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The ceiling systems manufacturer and distributor mark their 55thanniversary.

Over half a century ago Nevill Long took delivery of its first shipmentfrom America of mineral tiles from the Armstrong Cork Company (now ArmstrongCeiling Solutions). They were transported on barges from docks on the Thames tothe interior systems specialist's warehouse in Southall.

The anniversary has sparked a trip down memory lane for the “distributorof choice”, Armstrong's very first distributor, and its counterparts within theleading ceiling systems manufacturer.

Nevill Long managing director Dave Bonner particularly remembersArmstrong's launch of the MicroLook concept to the UK in 1984.

“Everyone thought the tiles would fall out,” he said. “It was visuallystunning at the time and transformed the appearance of a lay-in grid ceiling.It has also stood the test of time.”

He also remembers one project in particular that involved bothcompanies.

“Memorable to me for personal reasons was the De Vere Hotel in Daventry.This was one of the first projects to use the then new Armstrong Galaxy tile,supplied by us. It won me a trip to the States!”

He added: “Over this period, Nevill Long has been under four differentowners and all have presented challenges and opportunities. Throughout thesechanges (and Armstrong had some as well) the partnership has remained strongand demonstrated mutual respect. Both companies have also been able to adapt tochange.

“From a personal perspective, long-term partnerships are key to successand have to be sustainable. There should always be an opportunity to discussand resolve an issue. If we are not able to do this, the partnership isworthless.”

And the future for the ceilings industry? “Design fashions change butthere will always be a requirement for parts of the building element to provideacoustic, thermal and performance criteria,” he said. “My view is that ceilingsare best placed to meet the performance criteria that is required. I stillthink that in the future there should be more scope for ceilings to offer moresolutions in this digital age.”

Armstrong sales director Graham Taylor sees many similarities betweenthe two companies.

“Respect, integrity and doing things the right way are our values too. Astrong similarity is how we treat our respective employees. I can think ofseveral instances where Nevill Long has acted in a way I would expect ourcompany to - fairly, and with compassion when necessary.”

He added: “Business in general has of course changed over all thoseyears. Our partnership has been tested for sure in recent times but thefoundation of our partnership has remained strong. I would say getting throughthe last economic recession was, in part, due to this long-standingpartnership.

“It is a perfect time to be celebrating the past because the future forour partnership looks stronger today than it has done for several years, in myopinion.”

The 1960s were memorable for both companies. The panel side of the Nevill Longbusiness, originally one of the largest softwood importers in the UK, had beenpurchased, on the retirement of the Nevill Long family, by the manager of thefibre boards division, Hedley J Meek. By 1962 he had divested some of thesmaller subsidiaries to concentrate on Nevill Long & Co (Boards) inSouthall and imported his first ceiling tile from Armstrong in America. Justfour years later Armstrong opened its first manufacturing unit in Europe, inthe UK.

In the early part of the millennium Nevill Long was sold to Wolseley Plcin 2006 who integrated it as a division of Encon Insulation Ltd which had beenacquired by Wolseley a year earlier. Armstrong Metal Ceilings, a leading metalceiling manufacturer in Europe, had already been acquired by Armstrong in 2000,enhancing the manufacturer's offering to include custom solutions in metal, andthen in 2003 Armstrong pioneered its recycling programme in the UK.

Most recently, Nevill Long returned to its independent roots following amanagement buy-out of the Encon Group led by CEO Stuart Moore in 2011.

To mark their long-standing relationship Nevill Long is inviting ceilingcontractors to a 55th anniversary celebration on a boat on the Thames, not farfrom North Hyde Wharf (then Nevill Long's Southall branch) where those firstceiling tiles were offloaded.

The afternoon event on July 19th is destined to evoke a multitude ofmemories from staff from both companies.


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