall’s son, William entered the building trade at an early age and appears to have been very successful. He married Elizabeth Bannister, whose dowry included a considerable amount of property.
William had two sons, William (2) and David who both operated as builders. William’s (2) younger son, David (2) entered the family business. He in turn was succeeded by his younger son, Richard under whom the business developed substantially.
Richard's two sons, Henry and Richard (3) formed a marked contrast to one another. Henry was healthy, active and unmarried, whilst Richard was sickly and much married. Unfortunately, Richard was left to run the company and when he died, his residual estate was worth less than £100. Fortunately, Richard's son, Richard ([3] seventh generation, was very different to his father and is generally regarded as the founder of the modern business.
Between 1787 and 1797 Richard carried out many land transactions and became Town Overseer in 1805. Yet by remaining unmarried until well into middle age, he also threatened to break the family tradition of father-to-son succession. Fortunately, he did eventually take a wife and in 1807 she bore him a son whom they named Richard!
It was this Richard (eighth generation) who started to keep proper accounts and who married Anne Langridge, perhaps the most formidable matriarch in the family. Left a widow by her husband's early departure at 49, Anne ran the firm single-handedly during the minority of her son, Richard (b 1835). Known as the 'Iron Woman', Anne used to visit Durtnell building sites on horseback, haranguing foremen for wasting time and materials and ordering workmen to pick up dropped nails.
 
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Once in charge of the company, Richard proved himself every inch his mother's son. Strong-willed, clear-headed, exacting yet fair he was dynamic and extremely successful. He bought property he could improve for profit, speculated successfully on the railways and became chairman of a raft of local companies. Under his leadership, Durtnells grew rapidly, both in size and scale of projects and profitability. Richard was also something of a pioneer, being proud that his house was one of the first to have a special room for a bath - he was fond of remarking that he had stolen a march on Queen Victoria, since Buckingham Palace could not boast of such a luxury at that time but subsequently followed suit.
Richard had four sons, but only Richard born in 1866 and Harry (b 1867) joined the company. In the 1920s, wishing to retire and bind his two sons into the business, he formed the firm into a partnership. Although theoretically a good idea, it proved to be an unhappy move. After years of quietly increasing conflict, the two brothers quarrelled irrevocably - probably on account of Harry's penchant for wine, women and song - and the company split in two. Harry took the Bat & Ball Brick and Tile Works (now closed) and Richard the building business.
In 1937, Richard registered Richard Durtnell & Sons as a limited company. Given the state of relations with his brother, this was probably a shrewd move, but it was the nineteen thirties and a difficult time for everyone. The situation was considered serious enough for Richard's son Geoffrey (b 1903) to come down from Cambridge (where he had been reading cricket, according to the present Chairman!) in order to help his father pull the company through. There followed a period of very hard work and considerable change. However Richard and Geoffrey were a successful combination, because under their stewardship new branches were opened at Sevenoaks and Oxted; the works and transport were mechanised and new working methods were introduced.

Head Office, R Durtnell & Sons Limited, Rectory Lane, Brasted, Westerham, Kent, TN16 1JR

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