Birmingham developed as an industrial centre around the extensive canal network and it was here that John Sykes first established a timber business in partnership with James Stevens.
John Sykes then set up his own premises in Sheepcote Street in 1862, where he sold many hardwood timbers from a variety of countries. They supplied Oak and Elm for the wheels of horse-drawn vehicles. George Sykes joined his father in 1870, at the age of 14, and for the next 30 years they worked together to expand the business.
After George Sykes took over from his father in 1900 he opened an additional yard in Sheepcote Street and one in Darlaston, where logs were turned into planks now using power-driven saws. The third generation, Joseph Sykes, entered the business in 1913, but was soon called away for military service in the First World War.
Upon his return lorries were purchased as the canals became less economical and the logs and timber were transported by road. Joseph Sykes became the Managing Director upon the death of his father in 1936 and six years later was joined by Stephen Sykes. On Stephen's return from the Second World War, when controls on timber sales were eased, the company continued to grow.
The existing yards became too small for the enlarging business and so the Directors found a new 10 acre site in Atherstone, Warwickshire. Here plans were laid for mills, seasoning sheds, service roads and offices. The company moved to Atherstone in 1966 and has continued to add further facilities. Atherstone is directly linked to the A5 and thus the Midlands and national road and motorway networks.
The company remains a family business having been trading for over 150 years with an unbroken family line; Richard and Robert Sykes representing the fifth generation of George Sykes Limited.