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The History of Comber & Son

Robert Comber the founder, known to all as Bob, was born in 1880 in Sharpthorne, West Sussex.

Having worked previously for Longleys, in 1906 Bob started out on his own and established
'R. Comber Builders’ in Sharpthorne.

The builder’s yard, along with a carpenters shop, was situated beside ‘The Black Path’, a pathway on top of the railway tunnel that lead from Top Road down to the Bluebell railway station.

With a steady stream of work, including a contract at Finden in 1927 to build council houses for Sussex County Council, the business prospered and in 1935 it moved from The Black Path site along to ‘Downsview Yard’, the site we occupy today, where a larger carpenters shop was built and the sign now read: ‘R. Comber, Builders, Decorators & Undertakers’.

In 1947, Bob’s son, Ronald Comber (born 1911), took over the running of the business and the company became ‘Comber & Son’.

During all this time Bob and Ron carried out the role of village undertakers, with the carpenters shop producing coffins when required. To be collected from a job and have to sit alongside a coffin in the van was not uncommon!

In the early 1950’s, Ron built a new family house for his wife Sybil and sons Stephen (born 1939) and Philip (born 1948) in Sharpthorne, opposite Downsview Yard, where the front room became the office and remained so until the new offices were built in 1975 beside the carpenters shop.

In 1960, Steve joined the family firm after serving his apprenticeship with Munnions, Ardingly and followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a carpenter.

By now, Bob had taken a back seat, assisting in the carpenters shop with odd jobs until 1961, when he died at the age of 81.

Ron was now an established figure within the company and had become a well-respected man in the area. His love of buildings and wood he passed on to his son, Steve, along with the business after Ron’s untimely death in 1966 at the age of 55.

It was at this time that the decision was made to concentrate solely on building and therefore discontinue the undertaking side of the business.
1966 was to be a year of mixed emotions, as it was also the year that Steve married Pauline.
In 1969, Steve and Pauline had their first son, John, followed by their second, Richard, in 1973.

The 1970’s saw big changes in the business when Steve built a joiners shop on the site of the old carpenters shop which has proved to be a great asset to Comber & Son over the years, with the joiners producing exceptional work.

Over the years, with a steady increase of work, Comber & Son grew.

In 1966, 7 men were directly employed and by the 1970’s, that figure had grown to 30, along with a large moveable team of subcontractors.

Steve, like his father, took pride in his work and his passion was building and everything connected with it. With Steve at the helm, Comber & Son developed strong relationships with clients, both new and old, and secured many contracts, including schools and educational establishments due to being Approved Contractors for West Sussex, East Sussex, Kent and Surrey County Councils. Steve was also awarded the contract to build the North Wing at Gravetye Manor, West Hoathly, a hotel that Comber & Son had the pleasure of maintaining since the 1950’s. The building of the new wing to match the existing Elizabethan manor house soon became Steve’s pride and joy, with the company being able to showcase the abilities of its craftsmen.

Then, in 1995, at the young age of 55, Steve too was taken in the prime of life.

After Steve’s death, John stepped very ably into his father’s shoes and carried on the work that his forefathers had started.

With Richard joining the firm, Comber & Son still maintains its heritage as a family run business and the fourth generation is now in place.

Pauline, John and Richard work with the determination and enthusiasm of those that have shaped Comber & Son in to what it is today and strive to continue to do so.
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