Reflections at 90 for Ridge celebrating 75 years of nurturing talent and building the future.

11 February 2021

Former Ridge Senior Partner John Martin, who celebrates his 90th Birthday today, reflects on the history of Ridge, celebrating its 75th year in 2021.

Following the end of the second World War, in September 1946, the entrepreneurial Harold John Ridge set up in practice, working mainly on much needed housing developments with the Air Ministry, Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. Harold Ridge had qualified as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor just before the war started and was put into a reserved occupation at RAF Abingdon.

In 1951, John Martin had just completed his National Service and was looking for a job:

“ I was cycling across Magdalen Bridge in Oxford when I met a friend who suggested Quantity Surveying. I had never heard of it and searching in the telephone directory found Henry Cooper in Cornmarket and H.J Ridge & Partners at 23 Beaumont Street. I preferred Beaumont Street and knocked on the door. That’s what we did in those days. I joined the infant firm. There were no partners, one qualified assistant and three trainees. My starting pay was £3 for a five and a half day working week. I had a day off in term time to attend the Oxford School of Architecture and Building, now part of Oxford Brookes University. I soon found that quantity surveying was extremely challenging with yards, feet, and inches on the one hand and pounds, shillings and pence on the other, and all without calculators or spreadsheets”.

John went to work on accommodation projects at RAF Brize Norton where the Americans were moving in, following the start of the cold war. He travelled back and forth in his 1933 Austin 7 convertible with a maximum speed of just 42mph. John went on to leave Ridge twice, once to work in London and later joining the Colonial Service in Nigeria, he recalls:

“We still had an Empire then. But that is another story”.

Ridge soon outgrew 23 Beaumont Street and moved first to Hythe Bridge Street and then to 14, St. Giles in central Oxford. Harold Ridge progressively spent less time with the business, leaving John Martin in charge. Harold Ridge finally retired and the business was re-established as Ridge and Partners, dropping the H.J from the title.

John continues the story:

“We were three partners – myself, Tony Eeles and Arthur Ashton with a staff of about twelve, soon to include Michael Taylor, Bernard Stone and Roger Webb. They later became Partners as the Partnership grew and developed into what I believe was a happy establishment. I do, however, recall a worrying time when, due to the miner’s strike, the country was put on a three-day week and rampant inflation made a nonsense of our estimates for future tenders”.

“I should also explain that, in those days, as Chartered Surveyors we were not allowed to approach a source of work. We just had to get to know people outside the work environment and without mobile phones!. The other basic rule was having to stick to the RICS scale fees. These restrictive practices were finally removed in the 1980’s. Nevertheless, we did steadily expand our office locations and widened the range of services. We had agreed a retiring age of sixty in the Partnership, Tony Eeles and Arthur Ashton left and in 1991 it was finally my turn. We had reached a total staff of about one hundred when we moved to Botley in 1990 with 2 other offices in Reading and Bristol. Ridge has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1946. I am delighted to celebrate Ridge 75years and still building the future”.
John Martin

Today, Ridge is an award-winning, multidiscipline property and construction consultancy offering a uniquely wide range of services and professional disciplines across all market sectors and employing over 600 people in 12 locations across the UK. Ridge has also successfully delivered projects in over 75 countries worldwide.