Aldershaw Handmade Tiles, Sedlescombe - Tiling the way for the next generation...
Handmade tile manufacturer, Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd, based in Sedlescombe, East Sussex explains how Emily Wright from Locate East Sussex supported them to access vital grant funding, for new and replacement machinery, assisting them in their future growth plans.
Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd was founded in 1999 by Antony Kindell MD (78), in 33 acres of ancient woodland and pasture in the heart of the East Sussex Countryside. Tony is assisted by Director Lindy Latreille (75). This business has spent the last year looking at how it can secure its future by expanding its team, and its production capacity, whilst maintaining its core values.
"Emily's enthusiastic support to Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd (AHT) has provided connections and avenues for funding availability. All this has allowed us to enhance our business and we have found all her actions have been most timely."Lindy LatreilleDirector of Aldershaw Handmade Tiles
Aldershaw Handmade Tiles
Offering handmade terracotta tiles for the roof, in 6 colours, and for floors, in 7 colours, and numerous coloured glazed wall tiles. Aldershaw tiles are most often sought by conservationists, architects and planners working on listed and heritage buildings throughout Britain. Aldershaw tiles can be seen at The Queens House at the Tower of London, and the Real Tennis Court at Hampton Court, also rooves and floors in numerous churches and private estates throughout England. Aldershaw are only one of few manufacturers of Mathematical tiles; part of Britain’s architectural heritage since the early 1700’s. Glazed and unglazed mathematical tiles are seen throughout England at Althorp, Lewes, Rye, Brighton, Hastings, and the Isle of Wight; the glazing provides protection from the weathering near the sea.
Roof and floor tiles have been installed internationally, most recently as a floor for a Castle in Denmark, and Aldershaw worked with an American Designer on a large interior in Scotland. Recently they were acknowledged by Bexhill’s Mayor in January 2022 at the unveiling of the second Bexhill on Sea’s listed heritage seafront shelter; a second with an Aldershaw roof.
Walking into the Aldershaw workshop, is a bit like stepping back in time. There aren’t masses of machines, or conveyor belts moving items from station to station; something that we frequently see in modern manufacturing, instead there is a small staff of 6, using their hands and basic tools to produce clay, using different coloured sands, which is then moulded into a variety of tile shapes and sizes. There is something so rustic and authentic about the whole process, and it’s refreshing to see that there is still such a demand for unique, handmade products.
The whole process of creating a tile can take up to three weeks, demonstrating the effort and attention that goes into every make. To Tony and Lindy, quality is extremely important, and this value is demonstrated by every member of staff as I watched them throw the clay into the moulds, smoothing the surface.
“Creating a tile takes a lot of preparation. Each tile is unique and bears the characteristics of the craftsman or woman who made it.”
Tony Kindell, Aldershaw Handmade Tiles
The creation of a tile starts with the clay. The Wadhurst clay Aldershaw use is 150 million years old dug from their own claypit just half a mile through the fields, for the past 23 years. The raw material is crushed and ground down into a dust consistency mixture, then mixed with water. A clot of clay is rolled in one of six or seven sands to creates the signature colours, for roof or floor tiles. The iron content of the clay mixture reacts with the oxygen in the kiln at high temperature. When the tiles reach 1050 degrees in the kiln, the shaped tile turns from grey into its final designated colour.
Sustainability and the environmental impact are important to Aldershaw. Throughout the production process it aims to be as energy efficient as possible, from raw material to finished product. Operating ‘off grid’ the workshop is powered by power generators, which makes energy efficiency vital. The gas kiln takes 20 hours to fire 3500 tiles and is operated twice weekly. To be as self-powering as possible, the heat generated is used in the driers. Re-using power has also become even more advantageous to this business, as up until April this year the power generators were fueled by Red Diesel. Red Diesel costs just 50p a litre, but in April 2022, the UK Government made the use of Red Diesel illegal, subjecting the business to paying an ever-increasing price for standard Diesel which is currently over £1.85 a litre.
Looking to the future, and with some potentially large orders materializing for the business, Aldershaw contacted Locate East Sussex for advice on funding opportunities, recruitment, and marketing. Working with Business Manager Emily Wright, they have been able to map out how to increase their capacity by securing grants from the Manufacturing Growth Programme, and South East Business Boost (SEBB).
The Manufacturing Growth Programme was established in October 2016 with a £10.5m contract from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support SME manufacturing businesses across England to grow by identifying, understanding, and removing barriers to growth. Providing a £4500 grant to Aldershaw, it has been able to purchase a new electric kiln to increase productivity.
South East Business Boost (SEBB) offers growth grants of up to £10,000 to SMEs and start-ups within the South East Local Enterprise Partnership area, covering East Sussex, Essex, Kent and Medway to help them with the cost of expanding. The grants can reimburse up to 30% of the costs of qualifying projects to support business growth, enable job creation, and assist with the introduction of new products and services. A grant in excess of £9,000 is expected to assist Aldershaw to repair its kiln bases and refurbish their existing electric kiln ensuring the continuing smooth operation of the production process and increase capacity.
“Emily’s enthusiastic support to Aldershaw Handmade Tiles Ltd (AHT) has provided connections and avenues for funding availability. All this has allowed us to enhance our business and we have found all her actions have been most timely. Thank you Emily from all at AHT.”
Lindy Latreille, Aldershaw Handmade Tiles
Operating a small business makes personnel vital. The current team are all passionate and invested into the business’s future, and Tony and Lindy are keen to develop and grow their team to ensure that the business can continue to thrive moving forward. Earlier in the year they took part in the ‘Kickstarter’ programme, welcoming 3 young workers into the team for period of 6 months. At the end of the programme, they recognised the potential and requirement for a fuller team and retained 1 full-time and 1 on a part-time basis.
Having the Kickstarters was great, it really gave us a shake up and made us look at our processes, and we gained 1.5 members of staff which we really needed, and supported the third into an Apprenticeship.
Lindy Latreille, Aldershaw Handmade Tiles
Tony and Lindy’s mantra is ‘The job is never finished, there are always ways to improve’ and this is something that they continue to work to within Aldershaw. Always looking to overcome the next challenge, they have recognised that to move forward, and remain front of mind, they need to assess their digital promotion, website, and social channels to ensure they are easily accessible by future customers. Locate East Sussex are now supporting them on this journey to promoting their heritage product in a modern digital world.
To find out more about Aldershaw, you can visit the website at www.aldershaw.co.uk