Our History

Founded by
Matthew Henry Southern
Its role then, as now, was as Timber Importers and Sawmillers, supplying the timber requirements of the shipbuilding and ship repair yards on the North East coast and commerce generally in the area.

The office, timber yard and sawmill were established on Skinnerburn Road, Newcastle upon Tyne on a riverside site between two of the Tyne’s famous bridges.
World War II
The company continued to prosper, under the guidance of the founder, right up to the beginning of World War II. During the war, business was reduced as timber was supplied only against licences issued by the Timber Control.
The Next Generations
A private limited company was formed with the present name. By this time the management of the company was in the hands of two of the founder’s sons M.H. and D.A. Southern.

In the 1950s the third generation of the family, P.H.P. and J.M. Southern, joined the company.
Time to Move
By 1960, a move had been planned to our long time site at Jarrow. This was within the dock area of Tyne Dock which was then our main port of importation. On an initial 3.5 acre site, an office, storage yard and sawmill was laid out and established to take advantage of sideloader handling of packaged timber. The site eventually expanded to 5 acres with concrete roads and extensive storage sheds able to hold a large proportion of our stock.

Modern Times

The company now operates under our name from premises in Felling and Berwick upon Tweed. The Directors are the founder’s great grandsons J.A. Southern and M.S. Lowis.

In recent years the market has changed considerably. As the shipbuilding and heavy industries have declined so customers have changed. Although the company is very much involved in what is left of these industries, some of the main outlets are now builders merchants, house builders and DIY outlets, whilst still supplying joinery manufacturers, local authorities and important industries such as the Rail Network.

The company now gets involved with projects as diverse as Douglas Fir helidecks in the Arabian Gulf and pitch pine roller coaster frameworks such as the Grand National in Blackpool.

Specialities continue to spread further afield and in many cases to others in the timber trade, including overseas.

With improved road systems, our headquarters are situated in a very good geographic position near the Tyne Tunnel and motorway network. To enhance the delivery service there are crane attachments on most of our transport fleet. These, as with all capital equipment, are serviced and replaced regularly.

The company has further improved our service by installing TANALITH, TANATONE and VACSOL preservative treatment facilities to provide assured long term protection and performance to our fencing, landscaping and construction timbers. The facilities have been installed to comply with COSHH and other industry safety regulations.

Acquired Robert Duncan Timber in Gateshead
The company specialised in importing, machining and distributing a wide range of hardwoods, softwoods and sheet materials.
Further Investment
We invested heavily into developing the Robert Duncan site in Felling. A new purpose built milling facility was constructed as well as new storage sheds and new preservative treatment tanks.

New machinery and a new office block made this the ideal headquarters site for our combined operations at Felling and Berwick upon Tweed.

We moved in October 2019 from Tyne Dock to the Felling site, creating a new united operation by bringing together the skilled work forces of both Robert Duncan and M.H. Southern.
Exciting Expansion
Since 2019 further significant changes and investments have been made. We’ve installed over 700 solar panels at both Felling and Berwick producing over a quarter of a million kWh of electricity per annum, and thereby making a significant contribution to our energy needs.

In a further effort to contribute to sustainable living we have purchased 2 fully electric Sideloaders and one Electric Stacker. We’ve also acquired an additional Weinig Powermat HSK Moulder and an enlarged Vac Vac Plant.

In 2022 we exited our remote storage yard in South Shields and acquired a new site in Baltic Road, Felling, some 400 yards from our existing Felling site. Two covered sheds and yard space there complements our existing Felling premises giving us now some seven acres of storage on Tyneside.

Coming later in 2024 is a fully automated Cross Cut and a brand new extraction system for the Hardwood Mill. This substantial investment will allow us to commence an upgrade program for some of the machinery in that production facility.

M.H. Southern & Co. Ltd. continues to offer a wide range of hardwoods, softwoods, MDF mouldings, sheet materials and speciality constructional timbers. We are in a strong position to look after our customers for many years to come and we look forward to promoting and selling the world’s most sustainable resource.

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