Geoff Wallis Background


My interest in historic machinery started in 1969 as a student-volunteer restoring Crofton beam engines in Wiltshire, the oldest steam engines in the world still at work on their original site. I was amazed at the ingenuity and courage of the early engineers, and inspired to follow their example in my career. After completing a five year apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce Aero Engines in Bristol, and graduating in mechanical engineering at Bath University, I threw caution to the wind and joined the newly-formed Dorothea Restoration Engineers Ltd, delighted to be paid to follow my hobby!


Appointed director a year later, I threw myself enthusiastically into the exciting new business. The Company offered a completely novel service, conserving historic machinery. We called it 'restoration engineering' and at the outset we didn't know if it was viable. I was newly married then, so my young wife and I gave ourselves one year to prove whether our dream was just that, but within ten years 'Dorothea' employed fifty staff, and had diversified into making replica Victorian ironwork and street furniture as well as restoring historic machinery. Finding this mix of work unwieldy we demerged the firm in 1984, and Dorothea Restorations Ltd was born, owned jointly by myself and long-term friend David Hodgson.


The business continued to prosper, and soon became UK leaders in the restoration of historic architectural and structural metalwork, traditional wind and watermills, and early industrial machinery, with a turnover exceeding £3 million per annum, each year returning a profit. I was elected a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1987, my technical submission being the motorisation of a large beam-pumping engine, somewhat to the surprise of the Institution assessors! In 1988 I drafted the Company's Conservation Policy Statement which was one of the first in its field, and lecture widely on the conservation of metalwork and machinery.


As part of a long term strategy, in 2007 David Hodgson and I sold our interest s in Dorothea Restorations Ltd to a larger family-owned firm of conservation contractors, but Dorothea Restorations is now back in family ownership as part of Wallis Conservation Ltd, run by my son John.