A FIFTH generation building and restoration contractor which survived both World Wars is celebrating its 140th anniversary in York.

Osbaldwick-based William Birch & Sons was founded in 1874 by William Birch, with early construction projects including the York Public Library and Friends Meeting Room in Clifford Street, Groves Wesleyan Chapel and the Soldiers Home in Wenlock Terrace.

Today the £20 million turnover business employs 87 people and is led by fourth generation family member chairman Chris Birch, with the fifth generation joining the firm in the form of finance director Alistair Birch.

To celebrate the anniversary the business is supporting the Poppy Road Poppy Project, a living memorial to commemorate the centenary of the First World War by turning empty land in Holgate into wildflower poppy meadows.

Chris Birch said: “The end of the First World War was a turning point for the William Birch business, and we were heavily involved in the post-war reconstruction in York, working on housing projects such as that at Tang Hall.

"It therefore seemed particularly fitting that we support the Poppy Road Poppy Project to mark our 140th year in business as a thank you and a reminder of all those that served in the war 100 years ago."

The business has seen two Birch family members, William Henry Birch and Jack Birch, serve as Lord Mayors in the city, and now is led by its first ever non-family member managing director Paul Goyea.

Speaking about the success of the business Chris Birch said: "The founder of the business William Birch was first and foremost a man who was proud of his craft, and throughout our history we have continued to demonstrate this passion and enthusiasm for sound craftsmanships.

"This coupled with the investment we have made in recruiting and training local employees has sustained the business to its present day success.

"We have always taken an active interest in supporting and developing apprentices and testament to our approach to this is that we still have members of staff working on our projects that joined the business as an apprentice 40 years ago."

Recent projects undertaken by William Birch & Sons in York include a new art and music building for Bootham School, and they are currently on site at York Explore II, the new city archives.