Gooch & Housego PLC is a global photonics technology business headquartered in Ilminster Somerset, UK. A world leader in its field, the company researches, designs, engineers and manufactures critical photonic solutions for applications in the aerospace and defence, industrial, life sciences and scientific research sectors. G&H’s expertise spans a broad and complementary range of technologies.
G&H has expanded from its small beginnings in Ilminster and now has multi-site operations in the US and two further sites in the UK in addition to sales offices in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.
The G&H story goes back to the World War II when young Archie Gooch and Les Housego were evacuated from London to Ilminster, Somerset, as employees of Standard Telephones and Cables (STC). STC’s products were vital for the war effort, and manufacturing was relocated from Greenwich to Ilminster to escape the blitz.
In Ilminster STC took over what is now Swanmead School and converted it into a factory manufacturing quartz crystals that were used in radio communication. As luck would have it they both met local girls, married them and settled into Somerset life.
In 1948 the two young men set up G&H in a loft in Ilminster towncentre where they set out to make scientific and crystal optics. Their determination to specialise in high quality optics for a discerning market proved to be a firm foundation for the business of today, which still applies the same principles. However, in the early days times were hard and work was sometimes scarce, so on occasions they were known to turn their hands to manufacturing picture frames and ashtrays to make ends meet.
As the company grew, it needed larger premises and moved into part of Cornhill, gradually taking over more and more of the building until it bought the entire property a few years later. In 1994 more space was needed and the company acquired Ilminster’s former Magistrates’ Court building, which was converted into offices.
By 2007 it was obvious that G&H needed a state-of-the-art facility with clean rooms and equipment that matched the expectations of their customers. It is especially fitting that the company purchased the old Clarks’ building, which it transformed in a £10million refurbishment into a world-class optics manufacturing facility.
Having been in Somerset for over 60 years, G&H is well-established in the community and has always collaborated with local schools, colleges and universities to have a flow of excellent craftsmen, skilled engineers and scientists. The company is proud to offer an excellent apprenticeship scheme, especially in the difficult global financial climate.
Andy Rowswell, General Manager of Gooch & Housego (UK), summarised G&H’s outlook, “People are central to our success. We are fortunate to have a skilled local workforce and the heritage of seventy years of specialist manufacturing in Ilminster gives us an advantage which cannot be overstated. Moreover it’s a beautiful part of the world and a good place to do business.”