Building Excellence for 60 Years
An award-winning business that began life in a small Preston office has grown into a creative force with a national reputation for architecture, design and masterplanning excellence.
Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Today it has a staff of more than 60 within FWP Group and offices in Manchester and London, as well as its headquarters in Ribblesdale Place, Preston where they were founded in December 1960.
Over that time the business has played an important role in delivering iconic developments both in its home city and across the UK. Its work today covers all aspects of construction, from cost management to architecture and masterplanning services. It is truly multi-disciplinary.
FWP is best-known for its sports stadia and NHS and healthcare design work, though its portfolio is much wider and ranges from heritage projects to leisure developments.
The firm started life as a quantity surveying practice, based across the road from its present head office. Founded by Alan Jones it was originally Jones and Etchells, before becoming Vandome Jones and Partners.
Frank Whittle, who had a background in local government, later joined the business and became senior partner. As each of the original partners retired the firm was renamed Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) in the mid-80s. Alan stayed with FWP until his retirement in 2015.
Frank’s contacts in the construction world and expertise, particularly in cost and project management, led to the growth of the firm in the 70’s and 80’s with current partners Gordon Burke and Brent Clayton joining in the late 80’s.
He brought in current managing partners David Robinson and Martin Whittle in 1991 and the firm has continued to flourish ever since. The growing partnership now includes Kate Shuttleworth, Neil Ainsworth, Daniel Thompson and Nick Wiley.
The practice’s very first job in 1960 was working on a small petrol forecourt pay kiosk in east Lancashire.
Today it is involved in a host of multi-million-pound health, sports, leisure and cultural projects for a range of clients.
Current schemes include the restoration of Rochdale’s historic Town Hall; The Sands, Blackpool’s first five-star hotel which is being built next to the Tower; the rebirth of the historic Park Hotel in Preston and a host of football developments, including the redevelopment of the sports stadium in Bath.
The highlights across six decades have been many and varied. In the 1970s the practice was part of the team that delivered the Tickled Trout hotel on the banks of the River Ribble on the outskirts of Preston.
In the 1980s FWP carried out a host of work for leisure group Pontins, then one of the country’s premier family holiday providers, managing and masterplanning the development of facilities across its portfolio throughout the UK.
The 1990s saw the start of the redevelopment of Preston North End’s famous Deepdale football ground, spearheaded by the practice. That was the start of FWP’s sports stadia work.
In 2007 FWP delivered the highly-acclaimed redevelopment of Doncaster Racecourse, home of the St Leger – one of Britain’s five classic horse races.
Locally, FWP’s specialist sports multi-disciplinary team created the Mill Farm Sports Village at Kirkham, including AFC Fylde’s 6,000 capacity state of the art ground. It also designed a striking 2,000-seater stand for Fleetwood Town.
More recently the practice led the £5million award-winning regeneration of Preston Markets, including the restoration of its iconic market canopies.
Frank Whittle retired from the firm in 2018 after 70 years in construction. During his time in the industry FWP helped to pioneer the concept of project management something that Alan Sugar has adopted to great effect!!
His work with the practice took him across the UK. He said: “I loved the opportunities that the work gave me. There have been so many highlights over the years and I’m very proud of what has been achieved.
“Princess Alexandra opened the Pontins development that we delivered for the business in Blackpool and Prince Charles opened the National Football Museum in Preston and the new Gloucester Services on the M5
“The word partnership in the firm’s name is really important. It sends a powerful message that all our people are involved in what we do.
“If I was to sum up in one word what makes FWP so special, I’d say ‘enthusiasm’. There’s always been real joy in what we do.
“It’s been a pleasure to see the continued development of the business which through the efforts of its people is today well known not only in the North West but throughout the country.”
The business also has a reputation for the long-service of its staff. Roger White retired from his role as a quantity surveyor in 2015 after more than 46 years. He said: “FWP has always had the feel of a family firm with a great atmosphere.
“Over the years I was there, we worked on a whole range of projects, not all of them making the papers. Health service and council work was always important.
“We’ve also been involved in the growth of Preston, for instance, we carried out a lot of work when the dock area was being redeveloped.”
Managing partner David Robinson said: “We’re very proud to have reached our 60th anniversary milestone, though the coronavirus pandemic has meant we haven’t been able to celebrate it in the way we wanted.
“I think what makes FWP different is the way we work so closely with our clients, who benefit from our multi-disciplinary expertise and our creative approach. We are a property advice one stop shop.
