Bunkabin has been around for some years, starting from humble beginnings and growing to become an award-winning, leading supplier of temporary accommodation. Getting here hasn’t been easy, but we’re not afraid of a bit of graft, especially if it means being able to provide products that make clients come back for more.
1979 - First Cabin Built...on Frank’s Drive
Legend has it that in the spring evenings of 1979, following a full day’s hard graft, Frank Rothwell built his first cabin on the driveway of his family home. He sold it after a single advert was placed in the classifieds of the Oldham Evening Chronicle. Following this success, he built another one, which also sold after just one night in the classifieds.
Unsurprisingly, the neighbours complained to the council because of the over-enthusiastic hammering, but now Frank had the desire to make a success of manufacturing cabins. He called the business ‘Frank Rothwell Plant Hire’ and rented a garage near Fielding Mill on Radclyffe Street in Middleton, Manchester.
On 5th April 1979, Frank employed David Proctor, who provided more than 35 years of loyal service until his retirement at the end of 2015.
Our second longest serving employee is Keith Humphries who started 18th June 1986, shortly followed by seven others.
1984 - Relocation to Manchester
This year was significant for us for a number of reasons. Frank Rothwell Plan Hire became Manchester Cabins and the first commercial property was opened: 688 Oldham Road, Miles Platting, Manchester.
Manchester Cabins quickly expanded into adjacent properties, including the old Louis Edwards Meat Factory. With this acquisition came our current boardroom table, where it is believed that Louis Edwards signed George Best for Manchester United.
We also saw our first hire cabin entered in the hire fleet and we bought our first wagon-mounted HIAB crane.
The wagon-mounted HIAB crane with Les the driver, who still works for us.
1987 - Our growth continues
To cater for the business’s exponential expansion, a 25,000 sq ft factory was built on Drewett Street, Miles Platting. The purpose-built factory brought with it a revolutionary technique of constructing our cabins. Walls were prepared on a press and injected with polyurethane foam instead of the traditional stud walls and polystyrene sheet insulation. This helped to improve both the strength of our units and their thermal retention properties, making our units warmer and more energy efficient.
1990 - Time to take stock
When the recession hit the UK in 1990, our business growth slowed, meaning we had to put moving to a new factory on hold and take stock of our business model and strategy. This was a good time to change our course and ensure we were prepared to bounce back and continue our growth when the time was right.
1992 - Getting back on track
With the future looking brighter and a new business plan in place, we made a significant move to a 52,000 sq ft purpose-built factory in Miles Platting, on the junction of Oldham Road and Hulme Hall Lane.
1994 - The Bunkabin Sleeper Unit is created
The Sleeper Unit was pioneered and designed in 1994 after it came to Frank’s attention that many construction workers were dying every year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning through sleeping in inadequate accommodation. With a new challenge set, Frank designed a unit that was specifically for sleeping in, which offered warmth and comfort with en-suite facilities, and, most importantly, had no gas.
This was the first sleeper of its kind and was not only an instant success, but it paved the way for Bunkabin to become the largest sleeper hire company in Great Britain.
The Original Sleeper
1996 - Bunkabin is born
The first design of our sleeper cabin was called the Original Sleeper because that is exactly what it was - original. As a company, we knew Frank had created something that would transform onsite living and as word spread about Frank’s design, so did the demand.
The growth was that significant it became clear that this product needed its own identity, and in 1996, Manchester Cabins created and trademarked Bunkabin.
The original Bunkabin logo
All this time, Manchester Cabins was busy manufacturing cabins for other companies as well as itself. With the success of the Bunkabin units and the demand for more sleepers from construction companies all over the UK, we needed to review our company strategy once again.
2001 - Focus on hire of cabins, Bunkabin and an idea about car parks
We made the strategic decision to manufacture predominantly for Manchester Cabins and Bunkabin’s own hire fleets and realised we needed another factory. We relocated to Tweedle Way, Oldham at a great location off junction 22 of the M60. Bunkabin was continuing to grow and the new factory fitted our business model perfectly.
While Frank was away from work and sailing around the world, he read an article about a surgeon who was bleeped into work (this was a time before mobile phones) to carry out an emergency operation. The surgeon rushed to the hospital but was unable to park his car anywhere. Frustrated, the surgeon eventually managed to park his car and made his way to the theater to scrub in. However, he was so worked up about his ordeal that he was unable to concentrate and had to withdraw from the operation.
This story vexed Frank and he set his mind to solving the problem. He returned to work and set about designing and pioneering a portable multi-storey car park. Like Bunkabin, this proved another fantastic creation, and several patents later, Frank set up a company called Another Level Car Parks, which has gone on to become another successful, problem-solving business.
2005 - An important decision
The decision to manufacture only for ourselves proved invaluable and allowed us to focus on our customers and end users, honouring our fundamental principle to ‘treat customers how we would want to be treated’.
Now with three companies - Manchester Cabins, Bunkabin and Another Level Car Park - various patents and trademarks and, of course, the Bunkabin biscuits, it was time to take a breath and make sure that what we do, we do well.
The original Diner unit
2017 - A year of celebrations
This year saw Bunkabin pick up Oldham’s Business of the Year in the £5 million to £10 million turnover category. Speaking about the accolade, Ben Rothwell, Business Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to have won this award. It has been a fantastic year for us as we continue to grow as a business, taking on lots of exciting new customers and, importantly, continuing to work with older ones too.”
In 2017, Bunkabin also celebrated working with the world-famous festival Glastonbury for its 15th year. We provide a significant number of sleeper units to the festival each year. These units are used as sleeping accommodation by a range of people, including festival management, staff and support services, such as the BBC and power generator company Aggreko.
Luke Rothwell, Director at Bunkabin, said: “It’s a real honour to have worked with such a huge, internationally-renowned festival for 15 years. Glastonbury requires an army of workers to ensure everything goes to plan, and we’re proud that Bunkabin plays an important role in that. We know that working a festival can be extremely tiring and our portable accommodation provides the perfect setting for a good night’s sleep.
The story is far from over!