An Interview with Alan Pullin
One of Stonewood’s longest-serving employees talks about the ‘family atmosphere’ which has kept him so fond of the company during his 25 years with the business.
As we celebrate our 50th year in trading, we sat down with one of Stonewood’s longest-serving employees, Alan Pullin, affectionately known by all as ‘Beefy’. He candidly tells the story of his time at the company, sharing anecdotes and musings from along the way. When asked to describe Stonewood, Beefy used the words ‘family atmosphere’ and the memories he shares from his last 25 years are a testament to that statement.
Beefy had his first introduction to Neill Aitkenhead, founder of NMA Builders (later Stonewood Builders) at Castle Combe Football Club. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that he started doing work for Neill, and a friendship was born that would see Beefy go on to work with NMA/Stonewood for more than 25 years.
They first worked together when Neill called Beefy in to help on a Mill in Long Dean after being left without a plasterer. Many years later, he still remembers his first day on the site as he worked alongside his brother Nick. Neill had come to the site and questioned Nick for doing the plastering instead of Beefy, leaving them both to explain that his brother was in fact the plasterer, whilst he was a labourer. Despite this confusing start Beefy spent the next ten years doing multiple jobs for NMA as a subcontractor. Coincidentally one of the projects that he worked on during this period, was Tormarton Court which has since become the home of Stonewood Partnerships, Stonewood Homes, and Earthstone Construction.
In around 1997, Beefy met with Neill, Matt Aitkenhead and Tim Saunders (Neill’s business partner) at a pub in The Shoe, to discuss the potential for him to join NMA full-time, an offer he was delighted to accept, with his first project being in West Kington. He soon moved on to a large refurbishment project near Malmsbury where he first started working with a young Ben Lang, who was a foreman on the site at the time. He has fond memories here with lots of friendly banter on-site, much of it involving the current COO, Ben. The company at this point had grown from 7 to 17 employees and Neill was concerned that he didn’t personally know everyone on site anymore so when he paid a visit to site, he called a team meeting and invited everyone to stand up and introduce themselves. Stonewood Group now stands at over 350 employees, which is a remarkable expansion, and one those present at this meeting would have been amazed by.
What Beefy would later describe as his favourite project from his Stonewood career was when he had his first shot at running a site at Palm Cottage in 2002. Rumour has it, he got through 1,500 teabags whilst on site here, with Mrs Constable (the client of the project) bringing along an extra pot of tea at 10 am and 1 pm to share with the men on site. This property will remain one of significance in Beefy’s life, returning to the property for internal works in both 2006 and 2008.
After many years on-site, Beefy decided to take a step back from his on-site duties, spending more time working at the yard and running small jobs. During this time, he would spend time training some of the younger lads, including Jamie Rowlands who is in his 11th year at Stonewood and has clearly benefitted from Beefy’s wisdom. He also spent time working on a project in Woking, in which the team would stay down there for five days out of the week before returning home at the weekend. The site was run by Darren Earley, another long-term Stonewood employee. Before Beefy joined the site, the guys would finish up work at 7 pm and head to the pub for their post-work Guinness with the team. However, after Beefy’s arrival, he changed things up and would cook everyone dinner for three nights out of the four, making the trip to the pub with the team on the fourth night. It was times like this that reminded him of the sense of family that was felt during his time at Stonewood.
After an operation on his ankle, Beefy took another step back from his work on-site and took on more yard responsibilities, which takes him to his position now as a yard operative. He still frequents sites, delivers materials, and takes on small tasks here and there. With his trusty Nokia on him at all times, with the same number that he had when he first started at Stonewood, Beefy is always at the end of the phone, ready to help on-site or at offices when needed.
After talking through his working on life on site, we went on to discuss one of everyone’s favourite parts of working at Stonewood – the people that work here and the social life that comes along with it. A major part of this was of course the Christmas parties, he recounts the locations of these moving as the company grew, relocating from White Heart at Castle Combe to the White Heart at Ford, where the parties grew from about 10 to 40 people by the time they moved on from Ford. At one such event notebooks and pens were laid out across the tables at the pub with the name ‘Stonewood Builders’ written on them; this is where it was announced the plans to change the name to what we know the company as today.
The sense of family is something that is rooted within the foundations and values of the company, from when Neill started the business in 1972 to now in 2022 when it is run by his son Matt and lifelong friend Ben. With Beefy feeling no less a part of the ‘Stonewood Family’ now that the company has grown to over 350 employees, it is no wonder he is reluctant to hang up his Stonewood boots.