Bryant and Maybe

(Extract from The Day The Builders Came)

On the 3rd of March 1994, Gordon Bell and Triston Frampton founded a company called Bell Frampton Ltd which specialised in refurbishing public houses and travel lodges: a large proportion of its work came from Whitbread and Greene King. It also carried out work for Tesco, the supermarket chain. In April 2004 Bell Frampton experienced cash flow problems, one excuse offered to the official receiver was the corporate equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework’, invoices that had not been posted on the accounts system. A supplier called Speedy Hire was threatening legal action to recover £44,715 it claimed it was owed and in September 2004 Bell Frampton was presented with a winding up petition supported by creditors who were owed a total of £1.3 million.

Fortunately, two years earlier, in September 2002 Gordon and Tristan, along with David Darlow, set up a company called Bell Frampton Joinery Ltd which carried out work for Bell Frampton, funded some of its wages and transacted with it via an intercompany account. It was relatively simple therefore to continue work for Tesco and complete public house refurbishments after Bell Frampton went into administration. Gordon and Tristan both resigned as directors of Bell Frampton Joinery as did David Darlow. Later both Gordon and Tristan would be reappointed as directors, by which time the company was known as BF Contracts Ltd.

Seven years earlier, in November 1995, Gordon and Tristan, along with Colin Tea founded a company called BFT Mechanical Services Ltd, which installed plumbing and air conditioning equipment. Both Gordon and Tristan resigned from this company in September 2000, three months before it went into liquidation owing trade creditors £400,000.

By 2013 BF Contracts Ltd was also struggling to pay its bills and in March of that year was liquidated owing suppliers £700,000. A year early Colin Tea also experienced a run of bad luck and the other company he was director of BFT Mechanical Services Ltd closed with debts of £90,000. There was no need for me to know any of this, and probably would not have had a company called Evecross Ltd had a web site.

In the age of the Internet every company should have a website, even if it is only to tell your side of the story first. I was searching for Evecross because that was the name grudgingly given by one of the two men who rolled up outside my house in a well-used 4x4 who, leaning on the gate of the orchard next door to my house, told me they were purchasing the site, with planning permission for three houses, from a developer.

Had Google taken me to a website showing a happy couple about to step into their eco-friendly, carbon neutral barn conversion nestled amongst trees with an uninterrupted across a meadow I would have probably browsed the site looking for previous work Evecross had undertaken and left it at that. But there was no website, no Facebook page or mentions on Twitter, not even an entry on Yell. Perhaps I was mistaken and should have been searching for Bryant and May because that was name growled by the less friendly of the two men whose arrogant attitude made him seem oddly familiar. He could have been referring to the safety match manufacturer or Christopher Fowler’s fictional detectives but more likely this was the politest way he knew of telling me to sod off.

Eventually Google landed me on the Companies House website: and in lieu of a portfolio of previous works I downloaded a collection of rather skinny annual reports. Evecross Ltd had been building houses for thirteen years but at no point did its annual turnover indicate it had taken on a significant sized project. However, notes added to both the creditors and debtors suggested there was a ‘participating party’, indicating Evecross might be part of an informal group of companies. Checking the list of directors, I discovered twenty-six years of failed companies. One company in the ‘BF’ family survived, BF Design Solutions Ltd, founded in August 2011, eighteen months before BF Contracts Ltd collapsed.

Susan leans over my shoulder, worried that I might be putting my Certified Diploma in Accounts and Finance qualification into practice: the last time I did that some of our savings disappeared when the chairman of an oil exploration company was thrown in Russian jail.

‘It’s our neighbours for the next twelve months.’ I said.

‘What are they like?’

‘Interesting.’ I replied then clicked on a link that took me to web cams in Cologne because suddenly I had and overwhelming desire to be somewhere else.