Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ever heard of the 'Tercentenarian Club'?

I hadn't, until the Telegraph published this report.

There are a number of candidates for the most exclusive club in Britain. The Victoria and George Cross Association, every member a hero, can stake its claim. So, too, the Leander Rowing Club, which counts more Olympians in its ranks than any other sports group.

But none has a longer waiting list, nor a greater shared history, than the Tercentenarian Club.

If you have never heard of it, that is not a surprise. It has barely a dozen members, no annual fee, and it meets just once a year. The members are a rag-tag collection of businessmen, including a wine merchant, a butcher, a hat maker, a ribbon manufacturer, a builder and boatyard owner. There’s even a candlestick seller.

To enter the club you need to run a business that has survived for more than 300 years and is still owned by the same family that started it.

The member companies must, by definition, have unparalleled staying power. They have survived at least 47 recessions, a clutch of banking crises, stock market crashes, the start of the Industrial Revolution and the end of horsepower, two world wars, the defeat of Napoleon, and the rise of the internet.

What is the secret?

“If I knew how we’d survived, we’d bottle it and sell it,” says Alan Hughes, the owner of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which has been going since 1570.

He is fairly gloomy about the state of the economy and the ability of his company and his fellow members to survive another 300 years. “The Chancellor of the Exchequer doesn’t know what’s going to happen in the next three months; how do I know how things will pan out?”

But then he brightens: “The demand for bells has been in terminal decline since 1870. But our biggest client is the Church, which has been in business for 2,000 years, so we are talking about a very, very slow decline.”

. . .

Most Tercentenarians specialise in something ancient and unmechanised. But looks can be deceptive.

It is true that if you step inside Berry Bros & Rudd, the wine merchant, it looks pretty much the same as it did when Lord Byron or William Pitt the Younger popped in to buy their port – the shop has dusty shelves and ancient weighing scales. But the company was one of the first retailers to embrace the internet.

There's more at the link.

Makes every American business look like a callow youth, doesn't it?



trailbee said...

What a wonderful idea. It never once crossed my mind that there are actual companies that survived that long in England. Kudos for ingenuity and persistence. What a claim to fame. :)

Old NFO said...

That it does... and an interesting club!!!

Greybeard said...

I landed the helicopter at a little uncontrolled airport one day and was engaged in conversation by a nice man with a British accent. Found out he was the Brit Regional Sales manager for Cessna.
At the end of our conversation he invited me to stay in his home...
Built in the 1500's.
I intend to take him up on his invitation one day!

Chas Clifton said...

The King Arthur Flour people claim direct descent from a business started in 1790, which makes it one of the older American companies.

The oldest firm in North America is said to be the Hudson's Bay Co., founded in 1670, which would make them part of that club too if it included Canada.

Graybeard said...

Makes every American business look like a callow youth, doesn't it?

Makes America seem like a callow youth.

perlhaqr said...

Santa Fe is 400 years old. It's not impossible that there might be something like that here. Of course, it wasn't America at the time...