Clow Group Ltd - Clow Ladders History

The Clow Group has grown from a humble company in 1913 in the East end of Glasgow to become a major manufacturer and supplier of access equipment and access solutions throughout the UK and the world.

The company was first established in Broad Street in the East end of Glasgow where William Jarvie Clow began manufacturing timber ladders and steps as Clow Ladders. He soon expanded the business both in the UK and Ireland and provided associated products and supplies to the trade including professional decorating tools and equipment.

Douglas Clow, grandson of the founder W.J.Clow, took over the company in 1980 and since that time the company has undergone considerable expansion, particularly within the engineering division where a number of large scale engineering projects were commissioned including Forth Rail Bridge works and a wide range of Network Rail station projects.

The company has scored a number of notable firsts including being the first manufacturer in the UK of fibreglass ladders. The company's development of the all fibreglass Clow Euroglass Ladder, (it's non-conductive properties of particular interest to the electrical industry), was recognised in 1991 by the award of the John Logie Baird Award for Innovation.

We still manufacture handmade timber ladders but the bulk of our production today is based on our range of high quality fibreglass and aluminium ladders all manufactured in the UK at our Glasgow and West Midland factories.

Our company headquarters are still located in Broad Street and the current Managing Director, Cameron Clow took over in 2007 and is the fourth generation Clow to run the Clow Group.

In 2008 we were granted a Royal Warrant as Manufacturers of Access Equipment to Her Majesty the Queen.

Historical Milestones

  • 2019 - The Clow Group is still a family run business and is continuing to expand and export worldwide.
  • 2016 - The Clow Group opens a retail trade counter at their Cradley Heath factory to serve both the trade and general public.
  • 2013 - The Clow Group celebrates 100th year in business.
  • 2011 - Cameron Clow became chairman of the Ladder Association formerly known as the British Ladder Manufacturers Association.
  • 2008 - The Clow Group Ltd. is granted a Royal Warrant as the sole Manufacturers of Access Equipment to Her Majesty the Queen.
  • 2008 - Cameron Clow, fourth generation, takes over as Managing Director of Clow Group. Douglas Clow becomes Chairman of the Clow Group.
  • 2001 - New premises are purchased in Belfast at 2/24 Limestone Road, Northern Ireland providing an ideal location close to the docks and main commercial trading area.
  • 2000 - Expansion of the Cradley Heath factory with the addition of an extra 30,000ft2 providing increased production and storage capabilities.
  • 2000 - New office and warehouse facilities established alongside the office and warehouse in Glasgow providing over 100,000ft2 of office and factory space.
  • 1999 - Work commences on the new Glassfibre Ladder production facility in Glasgow.
  • 1998 - Development and manufacture of the Clow Aluglas Ladder, comprising of glassfibre stiles and aluminium rungs.
  • 1998 - In 1998 the Clow Group Ltd took over Drew Clark & Sons Ltd Ladder Manufacturers in Leyton, London. Drew Clark held a number of patents for the diamond ladder range and manufactured high quality timber ladders, some of which can be found for sale to this day on various vintage auction websites. The site was originally a very old ladder factory and small store, with blacksmith's shop and stables before being demolished and replaced by a new two storey ladder store with mezzanine floor built by the Clow workforce in 2004.
  • 1997 - Clow Group Ltd. is formed, incorporating factories in Glasgow, Walshall, London and Belfast in addition to a depot in Dublin. Timballoy Ladders and Hardline Ladder Company were merged with WJ Clow (Midlands) and relocated to the Clow Business Park (formerly Boddis Industrial Park) on Garratts Lane in Cradley Heath, West Midlands. This property was converted into a large ladder factory, new stores were built and a mezzanine floor was constructed along with a separate large two storey office block adjacent to the ladder factory. All of the building work was carried out by our own workforce.

