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A History of Didcot Plant

The Didcot Plant buildings and yard

Originally formed in 1967, the modern era for Didcot Plant started in March 1992 when Fred Tarrant and his company, Axworthy, bought the firm.

Didcot Plant had been in the doldrums for a couple of years and Fred Tarrant embarked on a program of rejuvenation. The first thing he did was to reinstate the whole workforce back onto a full working week, because during the lean times they had all been restricted to a four-day working week.

Secondly, Fred Tarrant recognised the need to overhaul the aging hire fleet and an auction sale was held at Rich’s Sidings on 4 April 1992. Reading auctioneers, Thimbleby & Shorland, conducted a busy sale that saw The Sidings and Broadway filled with cars belonging to sale goers.

Steady growth

With the hire fleet purged of its older items a long-term program of replacement was started. This process was aided by the relationship with parent company Axworthy, who’s support in the early days with sharing items from their considerable hire fleet was vital to Didcot Plant’s growth.

The business grew steadily throughout the nineties as Didcot Plant re-established itself.

The building of the Didcot ‘B’ Power Station in the mid-nineties came at a perfect time and the increased business it brought helped the hire fleet to expand to an unprecedented size and variety.


Didcot Plant's yard with various plant for hire

As the new millennium arrived it was obvious that Didcot Plant was outgrowing its Rich’s Sidings yard and the restriction in space was hindering potential future expansion.

In January 2001 news that HM Plant in Basil Hill Road was looking to sell their yard came at the ideal time. Before it was even advertised for general sale Fred Tarrant acted quickly to do a deal for the acquisition of the 1.3-acre site and on 20 February 2001 purchase of the Basil Hill Road site was completed.

Built in the early 1990s by the Bodman family the site featured purpose-built workshops and offices within the luxury of a 1.3-acre yard. It was ideally situated within close proximity to the A34, Power Station, Southmead Industrial Estate and Milton Park Industrial Estate.

Modifying and modernising

The Didcot Plant workshop

Between February and September, the site was modified to the requirements of a modern plant and tool hire operation. A smart new fence was erected at the front of the yard, large areas of tarmac were laid, and considerable changes were made to the offices and workshops including the installation of a new telephone and computer management system. The building did not have a shop area as such and old store rooms were modified to create a trade counter and shop. Site security was paramount and electrically powered steel shutters were fitted to all the ground floor windows along with the latest in alarm and cctv systems.

Finally, in September 2001, Didcot Plant was ready to move home and over the weekend of 8 and 9 September it was all hands-on deck as everything was moved across town and prepared for the opening of business at 7.30am on the Monday morning.

Over the following years further work was completed on the site to improve upon an already excellent yard.

2000’s and beyond

The Didcot Plant yard and entrance area

The extra space and purpose-built facilities allowed Didcot Plant to continue its program of expansion throughout the early 2000’s and the hire fleet grew to keep up with customer demands, with lines such as 6t dumpers and 9t excavators added to the range.

The recession and lean years following the 2008 financial crisis, though painful, was taken relatively in-stride and Fred Tarrant was extremely proud of the fact that he did not have to lay anyone off during this time and Didcot Plant was able to head into the recovery years fully staffed with considerable hire experience in all positions.

Despite having an increasingly reduced role in the day-to-day running of the company from the mid 2000’s onwards, and passing on the Managing Director’s baton to his son, Matthew, Fred Tarrant was actively involved in the direction of the firm right up until his sudden death in 2015.

Today, Matthew and his team remain dedicated to taking Didcot Plant even further, continuing to provide their customers with the best quality in equipment and service.

November 2017

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