TODAY, JH Shouksmith and Sons Ltd is a successful York-based building services engineering firm with a £12 million turnover and more than 70 employees. In just a couple of years from now, it will celebrate it's 200th anniversary: quite an achievement. "We believe we're one of the oldest family firms in York," says Kathleen Shouksmith, wife of Shouksmith chairman Richard and mother of the company's present managing director David.

The thought that, after more than 200 years, a firm bearing his name would still be going strong would no doubt have astonished Jonas Shouksmith, a young brewer from Bradford who came to York in 1787 to marry a local girl, Mary Plummer.

While he was the first of the Shouksmith dynasty to come to York, it wasn't Jonas who founded the family businesses, however.

He and his wife Mary lived in Tanner Row, where Jonas plied his trade as a brewer. He became a Freeman of the City of York in 1806, describing himself as an 'ale draper'. But it was his and Mary's second son, Joseph, who started the firm which is still going strong today.

According to a history of the firm Kathleen wrote for the book More Memories of York, Joseph turned his back on brewing to become apprenticed to John Jackson, a plumber. He became a Master Craftsman, and in 1820 set up his own company.

By 1822, Joseph - having married Hannah, the daughter of his old master John Jackson - was advertising in the City of York Directory as a 'plumber and glazier' based in St Mary's Row, Bishophill. In 1824, the firm moved to 59 Micklegate - today's 128 Micklegate.

Joseph and Hannah's eldest son, Thomas, took over the business - and two of his grandsons after him, one of them John Henry Shouksmith. John Henry married Julia North in 1872, and two of their children, Thomas and Arthur, went on to work for the company in their turn.

Thomas, or Tom, joined Shouksmith as an apprentice in 1888 at the age of 15: and retired only in 1963, at the age of 90, having worked for the company for an astonishing 75 years, during which he rose to become its long-serving chairman.

"It does not seem to have been at all long to me," he said, at a special lunch in his honour presided over by his younger brother Arthur. "We have been a very happy firm. We never quarrel. We may disagree at times, but we always decide quietly what is the best thing to do."

Kathleen never knew Tom - he was her husband Richard's great uncle. But she heard stories about him - including one from his later years.

"He used to come in every morning, meet his brother (Arthur), read the FT, and then they would both go off!" she says.

Today, Tom's great great nephew (Arthur's great great grandson) David is in charge of the business, and his brother Edward is commercial manager. They're the seventh generation of the family to be involved with the firm.

Their mother, Kathleen, meanwhile, has been tracing back the family tree - all the way to the arrival in Bradford of a 'Joseph Shucksmith' in 1687. He appears to have fled religious persecution in the Low Countries, Kathleen says. He was a weaver by trade. "So he would have been very welcome in Bradford," Kathleen says.

Stephen Lewis