From the humble beginnings of a domestic garage in 1984, Neil Stevenson, Owner and Managing Director, has grown the company to remarkable heights albeit facing some challenges when he started.
Church Lawford Business Centre,
Limestone Hall Lane, Church Lawford,
Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9HD
How NEJ Stevenson began…
Neil’s interest in woodworking stemmed from a traditional Staffordshire chair-makers whilst he was still at school. This, alongside his strong passion for the art of furniture-making, led Neil to study Fine Craftsmanship and Design at Rycotewood College following his A-Level studies. Once graduated, he moved to Wales to work for a traditional oak furniture company but unfortunately, after a promising start was made redundant after six-months.
This led Neil to Bedford to work for a company that imported part-made furniture from Indonesia, where he was asked to visit to improve quality. A combination of not being paid and the absence of a work visa prompted Neil to return home with the UK company going bankrupt soon afterwards.
Neil recounts, “On returning to England I went back to live with my parents, and my dad, bless his socks, spoke to a few people I had worked with to see if I was any good. My parents didn’t have money to waste, so for them to invest hard-earned savings was a major show of faith. So, in January 1984 my dad lent me his garage and £1,000 to buy some machinery. I bought a small 12in DeWalt planer/thicknesser; DeWalt radial arm saw, an Elu router and orbital sander. The cabinetmakers would laugh if I suggested making anything with such equipment today”.
When asked how he felt when he branched out on his own, “Poor for a start, definitely tired, along with ‘out of my depth’. Pretty much everyone I wanted to buy supplies from considered me a nuisance and a risk, and then, of course, there was the Bank Manager who was thoroughly patronising and clearly knew less about business than I did”.
When Neil started the company in 1984 he worked to the principles of delivering the client’s vision with skill, quality and service. Today, the business takes pride in maintaining the same commitment to quality that sustained it in the early days. It is an ethos that lives on through the entire team and is epitomised by Projects Director David Drew, who was the first to join the fledgling enterprise.
The company ethos is not only echoed in the quality of work delivered, but it is reflected in the daily management style of the Directors. They believe in “doing the right thing by people” and treating everyone, employees, suppliers and customers with integrity and respect.
NEJ Stevenson have an official policy for determining where items are purchased, with the primary requirement being quality, with a preference to buy locally where possible. Following a recent analysis of their purchases, 55% is sourced within a 50-mile radius.
Bespoke joinery and furniture
Every piece of furniture that NEJ Stevenson create is one of a kind, both in terms of design and materials, which are painstakingly sourced for every commission.
NEJ Stevenson have been commissioned to make an array of pieces over the years, from elaborate mantelpieces, breath-taking libraries, grand wine cellars and soaring staircases, to intricate inlaid panels and presentation boxes; ecclesiastical masterpieces and cabinets of major historical importance for great houses and palaces, to art deco extravagances and sparkling dressing rooms.
The evolution of NEJ Stevenson
The company has grown significantly over the past 35 years, as the business grew, Neil realised that he needed to take on additional staff and larger premises.
In 1988, NEJ Stevenson moved to Unit D5 In Wolston, however, as orders grew the unit became less fit for purpose, leading the company to lease further adjoining units.
Threatened with eviction from Wolston due to demolition, land was acquired in Church Lawford and a new workshop was built. The company moved in December 1999 and has steadily expanded both space and personnel. NEJ Stevenson now boasts 40 staff members and has premises of 11,000 square feet.
NEJ Stevenson has had the pleasure of working on a myriad of prestigious projects over the years, including being granted a Royal Warrant as the cabinetmakers to Her Majesty the Queen.
State Dining Room Sideboard for Windsor Castle:
The A.W. Pugin designed sideboard in the Victorian gothic style was the only piece of furniture destroyed in the fire at Windsor Castle.
NEJ Stevenson were chosen to recreate this iconic piece of furniture. Made in English Oak and then veneered in Rio Rosewood, embellished with unique carved limewood insets and gilded metal rosettes. The carvings are water gilded and the veneer is French polished.
NEJ Stevenson replicated the missing furniture for the Dining Room and Foyer in English Walnut, Bird’s Eye Maple and Australian Black Bean. The designs were worked up from archive photographs and inventory descriptions.
This project required the development of concept designs as well as the recreation of a range of over sixty authentic furniture items, including ‘The Kings Bed’, ‘Kings Chair’, ‘chests’, ‘armoires’, ‘lecterns’,’ tables’ and benches that would be positioned in complete room settings on three floors of the Great Tower. Manufactured mostly in English Oak with wrought iron fittings the majority of pieces were richly decorated in vibrant primary colours.
Gilt and Silver Storage Room at Buckingham Palace:
The Royal Household’s collection of ceremonial gold and silverware required a storage and display facility befitting its value and historic importance. NEJ Stevenson designed a range of unique storage units which reduced damage, aided identification and revolutionised the use of the entire collection. The units were made in English Oak with Marmoleum surfaces and integrated lighting.
The Chapel Furniture for Pope Benedict XVI visit in 2010:
N.E.J. Stevenson were commissioned to design and produce specially selected pieces for use during the visit. Given a fairly open design brief, they were asked to produce six contemporary pieces, an altar, lectern, tabernacle stand, two server chairs and the celebrant’s chair. These were to be used in a traditional setting, appropriate for religious observance.
Diamond Jubilee Presentation Box:
Fellow Royal Warrant holder and whisky distiller John Walker & Sons approached NEJ Stevenson in November 2010 to design and manufacture a prestigious presentation chest, which would be used to house a 60-year-old whisky commemorating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
Memorable and unusual projects
We asked about the most memorable and unusual projects that the team have worked on…
“Mirrored bed canopies are often quite fun to work on, however, The Croiser for Pope Francis to give to Archbishop Welby has been by far the most unusual item we have worked on. In regards to the most memorable projects, one may think it would be a job in Moscow, New York or Dubai, however the most memorable job for Neil came from a private client who was located in Stavanger Norway. Neil designed a bookcase with a book door through to a cloakroom with glazed over panel in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright”.
NEJ Stevenson and Axminster
NEJ Stevenson and Axminster have a long-standing relationship.
“Axminster provide the right product, with the right service at a fair price. One of the best things about Axminster Tools is the comprehensive catalogue, once unique, now superseded by the website making it a one-stop shop with a full range of quality tools and prices”. – NEJ Stevenson
From one man and his passion through to a team of 40 master craftsmen. NEJ Stevenson holds a remarkable portfolio of work. The team continue to create elegant, intricate and beautiful work to last in the most prestigious of places for years to come.
“Always buy the best quality tool you can. A quality tool will be a joy forever”. – Neil Stevenson, Owner and Managing Director
Workshop Favourites and Recommendations
- Tom Forbes (Workshop Leader) and Josh Cosh Hall (Cabinetmaker): Lamello Zeta P2 Biscuit Jointer: Fantastic tool. Revolutionised putting things together. Speeds up working practices.
- Jordan Bunn (Cabinetmaker): Veritas Marking Gauge Wheel: It’s easy to use, precise and accurate.
- Richard Evans (Cabinetmaker): Veritas Block Plane: Brilliant quality and versatile. A tool that can be used every day.
Get in touch
To arrange a visit with your regional Technical Consultant phone 0800 371822, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete this form. Find out more about our Business Services team at axminster.co.uk/business.