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From horse and cart to Big Green Parcel Machine

Tuffnells adopted its slogan – The Big Green Parcel Machine – in 1985. Photograph: Tuffnells

Which Sheffield company operates from a network of 34 depots, with a head office in the city, and serves about 4,000 businesses?

This is a company founded in 1914 by Harold James Tuffnell  (1886-1963) with a horse and a cart he bought for £100. His surname is the giveaway, and today Tuffnells is a nationwide parcels carrier.

Harold James Tuffnell was once a groom to Charles Crookes, a steel manufacturer of East Cliffe House, East Bank Road. He died at the Royal Hospital in 1963. Photograph: Tuffnells

By the 1920s, Harold Tuffnell was operating on Langdon Street as a motor haulage contractor and coal merchant, living at 261 Pearl Street. By 1936, H.J. Tuffnell Ltd, carriers, were on Mary Street, with Harold living at 149 Folds Lane

By 1951, H.J. Tuffnell operated seven vehicles with a livery of maroon and cream, but two years later was sold to Mr E.J. Shaw, who had bought into removal company Caudles (established in the 1890s by William Caudle as a coal merchant, furniture remover, and haulier).

The company moved to Woodbourn Road, and subsequently to Shepcote Lane in the late 1960s.

Tuffnells new Shepcote Lane distribution centre in 1968. Photograph: Picture Sheffield

In 1971, Tuffnells was sold to TDG (Transport Development Group), a company founded in 1922 as The General Lighterage Co, and which eventually was swallowed up by Nobert Dentressangle and XPO Logistics. Under TDG, Tuffnells expanded and by the 1980s operated out of fifteen depots nationwide.

It changed its name to Tuffnells Parcels Express in 1985, and with a fleet of two hundred vehicles, adopted the slogan, The Big Green Parcel Machine.

Tuffnells was subject to a £33m management buyout in 2005 and turnover exceeded £100m for the first time. It came to the attention of the Connect Group, another company with a long history – originally known as W.H. Smith News and renamed Smiths News in 2006 from the demerger of W.H. Smith. It became the Connect Group before reverting to Smiths News again.

Connect paid £100m for Tuffnells in its centenary year, later moving its main distribution centre to Europa Close and its head office to the former Sheffield City Council Offices on Carbrook Hall Road.

The takeover was not without its problems and subject to a run of poor performance, (“a drag on profitability and cash”), Connect had considered closing it, before off-loading the company (and its 1,200 green trucks) to investment vehicle Palm Bidco for £15m in July 2020, effectively returning the company back into private hands once again.

Still going strong, despite plans by the Connect Group to close the business in 2019. Photograph: Tuffnells
Measuring 20,000 square foot and sitting on a four-acre site, the Europa Close site is home to 41 vehicles, 51 loading bays and 139 employees. Photograph: AKV Group

Picture Sheffield

© 2021 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.