Joseph Bamford

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Joseph Cyril Bamford
Born(1916-06-21)21 June 1916
Died1 March 2001(2001-03-01) (aged 84)
London, England
Alma materStonyhurst College
Years active1945–2001
Known forJCB Brand
SuccessorAnthony Bamford
Board member ofJCB (Founder & Chairman)
Marjorie Griffin
(m. 1941)
Children2 sons

Joseph Cyril Bamford CBE (21 June 1916 – 1 March 2001)[1] was a British businessman, who was the founder of the JCB company, manufacturing heavy plant.


Joseph Bamford was born into a recusant Catholic family in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, which owned Bamfords Ltd, an agricultural engineering business.[2]

His great grandfather Henry Bamford[3] was born in Yoxall, and had built up his own ironmongers business, which by 1881 employed 50 men, 10 boys and 3 women. Bamfords International Farm Machinery became one of the country's major agricultural equipment suppliers, famous for its balers, rakes, hay turners, hay Wufflers, Mangold cutters, and standing engines, which were exported all over the world. The company eventually ceased trading in 1986.[citation needed]

After attending Stonyhurst College, he joined the Alfred Herbert company in Coventry, then the UK's largest machine-tool manufacturer, and rose to represent the firm in Ghana. He returned home in 1938 to join the family firm, but in 1941 was called up by the RAF to serve in World War II. Working in supply and logistics, he returned to the African Gold Coast, to run a staging post for USAF planes being ferried to the Middle East.[1]


Bamford's first welding set

On return home in 1944, Bamford initially worked for English Electric developing electric welding equipment in Stafford. A short return stint with the family firm proved too stifling, and his Uncle Henry released him, saying he thought Joe had "little future ahead of him."[2] After selling Brylcreem for a short while, in October 1945 Bamford rented a 10 ft (3 m) by 15 ft lock-up garage for 30 shillings (= £1.50) a week, and made a farm trailer from scrap steel and war surplus Jeep axles, using a prototype electric welder bought for £2-10s (= £2.50). He opened for business on the day his first son, Anthony, was born,[2] and sold the trailer for £45 and a cart, which he also repaired and sold for another £45.[1]

Having no interest in taking over rival businesses, his philosophy of: "Focus on what you do best, be innovative, and re-invest in product development and the latest manufacturing technologies;" resulted in a series of market-leading innovations:

  • 1948 – introduced the first hydraulic tipping trailer in Europe
  • 1950 – moved to an old cheese factory in Rocester where the workforce totalled six
  • 1951 – began painting his machinery yellow
  • 1953 – brought out his breakthrough product, the backhoe loader
  • 1957 – brought out the "hydra-digga", incorporating the excavator and the major loader as a single all-purpose tool which was useful for both the agricultural as well as construction industry, which JCB grew with[2]
  • 1991 – brought out the JCB Fastrac high speed agricultural tractor.

In 1958, he bought ten motorscooters with the number plates JCB1 to JCB10, to get their number plates to transfer to his firm's vehicles.[4]

With exports to the United States beginning, profits increased from 1960 onwards. JCB won seven Queen's Awards for Exports as its sales spread to more than 130 countries around the world, while Bamford himself was appointed a CBE for Services to Export in 1969.[1] In 1993, he became the first British citizen to be honoured in the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame, and remained the only British inductee until his son Anthony was inducted in 2008.[5]


What made Bamford different from many engineers was that he was also a marketeer. Bamford personally demanded to know daily from his staff how many "JCB Yellow" vehicles were off the road awaiting spares. Bamford created an image that JCBs were there to work, and if an owner-operator's machine was down, then Bamford wanted to know about it—which gained him 95% of the owner-operator market in the UK.[6]

Bamford placed a 12 V socket into the cab of his vehicles, and delivered the first 100 personally, arriving in his Rolls Royce with number plate JCB1. One of the first Learjets in Europe was purchased to fly in non-UK customers (the fleet has since got larger[7]), who were met by another European first, a stretched Cadillac with the same number of seats as the jet. Bamford also conceived the "dancing diggers," whose 1999 display in Las Vegas stopped the gamblers.[2]

Personal style[edit]

A non-smoking teetotaller, who was so careful with his money that he claimed his wife still made their own curtains, Bamford worked from 09:00 until 23:00 every day. He saw his role in life to be like the Nonconformist Cadbury and Lever families. He built Rocester along the lines of Bournville and Port Sunlight into an effective marketing home for the company, and an efficient production centre and a virtual "home" for his employees. He saw no need to recognise trade unions. The Rocester works were surrounded by 10,000 acres (40 km2) of landscaped grounds in which his company's employees could shoot, fish, swim, and sail.[1]

Bamford paid more than fair wages, which rose regularly, and annual bonuses based on reports of individual worth. In 1967 Bamford stood on a farm cart and handed out personal cheques totalling £250,000. This extraordinary focus in return gave unprecedented levels of workforce flexibility, with the average JCB employee through the strike-dominated 1970s and early 1980s being seven times more productive than the average British manufacturing worker.[1]


In 1975, Bamford left his wife Marjorie (née Griffin – married 1941), handed over the business to their two sons,[8] and set up home with his secretary, Jayne Ellis, in Switzerland as tax exiles.[9] He continued to design both boats and diesel engines. Bamford was awarded the honorary degree of a Doctor of Technology from both Loughborough University in 1989[10] and Keele University in 2000.[11]

Bamford died in a London clinic on 1 March 2001.[1] At his death, JCB was the largest privately owned engineering company in Britain, employing 4,500 people and manufacturing 30,000 machines a year in 12 factories on three continents. It had revenues of £850m in 1999, earned from 140 countries.[2]

His portraits by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies and Leslie Smithers (whilst he was still the head of his JCB empire) are in the National Portrait Gallery.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ritchie, Berry Obituary: Joseph Bamford obituary Archived 7 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The Independent, 7 March 2001
  2. ^ a b c d e f Phillips, Dave Engineer who gave his name to a machine on every building site – the JCB digger, The Guardian, 5 March 2001.
  3. ^ Bamford, Henry. "Bamford Family Tree". Henry Bamford and Sons, Uttoxeter, England. Henry Bamford. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  4. ^ J.C. Bamford profile,; accessed 14 November 2015.
  5. ^ AEM Hall of Fame website; retrieved 14 February 2014.
  6. ^ The Marketing Leaders – Marketing Leadership: the outsider looking in Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 14 November 2015.
  7. ^ Aviation Photos: JCB,; accessed 14 November 2015.
  8. ^ Bamford steps down as JCB managing director Archived 3 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 14 November 2015.
  9. ^ The Guardian - Feud between Bamford brothers threatens to cast light on funding for Tories
  10. ^ Honorary Graduates and University Medallists since 1966, Loughborough University website; retrieved 19 August 2007.
  11. ^ Keele University Announces Honorary Degrees Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Keele University website; retrieved 19 August 2007.
  12. ^ Joseph Cyril Bamford (1916–2001), Founder and chairman of JCB Inc., creator of construction and excavation equipment,; accessed 14 November 2015.

External links[edit]