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Where JCB began

Iconic UK brand JCB has put its history on display in a new permanent exhibition. Margo Cole went to the firm’s headquarters in Staffordshire for the preview.

JCB has opened a new £5M exhibition at its world HQ in Staffordshire aimed at boosting worldwide sales. The permanent attraction, called The Story of JCB, charts the company’s history, dating back to the 1820s, as well as showcasing modern innovations and the firm’s global reach.

JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford describes the attraction as “an extremely exciting development”. “It is the first time that the history of our company and my family’s roots in manufacturing has been told in the form of a permanent exhibition,” he adds.

Iconic machines

Although The Story of JCB includes iconic machines from the firm’s 66-year history, the exhibition is more of a marketing device than a museum, and is aimed at potential customers rather than the general public.

“It is the first time that the history of our company and my family’s roots in manufacturing has been told in the form of a permanent exhibition”

Sir Anthony Bamford

Bamford described it as “a very powerful selling tool for our customers, especially in the emerging markets where a greater appreciation of our heritage and pedigree will help them understand our business and why we are the right choice for their future machine requirements”.

The exhibition covers 2,500m² of floorspace and includes 14 individual zones, starting in the 1820s, when the Bamford family were blacksmiths in Uttoxeter. It includes a section about Bamfords Ltd, the firm of agricultural engineers whose director Henry Bamford sacked his nephew Joseph Cyril Bamford by sending him a note that “his services would no longer be required”.

Rise of the firm

The exhibition goes on to chart the rise of the firm started in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford, using his initials as the company name, and its global growth under the stewardship of his son, current chairman Sir Anthony Bamford.

It is housed in what was the firm’s design centre and production drawing office from 1970 until the early 1980s, and includes a recreation of “Mr JCB’s” 1970s office, from which he could see his design management and draughtsmen on one side and the research workshop on the other.

Scattered throughout the exhibition are 10 landmark JCB machines, which had to be craned into position through the roof. They include a restored 1962 JCB 3 backhoe loader, and a machine from the 1970s that featured in JCB’s first “dancing diggers” display.

Skeletal model

Other exhibits include a full scale skeletal model of a JCB JS200 tracked excavator created by artist Benedict Radcliffe and built out of 8mm steel rod. It took five months to build, used around 1km of steel and weighs around 2t - one-tenth of the weight of the actual machine.

The exhibition also has zones explaining JCB’s global development, its design and innovation ethos, growth in the agricultural and military markets, worldwide service and parts back-up and the development of the JCB engine. A highlight is the Dieselmax car, which holds the world land-speed record for a diesel-powered vehicle.

The firm’s British heritage is firmly established with the final exhibit, a 3CX decked out in Union Jack colours.
As in all good visitor attractions, the exit is through the gift shop.

JCB expects the exhibition to boost visitor numbers at its HQ from 15,000 a year to 20,000.

  • There will be limited ­opportunities for the general public to visit, details of which will be publicised on the firm’s website, www.jcb.com.

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