Wolseley has a rich and proud history. It was founded in 1887, when Frederick York Wolseley launched the Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company. The firm soon expanded into manufacturing and twelve years later, in 1899, the first Wolseley horseless carriage went on sale in the UK at £120.
In 1901, Wolseley sold its car and machine tool business which became a part of Morris Motors, BMC, British Leyland and Rover Group. In 1958, Wolseley merged with Geo H Hughes and in the 1960s it acquired a number of UK heating and oil burning companies in rapid succession.
A period of refinancing and a move into merchanting followed, and in 1979 the group parted with its manufacturing companies to focus solely on distribution.
Wolseley made its first foreign acquisition in 1982 with Ferguson Enterprises Inc, a bold move into the USA for a British company, but a successful one. Further acquisitions, together with an aggressive policy of branch openings at home, led to an increase in sales from £27m in 1974 to over £739m in 1986.
Wolseley’s ongoing strategy is to focus on markets where it holds leading positions and this has shaped the business as it stands today – the world's largest specialist trade distributor of plumbing and heating products to professional contractors and a leading supplier of building materials. Wolseley operates in five distinct geographic areas: the United States, Canada, the UK, the Nordics and Central Europe.