There’s no substitute for experience

Bence are one of Europe’s leading specialist vehicle manufacturers, creating mobile spaces for a range of sectors. Our history as a specialist coachbuilder dates back to the early 1900s, with our roots firmly planted in Yate, just north of Bristol. Focused on build quality and in-house expertise we’ve seen significant growth in size and reputation in recent years, with Bence processes continuing to exceed industry standards.

A growing history

WH Bence Ltd has enjoyed rapid growth since its foundation in 1982.

1982

When three of the region’s specialist vehicle companies went into receivership, putting James Brown out of work, he decided to launch his own company. Using an old coach painting shop, a bank loan, six coachbuilders and two painters, WH Bence Ltd was born.

1983

The Bence site includes three build bays and a paint bay. A new wooden shed becomes the stores, with a Portakabin for offices. Expansion is rapid. More of the Longwell Green site becomes available, so we move our paintshop and add more building bays.

1987

Space is again at a premium so James purchases a site close by at Armstrong Way. It’s a family affair, with his brother building the new factory on the site which opened on 4 July 1988. It’s a remarkable day as the new workshop seemed absolutely enormous, which of course it is, being three times the size of our original unit.

2004

Bence build a new paint preparation and spray shop facility on the Armstrong Way site. This includes a low bake oven with the latest paint extraction system, high tech air-powered wall mounted gantries for our sprayers to move easily across the vehicles, and a preparation bay with the latest dust extraction equipment.

2016

Bence employs a team of around 60 full-time staff.  With contracts rolling in from all sectors, this family company’s future is going from strength to strength.

Left to Right: Oliver Brown – Sales Director

Sue Brown – Company Secretary

James Brown – Managing Director

Edward Brown – Production Director.

 

Our people

  • Name
    Leah Kane
    Role
    Office Administrator

    Leah joined WH Bence in March 2016.  After leaving school Leah commenced her career in an accounting practice specialising in business restructuring and insolvency.  Leah spent 12 years working in this industry including 4 years working in Western Australia.  Since returning from Australia Leah has moved away from her accounting practice background and is enjoying the variety this brings to her career.

    In her spare time Leah is currently renovating a vintage caravan and is hoping to pick up some tips and useful information from the production staff at Bence!

  • Name
    Mike Hall
    Role
    Design Engineer

    After only recently joining the company in the spring 2016, Mike has already utilised his 2D and 3D CAD skills, and also deepened the design team’s skill set with his engineering knowledge. Mike graduated with a first class Mechanical engineering degree in 2014, and after a short stay in Munich, developing his language skills, has joined the WH Bence design team for a fun and successful career in engineering design.

    Mike comes from a family with an engineering background, but started his early career in the leisure industry as a lifeguard and fitness instructor, and has enjoyed participating in triathlons and other endurance events.

    In his spare time, Mike likes to play guitar, go for bike rides, and drink beer.

  • Name
    Hannah Stallard
    Role
    Service & Transport Administrator

    Hannah joined WH Bence in May 2016. After leaving college, Hannah started her career in the hospitality business, providing administrative support for the hotel reception. Following this position, Hannah then briefly worked for a family friend undertaking customer service related admin until starting her career with a local coffee company. She then spent the last 6 years as a New Business Administrator.

    Hannah enjoys taking on new challenges and is looking forward to learning more about the coach building industry.

    In Hannah’s spare time, she enjoys horse riding and spending time with friends and family.

  • Name
    Karim Cosslett
    Role
    Sales Manager

    With nearly 14 years of military experience, serving worldwide as a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force, I have seen my fair share of custom built vehicles and command platforms.  I am really proud to have joined the Bence team in 2016 as I can truly appreciate the great value and importance of making things well, first time and always with the end user and their objectives in mind!

    As the Sales Manager for WH Bence, my role is to ensure our customers are informed and satisfied with every stage of the process through to successful completion; we guarantee excellence every time, worthy of the Bence tradition.

    I look forward to a bright future with WH Bence!

