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In 1947, a young man with a head full of ideas, fresh out of service in the Navy, started turning these ideas into reality in a shed in the quiet village of Mayfield, East Sussex. The young designer was Peter Le Fleming Shepherd (1922 – 2018), who initially made innovative small pieces of furniture which were sold primarily through high end retailers such as Heal’s and Liberty of London. In the early 1960’s Peter had a break through when he designed a heavy plywood folding table with a pin leg, which he sold to schools in the south of England for their dining halls. The table was constructed using unique techniques that negated the need for screws or fixing and these principles continue to be used in the basic construction of the tables we make today.
A lightweight version of this original table followed addressing the needs of school catering staff for a table that they could quickly deploy in the school hall, turning the space into a dining room with minimum effort. This was a turning point for the business as this innovative design became the go-to folding table for schools and community organisations nationwide.
Finding an industrial unit for sale in 1973, the company moved to the seaside town of Hythe in Kent, only a few yards from the beach and English Channel, where we are to this day and continue to make folding tables with the same iconic twin leg design. It is no longer only folding tables that now leave our factory door. Stacking benches complement the folding tables, making cost effective and efficient seating for school dining halls and youth organisations. Trolleys have been specifically designed to store and transport the folding tables, making them a great accessory for busy organisations who put up and take down tables on a daily basis.
In addition, we also make performance staging. Our Ultralight staging system, constructed from aluminium like all other Gopak products, is a simple folding stage that is ideal for any organisation without a permanent stage, or is great for choirs, musicians and performers who go from venue to venue and need to ensure they have a raised stage for their performances.
Having made furniture that folds for the last five decades, a new manufacturing technique was introduced in 2011 that allows us to make a range of furniture, that can still be shipped flat pack but once assembled becomes a fixed leg product. Called Enviro because of its great environmental credentials and recyclable attributes, you will find a vast range of tables in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with different top finishes suitable for many different applications. Suitable for dining, classroom, office, changing room, playground and garden, this design has opened up new areas that traditionally our furniture did not suit.
Headed up by Andrew Fieldwick, Managing Director we have a loyal and dedicated workforce, many of whom have achieved remarkable lengths of service. Over 70% of the team having served in excess of 10 years and this includes 25% of the team who have been with us for well over 25 years. You can see from our FEEFO Platinum rated customer feedback that they do a pretty good job too.
Quality has always been at the forefront in our business, which was endorsed by the successful implementation of British Standard ISO9001 in November 1988. The design and development of new products, to make alongside our more traditional items, is a constant as you will see from the vast range of furniture included in our portfolio. We are able to offer our furniture in an unrivalled choice of colour options and sizes by manufacturing to order and while we can't ship bespoke items next day, we work on a short leadtime, to make sure we get your order to you as quickly as possible.
Our people really matter to us and in December 2002 we were awarded Investor in People status. Our approach to sustainability and responsibility towards our environment was also recognised by accreditation to ISO14001 the Environmental Management System ISO14001 in May 2009.
All three accreditations are regularly reviewed and audited, to ensure we are consistently meeting these three key standards.