    Our Midlands depot is still our main aluminium manufacturing facility where all our existing ladder ranges are made. It is also responsible for the development of new ladders, specifically in relation to the new EN131 Professional standard.
  • 1995 - Acquisition of the Timballoy Ladder Co., manufacturers of aluminium ladders and steps, Wombourne, West Midlands.
  • 1992 - Acquisition of Hardlife Ladder Company - successor to LLoyds Ladders and the UK's first aluminium ladder manufacturer, manufacturers of aluminium ladders and steps, Stourport in Severn.
  • 1991 - W.J.Clow & Company are awarded the John Logie Baird Award for Innovation in recognition of their forward looking development of the unique Clow Euroglas All-Fibreglass range of ladders. This award is designed to recognise and celebrate innovation by encouraging the commercial exploitation of Scotland's intellectual capital. The opportunity to compete for these national awards are unique as the programme recognises the impact that Scottish individuals and organisations are having on the world stage. The award was presented by Margaret Baird, John Logie Baird's late widow.
  • 1989 - Acquisition of Quarryknowe Fabricators Ltd., (manufacturers of stainless steel ladders), and McCall Munro & Co. Ltd., lift car manufacturers. McLean Buchanan was amalgamated with Quarryknowe Fabrications and McLean Buchanan's premises were sold. The Clow Group retained the property of QuarryKnowe in Camlachie Street when they amalgamated the business into Broad Street.
  • 1988 - Acquisition of Dodd, Taylor & Gunn, Ironmongers, Glasgow.
  • 1986 - Acquisition of McLean Buchanan & Co. Ltd., lift car manufacturers, Glasgow.
  • 1982 - W.J.Clow (Midlands) Ltd. is formed in Walsall, West Midlands specialising in the manufacture of aluminium ladders and steps.
  • 1980 - Douglas Clow, grandson of the founder William J. Clow, takes over as Managing Director after the tragic death of William Clow. The company now undergoes considerable expansion particularly within the engineering division where a number of large scale engineering projects are commissioned including Forth Road Bridge works and a wide range of Network Rail station projects. The company starts to export to countries all over the world.
  • 1978 - W.J.Clow (Ireland) is formed and a depot is opened in Jennymount Industrial Estate in Belfast.
  • 1977 - W.J. Clow & Company open a new ladder assembly factory in Belfast to supply and support the growing market in Ireland.
  • 1976 - In 1976 W.J.Clow and Company become the UK's first manufacturers of glassfibre ladders. These are manufactured at the Glasgow ladder factory together with W.J. Clow & Company's range of high quality timber ladders and steps, aluminium steps and trestles and steel trestles and towers.
  • 1975 - The property at 24/28 Broad Street is sold as the company buys the John Lyle Carpet Factory premises at 185 Broad Street, which is ten times the size and provides an additional 70,000ft2 of space. The company headquarters are still located here to this day.
  • 1975 - On the retirement of William Holtby Clow and John Holtby Clow, William Scobie Clow takes over as Managing Director and Douglas Clow becomes Sales Director.
  • 1966 - William Holtby Clow and John Holtby Clow become joint Managing Directors after the death of their father and company founder William J. Clow.
  • 1958 - In 1958 John Holtby Clow's youngest son, Thomas Douglas Clow, joins the business as a young trainee salesman. Initally covering the East and North of Scotland, he soon expands sales into both Northern and Southern Ireland.
  • 1952 - W.J.Clow & Co Ltd begins manufacturing steel trestles and towers in the Glasgow ladder factory.
  • 1948 - John Holtby Clow was not only Sales Director but an excellent engineer and is responsible for the design of a highly successful steel scaffold tower manufactured and sold by W.J.Clow and Company throughout the UK. In 1948 he expanded Clow Sales to cover the North West of England.
  • 1947 - At the outbreak of WWII William Holtby Clow leaves Dublin and returns to Glasgow. In 1946 his eldest son, William Scobie Clow, joins the business and trains as a ladder maker under the tuition of his father to make wooden steps and ladders.
  • 1935 - John Holtby Clow increases the size of the sales team and expands the sales in Scotland before he joins the Royal Navy as a Gunnery Officer. After the war he rejoins the Clow Group as Sales Director and continues the company's sales expansion into Scotland and the North of England.
  • 1929 - A ladder assembly factory is opened in Dublin by William Holtby Clow. The ladder stiles are sawn and planed with pre-drilled rung holes and are sent together with boxes of rungs and fittings on the Burns & Laird night boat from Glasgow to Dublin.
  • 1922 - W.J.Clow was formed into a limited company W.J.Clow & Co Ltd.
  • 1918 - William J. Clow's two sons join the business, William Holtby Clow and John Holtby Clow.
  • 1913 - W.J.Clow was founded in the east end of Glasgow in March of 1913 by William Jarvie Clow. The company begins by manufacturing timber ladders and steps at the company's first premises at 24-28 Broad Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow. This property was originally a roller skating rink on the ground level and a cinema on the first floor. The ladder manufacturing was carried out on the first floor and the ground floor was used to store the completed steps and ladders.