This year, Smith Brothers is celebrating 125 years in business

Smith Brothers is thrilled to be celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. With origins dating all the way back to 1897 when founder Walter Smith began to lay the foundations of what would become one of the UK’s largest independent HVAC merchants. Throughout its history, the business has remained family-owned with the fifth-generation present within a 400-strong workforce.

Focus on staff, stock and service

Specialising in the distribution of pipework, valves, air conditioning along with all associated fittings and ancillaries, Smith Brothers continues to expand its product offering and geographical reach while remaining true to its company ethos of staff, stock and service.

Smith Brothers’ goal has always been to provide unrivalled levels of service at competitive pricing and to exceed the customers’ expectations.

A rich history

The business has transitioned significantly since 1897, from manufacturing boilers for the shipping industry, to furnishing hundreds of mills built within Leicester and assisting with the war efforts, before finally focussing predominantly on piping and HVAC supplies as the market grew in the 1960’s. Born in 1874, founder Walter Smith followed his father’s footsteps and became a brewer’s clerk in the famous brewery town of Burton-upon-Trent. In 1891 he then became a merchant’s clerk and moved to Leicester; it was here in 1897 when Walter began to lay the foundations of the business we know today, with Smith Brothers (Leicester) Ltd being officially incorporated in 1907.

Along with brothers Ralph and John, Walter began to service and furnish the local textile mills that were opening at the time. In 1936, Leicester became Europe’s richest city behind London due to its manufacturing and exporting capabilities. This was primarily due to its rich textile heritage, of which Smith Brothers were one of the main suppliers and furnishers.

Smith Brothers provided temporary and portable boilers to enable power-driven textile operations.

One of Smith Brothers' deliveriesOne of Smith Brothers’ deliveries

The business even opened entirely new opportunities into steam-powered manufacturing and provided innovative textile operations across the county. Providing steam power demands via line shafts and pulleys, Smith Brothers also supplied mechanical solutions and transmission supplies where steam applications were vital for fast and cheap production. Components such as traps, whistles, gauges, injectors, tubes and fittings were supplied, much like they are today.

Steam power requires considerable care as it runs at such a high pressure to enable power transfer. The valves, piping and mechanics that were supplied all over Leicester by Smith Brothers needed to be well maintained to ensure that such a high-pressure boiler and its components did not fault. During the second world war, the company like many others assisted with the war effort.

The railings outside its old head office premises for example were melted down to increase steel supplies. During the post-war boom in the late 1940s, electrical motors had begun to replace steam power and the textile mills began to close in the 1960’s, this was when Smith Brothers turned to focus on the distribution of piping and HVAC supplies as the market emerged.

Exciting plans for the future

Today, Smith Brothers is now one of the largest independent merchants supplying HVAC solutions across the UK, with 17 branches strategically situated across England, Scotland and Wales, with more planned in the near future. Smith Brothers attributes its success to its investment into its employees and extensive stock levels, with staff members possessing excellent industry reputations for being committed, helpful and knowledgeable, and its supply chain consisting of both market leading brands and cost saving alternatives.

After 125 years of trade, Smith Brothers continues down its path of sustainable expansion whilst moving with the times, working to improve its service with the customer in mind.

This year, the business celebrated the launch of an exclusive online portal where existing customers can manage their accounts 24/7 with online ordering coming in autumn 2022, if not before. Next time you see a SBS truck, just remember it all started in Leicester way back in 1987!

Find out more by visiting sbs.co.uk.