In 1885, William Hotchkiss and his son, Henry James, established W. Hotchkiss and Son, a maintenance engineering works, at 41 Ashford Road in Eastbourne. William died ten years later, leaving the business to Henry, whose young son, Frederick, had just joined at the tender age of 14.
In 1910, Henry passed the torch to Frederick, whose ambition and loyalty to the company was matched only by his sense of morality. As a devoutly religious man and a pacifist, Frederick refused to manufacture armaments during the Great War, despite the considerable profit it would have generated. Instead, he elected to focus the company’s resources on non-destructive work.
Following the First World War, Frederick’s four sons Bernard, Colin, Ronald and Wesley came into the business, and ran the company alongside their father until his death in 1943.
In 1952, Mr S G Ohly purchased the Hotchkiss family’s shares and became Chairman.
By this point, the company had moved away from maintenance work towards structural steelwork and architectural metalwork, which became so successful that Hotchkiss introduced its own Lattice Construction System in 1954.
This was a major milestone in the firm’s development and, thanks to a massive surge of interest in steel construction, Hotchkiss acquired a heavy steel fabrication factory in Shoreham in 1955.
At this time, Hotchkiss became involved with sheet metal fabrication, manufacturing spray booths and small extract systems for restaurants and cafes. Soon, the company boasted Gatwick Airport, Brunel University and the British United Airways terminal at Victoria Station in London among its growing list of prestigious contracts, whilst also winning export orders in Qatar, Brunei, Bermuda and Nigeria.
With the increasing demand for the expertise of its structural steelwork, balustrading and ductwork engineers, the company continued to expand, leading to the formation of a subsidiary company, Hotchkiss Ductwork, in 1965. Thanks to its ability to meet the ever-growing demand for air conditioning, Hotchkiss Ductwork developed a reputation as a trustworthy and reliable ventilation contractor.
However, the mid-1960s brought about a decline in structural steelwork and a huge upsurge in the use of pre-stressed and reinforced concrete for construction. While this side of the business began to suffer, the demand of our ventilation and ductwork engineers continued to grow alongside the expansion of the airconditioning market.
In 1972, Michael Ohly, eldest son of the chairman and recently appointed financial director of Hotchkiss, reluctantly decided to close the structural steelwork side of the business. It was then that Hotchkiss focused more intently on its role as a ventilation contractor, specialising in the manufacture and installation of ductwork and ventilation systems.
After investing in new technology and leading the introduction of both CAM and CAD systems facilities in factories, on sites and in drawing offices, the company’s technical and contracting expertise and reputation began to soar.
Hotchkiss invests in new technologies. As the company’s technical and contracting expertise and reputation begins to soar, so does its client base, along with the size and scale of projects Hotchkiss undertakes as a ventilation contractor.
In October 2021, Olivier Grob, the son-in-law of Michael Ohly, acquired Hotchkiss Group and became the newly-appointed CEO and Chairman of the Board. With his extensive experience in building services, following his 13-year career at Otis Elevator Company and his expertise in sales and marketing, P&L management and business strategy, Olivier is bringing fresh ideas to the Group, and has great ambition for both companies.
On April 4th 2022, a plan entitled Vision 2030 was presented to Hotchkiss and Fire Protection Ltd’s senior management, focusing on a growth and diversification strategy to strengthen our financials, but also reminding us of Hotchkiss Group’s mission, core values and the importance of our employees. We are proud of our industry and look forward to our future.