The Altham’s story is a fascinating one, with its roots in Victorian Britain, and shows just what can be achieved by generations of one family whose guiding principle is service. As Jane Watson says,
“by keeping it in the family and knowing our customers personally, we can truly understand what they want and offer them a flexible, tailored solution.”
The Altham family’s first business was a butcher’s shop opened in 1856 in Morecambe by Thomas Altham who was a farmer. It was then passed to his son, John Carr Altham, but sadly John died young leaving his widow and two young sons, Robert and Thomas to run the business. Two more shops were opened in Heysham and Morecambe but life was very difficult for the young family. Morecambe was becoming more popular as a holiday resort and to help ends meet Mrs JC and her two boys used to sleep in the cellar of the shop at Queen Street to enable them to rent out the rooms above the shop.
The link with shipping
A natural development of the existing business was for the company to supply meat to ships visiting the Stone Jetty at Morecambe and St Georges Quay in Lancaster. In the early 1900’s when Heysham Harbour was developed, the company also supplied ships’ stores to the cargo and passenger ships that visited the new port.
Diversification of supplies
In 1932 Robert who by now was married to Gladys had a son, John Carr. John was inspired to expand the business after his National Service in the Royal Navy and in 1952 he returned home to set up a dedicated ships’ supply business. The business was operated from a five storey warehouse on St Georges Quay at Lancaster and as it grew, it moved to larger premises in Morecambe in 1966.
Two family businesses
In 1974 a large extension was built at the Morecambe warehouse to accommodate the butchery business. Both businesses continued to expand so quickly that in 1984 it made sense to split the two sides of the business. They formed two new companies: Mrs JC Altham (Lancaster) Ltd, the Chandlers and Mrs JC Altham & Sons (Morecambe) Ltd, the Butchers. The Butchers moved to larger premises where they remain until this day.
A new generation
In 1963 John Carr and his wife Linda had a daughter, Jane. Jane was brought up in Morecambe and after leaving school in 1982 joined the Lancashire Constabulary where she served in East Lancashire for 10 years. Jane was commended for bravery on two occasions during her service and her interests in shooting led her to become the Country’s first female Police Firearms Instructer and the Police World Clay Trap Champion two years running. Jane Married her husband Stephen in 1990 and joined the family business in 1993.
Expanding into new markets
The Company continued to grow and new areas of business were developed. These included supplying the new Freight Ferry services from Heysham and Liverpool to Ireland and in 2000, Altham’s began supplying stores to the area’s offshore gas and oil platforms. In 2002, Altham’s acquired land near to the Port of Heysham and a new purpose built warehouse was developed. The new warehouse has built-in capacity for growth and provides a very modern platform for the future. In 2008 Jane followed her Father onto the Executive Council of the British Association of Ships’ Suppliers a position which she continues to hold.