Party time: Swanley shop manager celebrates 50 years with William Hill
It was not your average scene in the William Hill shop in Swanley, Kent on Thursday afternoon as friends, family, colleagues and customers dropped by to celebrate shop manager Robert Gorvett's 50 years of service to the bookmaking firm.
The landmark milestone comes on Sunday, but Gorvett and co started the party early with his career including positions as junior clock boy, 25 years as district manager in the West End of London, ten years as shop manager in Eltham and nine years in the same position in Swanley.
An avid racing fan, Gorvett started in the offices at the age of 15 where he delivered personal post to the founder himself.
Gorvett, 65, said: "I've always loved racing, even watching on the television as a kid, and I was thrilled when I got a job at William Hill – it was like someone had told me I was going to meet the Pope.
"William Hill used to be in the penthouse suite and when the lift opened he would be there sat at his desk where I would hand him his mail. To me it was like meeting God as I was so mad about racing."
Gorvett started working in the betting shops from the age of 18 and most enjoys the interaction with customers.
He said: "The job has completely changed over 50 years – everything used to be done manually, particularly when you were a settler, whereas nowadays it’s a case of inputting the slip into a machine and it does it for you.
"When I first worked in the shops it was mainly all about racing and football but golf is really popular now. You notice a lot of youngsters bet online rather than in the shops nowadays and the FOBTs brought in a lot of trade when they were introduced, although the recent cut in stakes has had a big impact.
"I still enjoy the job to this day, especially the interaction with people. You get to know your customers really well and there are plenty of regulars – we don't just talk about sport but about our lives and what we've been up to. It becomes a little club and there's a fair bit of banter.
"As a shop manager, it's not just about getting customers in the shop, it's about keeping them when they enter and we have a great team at Swanley."
Vivienne Poole has been a colleague of Gorvett's for the last 35 years and has nothing but praise for the popular shop manager.
Poole said: "Robert is a fantastic manager and friend – he's a special man and so knowledgeable about racing.
"He goes out of his way to help everyone and is very popular with the staff and customers. If you cut him open his veins would say William Hill!"
Many people would consider retirement in their mid 60s but Gorvett is keen to carry on.
He added: "I think I'm a young 65 and will keep going for a while yet. I don't wake up and dread going to work – that has never been the case – and although I like my holidays I also enjoy my work environment.
"William Hill have always been really good to me. It’s like a family working here."
Get ahead of the game with Get Your Eye In - exclusive Saturday preview content on racingpost.com and the Racing Post mobile app from 2pm on Friday