CONTACT US

01444 232931

info@keymer.co.uk

Ewhurst Works, Wallis Wood, Ockley, Surrey, RH5 5QH

OUR HISTORY

One of the oldest, most established industries in Burgess Hill, Keymer Brick & Tile Company evolved from the former Ditchling Potteries, a collection of various works including Dunstalls Farm owned by John Billinghurst, John Palmer and John Pomfrey - a renowned brick maker in Keymer in 1588.

When the Ditchling Common site was sold, having exhausted its supply of clay, production was moved to Nye Road over a period of 80 years between 1860 and 1940. The current factory and clay pit are still situated here and cover an area of approximately 50 acres.

In the late 1800s, it's reported that the works were the largest in the South and employed over 300 people. At the turn of the century, it was famous for the manufacture of red terracotta ware - winning awards in London in 1862 and Philadelphia in 1876. This bespoke product was used throughout the British Isles and, largely due to its early success, was re-introduced by the modern-day Keymer in the 1990s.

Back in the 1800s, the site had many tall brick chimneys, which belched smoke from time to time - which have since been demolished in line with the ‘Clean Air Act.' Coal was used for the drying and firing of products, and was regularly delivered to the site. Finished products were also dispatched by rail via Keymer's own siding, adjacent to the Lewes-Eastbourne train line. Since the closure of the railway sidings, during Dr Beeching's time, Keymer now uses Natural Gas to dry and fire tiles.

In the early days, a considerable number of Keymer employees also lived in cottages on site. Further cottages were built in Cants Lane - which have now been demolished - that housed brick making tables on the ground floor with living quarters upstairs. These were commonly known as birdcages.

From 1939 to 1945, the tile manufacturing works were completely closed down. Buildings and kilns were used by the Admiralty for storage purposes, and played a major part in the 'D-Day' landings. Then, in 1946, a considerable investment was made to introduce new clay preparation machinery whilst ensuring that traditional methods were maintained.

Since 1969, the Company has been subject to take-overs including the 'Cavenham' empire when Sir James Goldsmith was Chairman. Keymer is now owned by a Trust set up by Neil Wates (deceased), who acquired the business in 1980. Due to dramatic fluctuations in the demand for bricks during the early 1970s, a decision was made to stop brick manufacturing and concentrate on the production of handmade clay roofing tiles.

In 1978, architects and planners were concentrating more on the conservation and preservation of all types of buildings; this attitude gave new life to the company and resulted in the increased production of roofing tiles and fittings. In 1981, the very latest micro-processor controlled kilns were installed to reduce fuel consumption and provide better working conditions whilst still retaining the traditional production methods. Recession in the construction industry during the 1990s led to a decline in the home market and a reduction in the production of tiles.

Keymer, the premium handmade roof tile brand, is now owned by Wienerberger, the leading supplier of wall, roof and landscaping innovations. The brand, renowned as one of the world's oldest operational roofing manufacturers, made its fourth move in its 400 year history and was re-launched from its new home at Wienerberger’s factory in Ewhurst, Surrey in 2015. Situated in the plain tile heartland and 20 minutes from the original site, Keymer’s handmade clay tiles will continue to be produced using the orange clays of the South Weald and the same traditional equipment and processes at it's new home. The company has invested heavily to ensure the handmade manufacturing process is retained, meaning that all Keymer products will boast the quality and performance they have become famous for.

The company still uses Wealden clay native to the area and many of the traditional craft skills, which have been passed down from maker to maker through the generations.

Demand and production for Keymer's handmade clay roof tiles have shown a steady increase in recent years. Now dispatched throughout the British Isles and used on roofs from cottages to castles, supermarkets to town centres; we also export to the Continent, America and lately even Russia and Japan.

As a company, we continue to invest in up-to-date techniques to strengthen our commitment to fuel efficiency and a safe working environment - and, at the same time, to manufacture the finest genuine hand made clay roofing products.

Thank you. We have received your request for samples. We hope to have these with you as soon as possible.

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NEXT KEYMER EVENTS

Heritage open day at Ewhurst factory plant
9th September 2017
Ewhurst, Surrey
More Info
The Historic buildings Parks & gardens Event 2017
Tuesday 14 November
Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, London
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Keymer CPD session
Wednesday 14th March 2018
Keymer Ewhurst, Surrey
More Info