This article is about the founder of J.C. Bamford Ltd. For the company article, see JCB

Joseph Cyril Bamford
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Joseph Cyril Bamford
Born 21 June 1916
Died 1 March 2001

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


Joe Bamford was born into a Roman Catholic family from Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, which owned Bamfords Ltd, an agricultural engineering business.[2] His great grandfather Henry Bamford was born in Yoxall, and had built up his own ironmongers business, which by 1881 it 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 Stationary engines, which were exported all over the world. The company eventually ceased trading in 1986. (JCB did try to buy the firm in the 1980s, but were unsuccessful, but now occupy its former factory site in Uttoxeter).

After attending Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, Joe Bamford 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 Royal Air Force to serve in World War II. Working in supply and logistics, he returned to the African Gold Coast region, to run a staging post for United States Air Force planes being ferried to the Middle East.[1]


Aa jcbs first welder

JC Bamford's first welding set

Aa jcb firstproduct

JC Bamford's first product - a trailer

On return home in 1944, he 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 Joe 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 car, 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 the construction industry, which JCB then grew with.[2]

With exports starting to the United States, profits escalated from 1960 onwards. JCB has won seven Queen's Awards for Exports as its sales spread to more than 130 countries around the world, while Joe himself was awarded a CBE for Services to Export in 1969.[1] In 1993 became the first and currently only British citizen to be honoured in the American Construction Equipment Hall of Fame.[2]


What made Joe 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 JCB's were there to work, and if an owner-operator’s machine was down, then Joe Bamford wanted to know about it - which gained him 95% of the owner-operator market in the UK.[3]

Joe placed a 12v socket into the cab of his vehicles for a Kettle, and delivered the first 100 personally, arriving in his Rolls Royce with number plate JCB1. One of the first Learjet's in Europe was purchased to fly in non-UK customers (the fleet has since got larger[4]), who were met by another European first, a stretched Cadillac with the same number of seats as the jet. Joe also conceived the "dancing diggers," whose 1999 display in Las Vegas stopped the gamblers.[2]

Personal styleEdit

A non-smoking teetotaller, who was so careful with his money that he claimed his wife still made their own curtains, Joe worked from 09:00 until 23:00 every day. He saw his role in life similarly to that of his religious predecessors, the Cadbury and Lever families. He built Rocester along the lines of Bourneville 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 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]

Joe Bamford paid more than average wages, which rose regularly, and annual bonuses based on reports of individual worth - in 1967 Joe stood on a farm cart and handed out personal cheques totalling pounds £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 Joe and his wife Marjorie (nee Griffin - married 1941) handed over the business to their two sons,[5] and retired to Switzerland as a tax exile. He continued to design both boats and diesel engines, as well as his own garden. Joe was awarded the honorary degree of a Doctor of Technology from both Loughborough University in 1989;[6] and Keele University in 2000.[7]

Joe 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 portrait by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies sits in the National Portrait Gallery.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Ritchie, Berry Obituary: Joseph Bamford Independent Newspaper - March 7, 2001
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Phillips, Dave Engineer who gave his name to a machine on every building site - the JCB digger Guardian - March 5, 2001
  3. The Marketing Leaders - Marketing Leadership: the outsider looking in
  4. Aviation Photos: JCB
  5. Bamford steps down as JCB managing director | Diesel Progress North American Edition | Find Articles at
  6. Honorary Graduates and University Medallists since 1966 Loughborough University - retrieved 19th August, 2007
  7. KEELE UNIVERSITY ANNOUNCES HONORARY DEGREES Keele University - retrieved 19th August, 2007
  8. Joseph Cyril Bamford (1916-2001), Founder and chairman of JCB Inc., creator of construction and excavation equipment

External linksEdit

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