“And, as Frank says, our enthusiasm still shines through. We look to bring creativity and passion to all our projects and that is seen with every one of our teams.
“Our broad range of experience and knowledge is another real plus factor and ensures that we consistently deliver projects efficiently and cost-effectively.
“We continue to evolve and adopt new ways of working and technologies. The next 60 years promise to be just as challenging as climate change has to be dealt with.”
SIX OF THE BEST
Here are just some of the projects that FWP has helped deliver in Lancashire and across the UK over the last six decades:
With its distinctive floodlight pylons, iconic Splash statue and the faces of some of the club’s greatest players featured in its stands, Preston North End’s Deepdale ground is instantly recognisable to football fans across the world.
It is now 25 years since work to rebuild what is regarded as the oldest professional football ground in the world got underway, led by FWP.
The long-term project to deliver a modern stadium for England’s first league champions also marked the start of PNE’s association with the practice and the start of FWP’s collaboration with Ben Casey, another dynamic Prestonian.
The final piece in the phased £25m rebuilding of the ground, which took well over a decade to complete – the 4,000-seater Invincibles Pavilion – was finished in September 2008.
The final stage in improvement work on the award-winning Market Hall, which opened in early 2018, was completed earlier this year. The hall was designed by FWP in collaboration with Greig and Stephenson Architects.
As part of the £5m regeneration of the city’s iconic markets, the original 1875 market canopy was carefully refurbished by a team led by FWP. It remains one of Preston’s architectural and design treasures.
The project was honoured with The Royal Town Planning Institute’s top regional award for Creating Economically Successful Places.
Historic England and a local conservation group were also involved in developing a design and use of materials wholly sympathetic to the listed canopy.
Preston City Council’s vision for the project included creating a city centre destination which appealed to a wide range of visitors and residents, using a food-oriented approach and overhauling the markets from a visual aspect perspective.
FWP spearheaded the acclaimed £42m redevelopment of Arena Leisure’s Doncaster Racecourse, home to the historic St Leger meeting. The race is one of the sport’s ‘classics’.
The practice created the striking design of the new main grandstand incorporating a large exhibition hall, a new stable complex, complete with stable lads’ accommodation, and the relocation of the pre parade ring to ease movement around the course.
The striking new five-storey grandstand opened its doors to racegoers in September 2007. Its facilities include private hospitality suites, a wide range of places to eat and drink, plus luxury dining experiences.
FWP provided comprehensive principal designer, project and cost management services throughout the construction of the award-winning Gloucester Services project on both carriageways of the busy M5 motorway in Gloucestershire.
Completed in 2015, it is part of the Cumbrian-based Westmorland Family’s estate which owns and runs the acclaimed Tebay services on the M6 and the Cairn Lodge motorway service which serves both sides of the M74, 35 miles south of Glasgow.
The buildings are innovative and sustainable creating a sense of place with homemade food and locally sourced farm produce available.
Westmorland is famed for its firmly independent stance avoiding fast food franchises and a firm commitment to serving quality, locally sourced and homemade food in all aspects of the business.
FWP is collaborating with Preston-based architect Cassidy + Ashton on a major regeneration project to convert one of Preston’s striking landmarks back into a luxury leisure destination, 70 years after last welcoming guests.
The former Park Hotel building –overlooking Avenham and Miller Park – will be returned to its original Victorian use as a four-star hotel, along with the construction of a new pavilion building, spa and office space.
FWP is acting as principal designer, project manager and cost consultant in the team looking to bring the development forward. Demolition work began on site earlier this year and a new bridge has been built to replace the infamous Bailey Bridge which hitherto was the primary access.
FWP has an impressive track record of delivering NHS projects in the North West over the last 25 years, including more recently the Life and Urgent Care centres at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital; The Minerva Centre in Preston North End’s Deepdale ground and the Oaklands Mental Health Facility in Lancaster.
Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust’s new rehabilitation unit at Royal Preston Hospital opened earlier this year and is now supporting patients recovering from mental health conditions.
FWP and its specialist mental health team coordinated the interior design of the centre, which will deliver care that enables people to regain the confidence and skills to carry out the typical activities of daily living.
FWP has recently been appointed by the Trust to deliver the redevelopment of an existing hospital building at Wesham to create a new “community facing rehabilitation service with mental wellbeing at the forefront”.