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Trafalgar House (company): Wikis


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Trafalgar House
Former type Public
Fate Acquired
Successor Kvaerner
Founded 1963
Defunct 1996
Headquarters London, England
Key people Sir Nigel Broackes (Chairman)
Industry Property, engineering, construction, shipping, hotels, energy and publishing

Trafalgar House Public Limited Company was a British conglomerate with interests in property investment, property development, engineering, construction, shipping, hotels, energy and publishing. Founded in 1963, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.



In 1959 a young Nigel Broackes became managing director of a subsidiary company of Eastern International Investment Trust, which was quoted on the London Stock Exchange. The subsidiary had then been in existence about two years, undertaking property development and investment.[1] In 1962 it acquired a portfolio of properties from one of the backers of its commercial development arm, and adopted as its new company identity the name of one of them - namely 'Trafalgar House'. The following year the company offered its shares to the public.[2]

In 1964 Broackes brought into the company Victor Matthews, who was fourteen years his senior and became his principal lieutenant for the next eighteen years, until he parted from Broackes to take control of Express Newspapers, which Trafalgar House had decided to spin off from the group. Nigel Broackes was knighted in 1984 for services to the development of the London docklands, and Victor Matthews was ennobled in 1980 (as Lord Matthews of Southgate) for unswerving support to the Conservative Party.[3]

In the course of thirty years or so Trafalgar House became a formidable international industrial and commercial undertaking, and during the final few years of its existence was consistently tabled as the largest contracting organisation in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe.

Divisions, operating areas, companies and groups

A conglomerate by nature is usually a dynamic entity and fluid in its structure and content. For the purpose of this historical perspective a general indication only is given of the scope of industries, operations and companies embraced by Trafalgar House during its existence.[4]

Cementation (Major Projects) — Cleveland Bridge & Engineering)
Queen Elizabeth II Bridge over the River Thames at Dartford

Divisions or operating areas of Trafalgar House plc[4]

  • Housebuilding
  • Building Contracting
  • Civil Engineering Construction
  • International Construction
  • Specialist Engineering
  • Structural Engineering
  • South African Operations
  • Property Investment & Development
  • US Real Estate
  • Cargo Shipping and Aviation
  • Passenger Shipping
  • Hotels and Resorts
  • Oil and Gas
  • Newspaper and Magazine Publishing
  • Energy
  • Process Engineering

Companies or groups within Trafalgar House plc[4]

  • City and West End Properties
  • Trafalgar House Developments
  • Bridge Walker
  • New Ideal Homes
  • Broseley Estates Limited
  • Trollope & Colls
  • Cleveland Bridge & Engineering
  • Cementation
  • Redpath Dorman Long
  • Cunard Steam Ship Co (Cargo)
  • Cunard Line (Passenger)
    Cleveland Bridge & Engineering — Superstructure of Tsing Ma Bridge.
    Trafalgar House were one of three companies comprising the construction consortium for this Hong Kong crossing.
  • Cunard Hotels
  • Cunard Resorts
  • Eastern International Investment Trust
  • John Brown Engineering
  • The Ritz Hotel (London)
  • Clark & Fenn
  • Willett
  • Monk Construction
  • Rashleigh Phipps
  • Direct Spanish Telegraph
  • Beaverbrook (Express) Newspapers
  • Morgan & Grampian (Magazines)
  • Young, Austen & Young
  • Focus 21 Developments
  • Frankipile
  • Davy Corporation




Cunard vessel MV Atlantic Conveyor off Devonport Dockyard 1982, with a Sea Harrier aircraft test landing on its newly installed flight deck.

The Ritz Hotel in London, which was acquired by Trafalgar House in 1976, was sold to David and Frederick Barclay for £75 million in 1995.


In 1988 Trafalgar House was involved in a joint development with British Aerospace (BAe) to redevelop the former Royal Small Arms Factory site at Enfield.

In 1995 it bought the bomb-damaged site of the historic Baltic Exchange building, at 30 St Mary Axe in London, which had been severely damaged when the Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a bomb nearby on 10 April 1992. The building's former owner, the Baltic Exchange, was unable to bear the costs of fully restoring the building to English Heritage's requirements and sold the site to Trafalgar House. In 1998 the site was resold, with planning permission, for £81 million to Swiss Re, who commissioned and occupied the renowned Gherkin building, designed by Foster and Partners.


Trafalgar House acquired the Cunard group of shipping and leisure companies in 1971. Cunard operated cargo and passenger ships, hotels and resorts. At that time it had forty-two cargo ships in service, with fourteen more under construction; and three passenger ships, with two more under construction. But twelve years later the cargo fleet had shrunk to eighteen, half of which were by then container ships. The size of the passenger fleet had remained constant. In 1989 Trafalgar House withdrew Cunard from the cargo shipping industry and sold off all its freighters.[4]

Vasco da Gama Bridge over the Tagus Estuary, Lisbon, Portugal.
THC were appointed head of the construction consortium in 1995 and were awarded twenty-six percent of the work on this 17 kilometre elevated roadway structure.


For most of the company's existence the prime umbrella operating division, in terms of turnover and revenue, was Trafalgar House Construction - generally referred to both inside the company and within the industry as 'THC'. As the division grew in scope and stature it was responsible for more and more large and prestigious projects over an increasingly wide geographical area, until its scope became world-wide.


In 1986 Trafalgar House acquired John Brown Engineering Ltd., which built industrial gas turbines and also implemented licensed processes, such as the Union Carbide Corporation Polyethylene Plant. The basic processes were engineered to fit the purchaser's requirements, including the site plan, the production capacity, the raw material feedstock, and other constraints. John Brown Engineering had been the engineering division of the shipbuilder John Brown & Company of Clydebank.[5]

In 1992 Trafalgar House acquired the Davy Corporation[6] a group of international engineering companies which also included a well-established UK wide construction division. The acquisition was principally to secure Davy's engineering skills and operations but the construction arm was a bonus for Trafalgar House, who were able to widen their national coverage in that sector.

Decline and disposal

During the early 1990s Trafalgar House appeared to lose focus and losses began to accrue across various group activities. At this time their far-east associates, Jardine Matheson, invested in Trafalgar House and took fifteen percent of the company: later increasing to twenty-five percent. The vehicle used for this investment was Jardine's property subsidiary Hong Kong Land. Jardines are controlled by the Keswick family, a dynasty of Scottish origin. Simon Keswick took the chair at Trafalgar House in 1994 but the company fortunes continued to slide, and on 15 December 1995 Keswick announced a further loss of £321 million. The aggregate loss over those few years was then approaching a billion pounds. Dividends were stopped and it was declared that they would not resume until sustainable profit had returned.

On 18 April 1996 Norwegian shipbuilding and engineering group Kvaerner acquired Trafalgar House plc following a £904 million offer. The acquisition provided Kvaerner with a broad-based portfolio of companies with thirty-four thousand staff.[7]


Trafalgar House Trustees Ltd., along with its associated undertakings, manages pension arrangements for the many thousands of persons having pension rights arising from service with Trafalgar House group companies.



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