The company that we know today as idverde originates from a number of legacy companies across the UK. Of these, the longest traceable history dates back to 1919, so that’s where our story begins.
After the Great War (1914-1918), our country was reeling from the huge loss of life and enormous financial outlay that a World War demands. We needed to rebuild our economy, and in particular, to address a dire shortage of timber. The war stretched the UK’s timber resource to breaking point, with wood used in coal pits and steel works as well as on the front lines for building trenches. As the war ended it was clear that we couldn’t rely on timber imports, hence the Acland Committee was set up to make our woodland resources more sustainable. This led to the creation of the Forestry Commission in September 1919; a state organisation set up to re-forest the UK and meet our domestic timber needs.
One very active member of the Acland Committee was the Rt Hon George Courthope MP. In 1919, George, together with his fellow forestry enthusiast Colonel Jocelyn Brudenell Pelham (6th Earl of Chichester) decided to set up their own tree growing and planting operation. They named this the English Forestry Association (EFA). This was an association of like-minded and privileged individuals; the original list of shareholders, some 50 in number, reads like an extract from Burke’s peerage.
Their association was clearly successful, as in 1926 it became a limited company called the English Forestry Association Limited, and has kept trading until the present day, including throughout the Second World War.
At our Head Office in Coventry, we still treasure all the old hand-written minute books. It’s fascinating to see that at the Board Meeting on 27 September 1939, the Manager (Mr Green) reported that “owing to the outbreak of war, business had slackened considerably” (you don’t say)! Nonetheless, in a style befitting its aristocratic heritage, the Board resolved to “carry on as usual”, and so it did, for the next 30 years.
Then began a period of growth, mergers and acquisitions that continues today. In 1970 the English Forestry Association acquired and merged with Wealden Woodlands and Oakover Forest Services. This new company was renamed English Woodlands Ltd.
In 1979, in recognition of the fact that it was now doing more landscaping than woodland management, English Woodlands became English Landscapes Ltd, and in 2003, created another company called English Landscapes Maintenance Ltd to meet the growing demand for grounds maintenance services.
In 2010, two more businesses were acquired: Banyards Ltd and Wyevale Ltd, and the organisation re-branded itself as The Landscape Group.
At this point in our history, The Landscape Group (a very British company) caught the eye of a newly created company in France called idverde. Formerly the greenspace services division of ISS in France, idverde was looking for a platform to expand its activities in the UK.
In 2015, The Landscape Group was acquired by idverde in France, and became idverde UK. Further acquisitions of Quadron Services Limited (2016), Land Engineering (Scotland) in 2017, Out There Services (Northern Ireland) and Championship Sports Services in 2018, and KJT Group, Assist Group and TCL Group in 2019 brings us to the present day.
Today, the idverde group has 5,000 colleagues working collaboratively across the UK, France and the Netherlands. Just as in 1919, the Company is still owned by its management, although now supported by Core Equity Partners in Belgium. However, the lineage of the current leadership teams in the UK and Europe could not be further removed from that of our aristocratic founders!
Whatever challenges the coming years present, we are determined to uphold the spirit of our forebears and “carry on as usual”. We will deliver our vision to be ‘the provider of choice for creating and maintaining landscapes for businesses and communities’ and, we’ll continue our journey with our amazing colleagues, clients, communities and suppliers.