West Watford History Group

History of West Watford and environs

W H HUMPHREYS & SON REMOVALS


Our Founder, the Great Grandfather of the current Managing Director, William Henry Humphreys, commenced in business in Watford in 1918 with the   gratuity  payment after leaving service following being a P.O.W.  during World War I.


A horse and cart was purchased and away he went moving such wares as turf for the new Vicarage Road football ground to the rather grim loads of grave stones during the pandemic of 1919. With a base in Clifton Road Watford he was in a handy spot for both jobs.


A Chevrolet lorry was purchased later and the haulage business was up and running.


William’s son Horace Henry takes over as Managing Director during the 40’s and the company relocates to Sydney Road securing the two acre businesses head quarters that are used to this day.  Horace was a forward thinker and soon acquired land behind the Sydney Road small holding which was ideal for securely parking the growing fleet of trucks with their loads.


In 1961 W H Humphreys became a limited company but was still a wholly owned by the Humphreys family as it is today.  In the 60’s with the growing need for storage for both the haulage and the ever increasing Household Removals business two separate warehouses were built. One a Haulage Shed, the other was a Central Heated furniture warehouse with bays and shelves for storing three piece suites.


During the 1970’s Horace Humphreys, again forward thinking installed large underground fuel tanks to allow the company to purchase in bulk, initially to gain a better price but this paid dividends during the Middle East fuel crisis. His planning allowed the company to guarantee deliveries to its customers.


In 1972, William Henry Humphreys’ Grandson Glynn took control of the company with his father taking a ‘back seat’, but he was still never far away when an opinion was called for.


The Haulage side of the business was still going strong with a fleet of 25 lorries out and about all over the UK with drivers based in Bristol and Liverpool adding to the already large Watford team of drivers. Loads such as China Clay from Cornwall and Money for Foreign bank notes coming from a paper mill in Scotland destined for far off places.


In the late 70’s the removal side of the business sent their first Pantechnicon to Europe. This was the start of a major change for Humphreys as this small trip started a rapid growth of work to and from Europe with connections and friendships made that is still going strong.


The late eighties saw a major decline in manufacturing in the Watford area and the Haulage fleet was cut back to six trucks, still servicing Scotland weekly even having a Scottish based driver who changed over trailers half way with the Watford based guys. European traffic was keeping to between two and three trucks a week servicing as far as Naples, but mostly Munich where the European jet fighter was being developed. The Tornado and later the Typhoon jets with development teams drawn from the RAF and MOD here in the UK and were moved out with their families for two or three year contracts.


1988 Saw the need for a further removals warehouse to be built to hold the new storage containers that could be loaded onto a lorry and filled at the customer’s home. These are then fork lifted off and stacked three high inside the new warehouse.


Justin, Glynn Humphreys’ eldest son, didn’t come straight into the company he worked for a time in Germany. Working and living with the owner of a German Transport company learning both how things worked over there and learning German to a very high level, the first of many languages he has mastered.


1991 saw the last Haulage vehicle sold and the Haulage department closed. But as one door closes another opens and through our connections in Europe we heard that the contract for all the moves for the Australian High Commission into and out of Europe was coming up for tender. Humphreys entered the tender race and in 1993 won a contract which brought in some 300 moves a year.


1993 was a busy year for Humphreys as ITV chose their Watford base as the main set for their removal base comedy drama ‘Moving Story’ staring Warren Clarke and Phil Davis. Two series were filmed over the next two years with some larger than life characters and stories.


1994 was the year that W H Humphreys & Son Ltd were featured on the cover of the British Association of Removers Magazine for being the first removal company to have all of their staff accredited under their new strict training criteria.


During late 1992 and early 93, Glynn Humphreys’ second son Matthew Humphreys spent a lot of time and effort writing Humphreys’ procedures manual and in May 1993 Humphreys were awarded British Standard BS5750 one of the first removal companies to be granted this prestigious  award. Now known as ISO 9001:2008 this standard keeps all of Humphreys processes clear and monitored by an external auditor and is a pre requisite for many tenders these days.


The New Millennium saw the need for storage outside of Watford and partnerships were made with similar, family businesses around the country for shared storage. This allows our customers to have furniture stored near to where they are going to live, allowing them to have some items out early from storage.


 These partnerships are the backbone to the way removals are done these days. With fuel prices what they are, removal companies cannot afford to run ‘empty’. By coordinating their journeys with friends around the country, savings can be made and these are savings that can be passed on the people moving over longer distances. If dates can be matched with a company that has a vehicle going home in your direction the fact that they have a return load means less waste for them and a saving for the person moving.


After over 50 years working in the company Glynn Humphreys has now ‘semi retired ‘although nobody would notice as he seems to be here just as much, with the mantle of Managing Director being handed to Justin Humphreys and Matthew Humphreys is the Financial Director.


Humphreys are approaching their centenary (2018) and by the way the company rolls with the punches, they will be around for a while yet.


Humphreys, a family business, moving families and businesses



Taken from the Humphreys website -  "History of Humphreys & Son"