Old Mill’s receptionist retires after 41 years at the firm

Old Mill’s longest serving employee is retiring after 41 years. Di Hale, 69, has been receptionist at the South West-based accountants and financial planners since 1976.

Back then, Old Mill was called Berkeley Hall & Co and the offices were on the High Street in Shepton Mallet. Di had moved from her home town of Dunstable in Kent where she was working for a printing firm to join Old Mill. At the time, there were just 13 employees and Di’s job was to man the front desk and do the VAT returns for about 35 clients, all hand written.

Two years later, the company moved to new premises further up the High Street at The Old Convent after the nuns moved around the corner to Park Road. At this office Di had a proper switchboard; she answered the three phones lines and transferred callers through to the 15 extensions installed in the new office and it wasn’t long before the latest technology came to the office, as Di remembers:

“At The Old Convent, we finally had a photocopier, but I recall that we had to share it with Bartlett & Co who occupied the other half of the building, so hard luck if it was raining and you wanted to photocopy!”

“We had one mobile phone for the office, which was always in hot demand, and we also got the first office computer – it was so huge it filled one whole room and I was absolutely scared stiff when told I’d need to use it!”

Seven years later, in 1984, Berkeley Hall & Co became Berkeley Jackson and moved to The Old Mill; it was at this point that working for the firm became a bit of a family affair as Di fondly remembers:

“When we moved to The Old Mill, I was working in reception and my Dad took on the caretaker role and gardening duties. When he retired, my brother Dave took on the role and he still does it at the Wells office to this day.”

Then in 2001, Berkeley Jackson joined Tenon and then, following a management buy-out, left Tenon in 2006 to become Old Mill. The company stayed at the Shepton Mallet offices until four years ago when Old Mill moved again to the current premises in Wells.

“I was a bit apprehensive when the time came to move from The Old Mill in Shepton Mallet to Wells in 2013,” said Di, “because I had walked to work every day for all those years. But I am so glad I came; I have thoroughly enjoyed my four and a half years in the Wells office.”

Rebecca Madden and Karen Parry-Jones have both worked with Di for the last 30 years and will miss her terribly: “Di has always been the friendly face you see as you arrive at Old Mill. She is so well loved and her laugh will always be remembered.

Senior partner Mike Butler and commercial director Kevin Whitmarsh have worked with Di for the past 20 years; Mike said: “In these times of rapid change and increasing technology, tradition and loyalty still have a place and Old Mill has been so lucky to benefit from the continuity that Di has brought to the business, the staff and the clients.”

While Kevin added: “Diane was also renowned for interviewing potential new recruits whilst they sat in reception waiting for their “official interview”. I think the vast majority of the 80 people that work in the Wells office now and those that have worked with us over the years came because Di had input into their recruitment – she really is quite a remarkable lady.”

Di said: “I have seen so many changes over the past 41 years, going from 13 staff to more than 250 and four offices across the region, but one thing that has remained is how much I have enjoyed my job. I love meeting new people and will really miss all the friends I have made over the years.”

Di plans to spend her retirement enjoying her garden and holidaying in the UK with her husband Malcolm.

Old Mill Group has offices in Wells, Melksham, Yeovil and Exeter.

Pictured above: Di Hale, retiring from Old Mill after 41 years of service

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