  • Name
    Sheralyn Tanner
    Role
    Purchase Ledger Clerk

    Sheralyn joined W H Bence in September 2014.  After leaving college, Sheralyn secured an Accounting Technician position with a local accountants where she gained the AAT qualification. For the last 5 years, Sheralyn worked for South Gloucestershire Council and held the position of Business Information Officer at a Secure Children’s Home in Emersons Green.

    Sheralyn recently completed  an Open University Course and gained the qualification Certificate in Business Studies.

    In Sheralyn’s spare time she helps to keep her dads accounts in order, as he is a local carpenter.

  • Name
    Brad Thomas
    Role
    Stores Manager

    Brad was a Gastro Chef, working in pubs and restaurants in the local area before he joined WH Bence in 2012 as a storeman.  He was then promoted to Stores Manager in early 2013

    Brad enjoys the challenge of sourcing rare parts for the build process of the specialist vehicles that WH Bence produce, and is always on hand to help customers source spares for their vehicles.

     

     

  • Name
    Edward Brown
    Role
    Production Director

    With Bence in his blood, Edward could from an early age be found at the company, either having a go at fabrication or spraying vehicles in our paint shop.  In 2007 Edward officially joined Bence part time in the design team whilst attending University, helping with the production of manuals and the design stages on the vehicles.

    Moving on from the degree in Quantity Surveying, Edward started in the post of Assistant Production Manager, supervising the workshop and overseeing the production of vehicles.  Recently, following promotion to Production Director, Edward has been instrumental in the programming of IFM systems on the Bence range of Type B Fire Appliances.

  • Name
    Jeff Trought
    Role
    Production Manager

    Officially Bence’s Production Manager, but also our resident ‘agony aunt’ and troubleshooter – somebody that can make quick decisions when things don’t go quite according to plan.

    Jeff began his career in the coach building industry as soon as he left school in 1968, completing his 5-year apprenticeship in 1973. He’s been building bespoke vehicles pretty much non-stop since then, with a couple of career breaks to spend a few years as a carpenter and a few more working with a company making stretched limos. Jeff first joined the Bence team in 1988 and was appointed Production Manager in 2004.

     

  • Name
    Jason Perkins
    Role
    Head of Design Engineering

    Jason joined the company after having spent over eight years in the leisure vehicle business. He’s highly skilled in 2D and 3D CAD, CADCAM and CNC programming and won the City and Guilds Medal for Excellence for 3D CAD design in 2005. He began his career as an apprentice model/pattern maker in 1988, working on various aircraft and military projects. He later moved into the vacuum forming business, creating forming for various aircraft and automotive companies and sparking his interest in CNC machining. Jason’s next move was to Britain’s largest caravan and motorhome Company as a design engineer.

    When not designing Jason is an avid cook and enjoys growing his own crops!

  • Name
    James Brown
    Role
    Managing Director

    In 1982 James was an expert coachbuilder working for one of the South West’s leading specialist vehicle companies. When the company went into receivership, putting James out of work, he decided to launch his own company. Using the 6000sq ft coach painting shop of the former Longwell Green Coachworks, a loan from Barclays Bank, six coachbuilders and two painters, James went into business and WH Bence was born.

    Since then, James has grown the company into one of Europe’s leading specialist vehicle manufacturers, with its own fabrication and maintenance sites.  WH Bence prides itself on being a family-run company, with James’ wife Sue, and sons Oliver and Edward taking on key roles in the organisation.

  • Name
    Martin Smith
    Role
    Service Manager

    Martin has been with Bence since 2005, starting as a Service Engineer for the company. He’s been our Service Manager since May 2012. Martin is responsible for all after-sales queries, from warranty repairs to breakdown call-outs. He manages a team of service engineers and drivers, and organises all departmental operations.

    Martin has been working as a commercial mechanic since he left school in 1987, serving an apprenticeship with British Road Services in Bristol. Outside work he’s a British Army Reservist, having served for 15 years and acquired his Advanced Level Physical Training Instructor qualification.

