Three centuries of family-run successful trading


Three centuries of family-run successful trading

Established in 1697, formerly as blacksmiths and latterly as a heavy engineering pioneer during the industrial revolution in the Black Country, Folkes Holdings today remains an entirely family-owned business operating a diverse portfolio of operations, and is now lead by the 9th generation of the Folkes family.

Following the group’s rapid expansion during the industrial revolution, it became listed on the London Stock Exchange in the mid 1900s, during which time it extended its activities to commercial property while continuing to operate its engineering division.  The group remained publicly traded until taken private by the Folkes family in 2002, at which point it had initiated its expansion into South Africa.

Folkes today utilises the knowledge and experience gained over three centuries.  Our conservative yet dynamic approach to business has successfully enabled our trading and investing activities to realise steady growth over the course of three centuries.



Enterprise founded “Lye Forge” as a blacksmith forge on bank of River Stour in Lye.


During the Napoleonic Wars  the business flourished with high demand for blacksmithed products for artillery.


Somers Forge was awarded a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria for forging excellence for railway and carriage components.


Lye Forge had survived the First World War, altering its status from an individual enterprise to a link in the chain of Britain’s war machine,  open 24/7 during this period.


Depressed land value allowed Herbert Folkes to take the shrewd decision of purchasing 12 acres which Head Office now sits on. The forge was newly equipped with a 4 tonne steam hammer, with Lye going from strength to strength.


Company floated on the LSE and name converted to The John Folkes Group. At this time it had a net worth of £368k. This was the year current Chairman and CEO, CJF was born.


With a growing order book, a further 16 acre site in Kidderminster was purchased for £21k where a new 250,000 sqft factory was built. This would be the only forge to be built on a green field site in the 1900s.


The property company was first established as John Folkes Developments. The first acquisition for the property division was “The Hayes” a 21 acre site in Lye. 300,000 sqft of industrial buildings were created.


John Folkes retires and CJF makes history taking over as youngest ever Chairman of a public company, at only age 28.


Name of company changed to Folkes Group. The group now consisted of 39 companies which were to be rationalised down to 10 during the severe industrial recession under Margaret Thatcher.


Walter Somers and Clarkes Crankshaft was acquired, at £10m this was the largest acquisition in its history up to that date. The acquisition tripled the forging capacity of the group and opened up new markets.


Forged the largest rock breaking chisel of it’s time at 25 tonnes which is still in service today. A testament to the strength and longevity of Somers products.


Folkes Holdings South Africa PTY was established on 16th February 1999, following on from the success of the UK real estate division.



With modernisation undertaken to Somers Forge, Folkes Group now had some of the most modern open die forging facilities of its size in the world. This coupled with a substantial expansion of the property company since its inception in 1965 to some 2,000,000 sqft of modern industrial buildings, had brought the group to a net worth in excess of £76m.


Folkes family de-listed the business from the London Stock Exchange and regained full control.


Hibiscus Mall Acquired in Durban


Acquired a 25,000 acre game farm, Glen Harry Game Reserve, in Eastern Cape


Channel Islands office established setting up a wealth management division


SA company made many acquisitions including increasing investment in shopping mall fund Rapfund, to establish majority shareholding and commenced developments in  industrial and tetial sectors.


Total assets are worth £204.8m, constituting £134.4m in the UK, £57.8m in S.A., and £12.6m in the Channel Islands. At this point are the 10th oldest family run firm in the UK with 9th generation running the business.


Somers Forge acquired A&B Richardson Engineering which further increased the machining capacity and capabilities