A proud history and an exciting future
First recorded activity as a clothing maker in Bristol.
|1830s:||Began exporting clothing to the West Indies.|
|1850s:||Started exporting to Australasia.|
Bristol moves to its new Staple Hill factory on a greenfield site.
|1910:||Fire destroys the factory. The company relocates to temporary premises throughout most of World War I.|
|1917:||The company moves back to its rebuilt Staple Hill factory.|
|1920s:||Export business had expanded into South America and South Africa.|
|1925:||The company is employing 66 people.|
|1930s:||Bristol develops new business in the design and manufacture of uniforms for the public and private sectors.|
The fiirst tunics for the Royal Air Force are made.
Wathen Gardiner becomes a limited company.
|1965:||Bristol Uniforms begins trading under a separate identity.|
Bristol introduces the first Nomex fabric fire tunics. It is closely involved in the development of both the T63 and, later, the Home Office A19 and A26 specification firefighter clothing.
|1999:||The Hill family sells the company which becomes the major player within the UK based BTQ Group.|
|2000:||Bristol introduces its managed care service for the fire and rescue sector.|
|2003:||Pioneering physiology trials at Birmingham University, conducted independently by Human Vertex with volunteer firefighters, paves the way for the introduction of a new generation of lighter weight PPE. Ergotech® and Ergotech Action® firefighter garments are launched.|
|2005:||Bristol enters the police PSU market with new designs for male and female public order and crowd control (POCC) protective garments. Overseas, Bristol now has 50 appointed distributors.|
|2006:||Bristol's prototype USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) garment is developed for Merseyside FRS and becomes the basis for the design of today's USAR kit.|
|2007:||The Government's National Procurement Strategy (NPS) for firefighter clothing, the Integrated Clothing Project (ICP) results in Bristol securing the national contract to supply PPE and non-PPE items over a 15 year period.|
|2008:||Bristol enters the ambulance market with a new design techical rescue garment for inner cordon use. Initially adopted by the Scottish Ambulance Service, the distinctive green PPE is now in use by all England's ambulance HARTs (Hazardous Area Response Teams).|
|ICP procurement and managed services options for the fire and rescue services are finalised. Bristol secures the contract and the ICP is launched in March.|
|2009:||Further growth in sales in the UK and overseas markets created the need for larger stock storage facilities. A new 20,000m2 International Distribution Centre was opened in the autumn which facilitated the relocation of all finished goods from the Staple Hill site to a site close to the motorway system. Reflecting the growing demand for managed services, a new facility was opened in the autumn at Rainham. The Eastern Service Centre provides additional servicing capacity and also meets the needs of London Fire Brigade, then about to deploy its new Bristol kit.|
|2010:||This was a year of notable milestones which included the deployment of the MOD DFRMO's deployment of its new ICP PPE to its 1770 firefighters across the world, closely followed by London Fire Brigade's introduction of its new PPE in April involving the kitting out of 5800 firefighters at 112 fire stations throughout the UK's capital city.|
|2011:||The company now has over 70 distributors worldwide and is actively supplying firefighter PPE to 110 countries around the globe.|
It features an advanced ergonomic design, providing ultimate fit and comfort.
|Available in various fabric combinations, it has begun to attract the attention of fire & rescue services in the UK, Europe and Gulf States from where new business has already been secured.|
|Our new website was launched in the autumn of 2011 and has greatly enhanced ease of navigation and access to more product information, technical advice and support, news, managed services records and commercial information for our network of distributors.|
|Our business in the UK and abroad has continued to grow. The ICP is continuing to attract new users both for PPE and, increasingly, station wear. Elsewhere, West Midlands Fire Service, the second largest in the UK, became a new user of our structural PPE in summer 2011 for their 2000 firefighters. In Australia, a major new contract for the supply of firefighter PPE to the country's armed forces, secured in late 2011, will involve the supply of around 2500 sets of kit over the next three years.|
|In May 2011 our biennial Distributors' Conference attracted almost 40 delegates from around the world to a very successful three day event supported with presentations from some of our key supply chain partners.|
|A bit more about us|
|In the early 19th century Bristol developed a thriving clothing industry based around the woollen mills of Gloucestershire. Most of the company's history between the 1830's and the end of the century is characterised by the growth founded on the development of a lucrative export trade - first with the West Indies in the early 1830s and later with Australasia from 1854. (See our development in Bristol's timelines).|
|The beginnings of the firm Wathen Gardiner, which eventually became Bristol Uniforms, are set in the early 1860s when Sir Charles Wathen joined the firm in 1862 in partnership with Henry Gardiner. He vigorously pursued the export markets of the world in the vast British Empire basing the success of the business on providing consistently high quality clothing from the Bristol factory. He is reputed to have bought wool landed from ships from Australia and New Zealand early in the morning and have turned this into sales of ready-to-wear clothing by the end of the same day!|
|By the mid-1930s a new business had emerged with the design and sale of civilian uniforms to both public and private sectors. Customers during this period included the Board of Trade, water companies and bus operators. In 1937 tunics for the Royal Air Force were made for the first time.|
|The mid-1960s was a period of major change. Continuing links with the military bore fruit when permanent firefighters were recruited to handle emergencies at RAF airfields and the company was asked to develop suitable protective clothing. This saw the introduction of the first aluminised suits, which were loosely designed around the bouyancy suits developed by the company for pilots during the war, and created export opportunities as well as UK business.|
|The T63 was introduced as the forerunner of the modern fire suit and incorporated a serge material with a fire retardant finish. There was, at this time, no national standard for firefighter clothing. Pat Hill, who had become the owner of the company in 1964, created Bristol Uniforms as a separate trading entity in 1965. The company became a pioneer during the 1970s when its approaches to the London Fire Brigade and the Home Office led to the beginnings of a long period of product development. First came the A19 Home Office specification which was a Nomex® outershell short tunic with yellow PVC wet legs. This was followed by the A26 Home Office specification, the forerunner of the first bunker style fire coat which drew heavily on Bristol's fire garment design at the time.|
|Eventually, the first European Standard for firefighter protective clothing was introduced in 1995. The working party, on which Bristol's technical staff were represented, started work in 1992 and EN469:1995 became the first standard to cover all countries in the European Union.|
|The company was sold in 1999 and is now part of the international BTQ Group which includes Bristol Fire Apparel http://www.bristolfireapparel.com, Topps Safety Apparel http://www.toppssafetyapparel.com, and Quaker Safety Products http://www.quakersafety.com.|
|In late 2009, our ICP clothing was selected by the USA's respected Popular Science magazine for an award as one of the year's international top 10 best security products.|