  • Name
    Mark Watts
    Role
    Purchasing Manager

    Mark joined us in November 2001 as a Stores Assistant.  His dedication and hard work did not go unnoticed, and within a year Mark moved up the ladder into the Stores Manager role.

    Mark quickly developed a reputation for running a tight ship ensuring all materials were available when they were needed.

    After 11 years as Stores Manager, Mark moved up to his current position as Purchasing Manager.  Into this role has brought with him his dedicated and diligent attitude helping us to improve our procurement procedures. With a quick smile and quicker wit, Mark is always at hand to make sure that the procurement team work together efficiently to provide us with an ever improving integral service.

  • Name
    Lucasz Klimonczyk
    Role
    Design Engineer

    Lucasz joined us in May 2009 from Poland as part of our procurement team. Since then, Lucasz rose rapidly through the ranks moving into the coach building team, and finally finding his current position in February 2013 as our new Design Engineer.

    Lucasz’s natural flair for languages has been invaluable to the Bence team, and has assisted the Company with forging long-lasting relationships with companies overseas.

    Lucasz has proved himself to be a real asset to the design team and he looks forward to a long future with WH Bence.

  • Name
    Keith Barton
    Role
    Sales Manager, Special Vehicles and Fire

    Keith was appointed Sales Manager, Special Vehicles and Fire in 2010.  He has worked within the Fire section of the bodybuilding industry for 36 years – back in the days when fire engines were made of wood!  Keith has worked for other major fire vehicle manufacturers throughout the country.

    The Company was looking to expand their product range to include frontline fire fighting appliances, and the appointment of Keith was instrumental to this goal.  Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength in this industry, producing front line fire appliances for both the UK and overseas market.

     

  • Name
    Jessica Brown
    Role
    Finance Manager

    Jess joined WH Bence in August 2012 after completing the AAT qualification in Accounting.

    Leaving school with a career in Early Years in mind, Jess completed all the relevant qualifications to do just that. However, whilst working as a nanny (and despite never particularly liking Maths in school) Jess picked up a part time job working for her Father’s company as a bookkeeper. What was initially intended as a temporary stand-in role became permanent and the AAT course followed.

    With a new found interest and qualifications in Accounting, Jess started working in the office at Bence and now performs a variety of roles in the Finance Dept.

  • Name
    Sue Brown
    Role
    Company Secretary

    Having started my career as a Pharmacist it was quite a dramatic change to move over to the world of vehicle production!  I came to Bence to be part of my own business and to work alongside my family. I re-trained in Finance and accounting and I am currently in charge of the purse strings (much to everyone’s annoyance!) as the Company Secretary.  I enjoy being a key part of business working alongside my family to look at new ways to improve the business we love.

    The change over the last 18 months in the company’s carbon footprint with a reduction in waste and recycling of materials has really made me feel we are working hard to do our bit. We are looking to the future of the business and investing in the latest technology to provide us green energy for the business.

  • Name
    Oliver Brown
    Role
    Sales Director

    W H Bence was founded the year I was born so I think this business has always been in my blood. I love the excitement of the ever changing work, from the design of the new version of the mini fire appliance to creating a mobile hospitality space.

    I enjoyed an adventurous early career working as a sailing instructor at both the UK Sailing Academy in Cowes and ICC in Salcombe, Devon. Having completed my Degree at Loughborough University I moved over to run the Events Department for W H Bence.  I became Sales Director five years ago, and we have had a great few years with the introduction of the Front Line Appliance to our product range.  I look forward to a great future!

  • Name
    Rachel Murphy
    Role
    PA to the Directors

    Rachel has been with us since February 2011, and her principal (and most important) role is making sure James (Managing Director), Oliver (Sales Director) and Keith (Sales Manager) are in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people with the right paperwork!

    Rachel has a degree in English and began her career with BBC South West. She then worked at BBC Television Centre for five years for Ceefax before taking a career break to have children.  She enjoys the challenge of working at Bence and in particular managing the website!

    Rachel would describe her strengths as organising the world, writing prose, and making tea!