History In The Making
The South East of England has been renowned for making handmade clay tiles for centuries, since the Romans established the first tileries in Kent. Unrivalled for their warmth of colour and texture, Kent Peg Tiles helped shape the English architectural landscape and could be seen on many buildings from country homes to oast houses, churches and farm properties. Slight variations in the clay, hand moulding, drying and firing gave each tile a humanising characteristic, bringing buildings to life.
Clay tiles became the material of choice for those who could afford them. But after the Great Fire of London in 1666, thatched roofing was no longer allowed in London making clay tiles an obvious fireproof alternative.
With the introduction of slate as a roofing material and the development of machinemade concrete tiles, the handmade tile industry in Kent began to decline and ceased altogether in the first half of the 20th Century.
It was only in the 1970’s that the revival of the clay tile industry got under way with a resurgence of interest in the environment and recognition of the importance of conserving historic buildings. A new supply of clay peg tiles was required to repair existing buildings and enable new ones to fit comfortably in their local context.
New technology for computerised kiln firing and automated handling was developed and together with machine pressing technology, clay tiles could be made more efficiently. Major investments in modern and efficient clay tile factories led to the introduction of an array of innovative new products, making clay tiles more affordable and competitive against concrete tiles. This led to the beginning of a renaissance in natural, sustainable roofing materials being used in the UK.