Portsmouth building firm T Coleborn & Son named oldest city business after starting in 1783

A BUILDING firm in Fratton has officially been named as the oldest business in Portsmouth.

Thursday, 14th October 2021, 1:55 pm

T Coleborn & Son started in Newcastle Street in 1783, before moving to Sandringham Road, and then finally to Kirpal Road in April 2005.

It specialises in building, decorating and refurbishment and mainly carries out contract work for local authorities, like Hampshire County Council, or schools or organisations like English Heritage.

Research carried out by website BusinessFinancing.co.uk looked at the longest-running, continually operating businesses across the UK.

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From left, Laura Steere, Luke Steere, Ben Thomas, joint MD Barry Thomas, Peter Finch and joint MD Eric Coleborn. Building contractors T Coleborn and Son Ltd established in 1783 are Portsmouth's oldest company. They are based in Fratton Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 061021-04)

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It was inspired to look at the stats as government figures suggest less than half of the UK’s 726,000 new businesses will survive their first four years, with around 25-30 per cent not even making it to their second anniversary.

BusinessFinancing used sources such as Companies House, city location guides, local authorities, historical societies, and chambers of commerce to find the oldest companies in each UK city.

It found that in Portsmouth, T Coleborn & Son was the longest standing business with 238 years under its belt.

Joint managing directors Eric Coleborn, left, and Barry Thomas. Building contractors T Coleborn and Son Ltd established in 1783 are Portsmouth's oldest company. They are based in Fratton Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 061021-03)

Even more impressive than that, it’s in the same family, with seventh generation descendant Eric Coleborn at its helm.

Eric runs the firm with managing director Barry Thomas, from Waterlooville.

Barry said they were proud to have the title, especially after surviving a particularly tricky two years.

Barry said that despite the pandemic, which saw them forced to furlough workers as lockdowns hampered work, they were hopeful of things returning to business as usual soon, and that they were determined to last another couple of centuries.

He said: ‘The side effects of the pandemic are still lingering on. The more pressing issues we have now are around supply chains and getting materials.

‘But we started out in 1783 and we have documented evidence of that. We are the longest standing firm in Portsmouth and we are very proud of that.

‘It is on our shoulders to keep it going for another 200 years.’ .

The 10 oldest companies in the UK were Aberdeen Harbour Board (1136), Trinity House (1514), Cambridge University Press (1534), Oxford University Press (1586), Firmin & Sons Ltd (1655), Berrow's Worcester Journal (1690), Bank of Scotland (1695), Kentish Post (1717), Blackhurst Swainson Goodier LLP (1720) and P&G Wells (1729).