Andrew Spicer left school and started his career in the roofing industry at the tender age of 15. Shortly after, he was disciplined by his boss for throwing old pegs in the skip, without realising their true value. From this point on Andrew wondered why something so old and rustic could be so valuable, and how hard could it be to make…
After years of wondering how they were made, and no access to the internet Andrew was on a forest walk with a friend when he noticed a spot where a fire once was. The earth around the fire was brown in colour, the closer to the centre of the fire, the more orange the earth was. Andrew realised, this was the fired clay.
Andrew decided to test the theory of the fired clay. He made a tile out of wet clay and put it into a garden fire to make his finished product. This tile exploded, heating up too quickly, sealing the outside and not allowing the moisture to escape. He there, realised he needed to dry the tile first. After destroying his Mothers microwave he realised the tile needed to be dried much slower, so he utilised his Fathers greenhouse - a warm, damp environment, perfect for drying clay. After many attempts he had all but given up when one day he was cleaning out his mothers Parkray stove when the griddle wouldn’t move, after removing the ash he found a fired tile. It wasn’t fully fired but the tile stayed whole, with no cracks, and the orange colour had started to come through. From here Andrew and Jane bought a small kiln and produced enough tiles to showcase to local tradesmen.
Andrew and Jane decided there could be a viable business in producing roof tiles, and with the help of Jane’s parents, Ray and Cynthia, they created Spicer Tiles and moved into our first business premises in Wittersham, located in rural Kent. We sourced a gas kiln from Wales and started production on a larger scale using clay from Stoke-on-Trent.
Business took off and Spicer Tiles employed 3 people to keep up with demand, supplying the roofing community with traditional brand new Kent peg tiles and fittings, produced to look old.
After a moderate storm, part of the roof on the production facility collapsed, but due to high demand of tiles caused by the storm we had no staff available to fix it for weeks.
Spicer Tiles outgrew the premises in Wittersham and needed to expand to keep up with demand. We found an old chicken farm in Bethersden with ample yard space and decided to make the move, installing the gas kiln from Wittersham but also installing two second hand electric kilns to increase our production.
A new gas kiln was installed to replace the old kiln, this time slightly bigger to once again cater for increased demand. By this point, we had 8 employees and was running at full capacity, producing 30,000 tiles per month.
After being around the family business his whole life, it was time for Spicer Tiles to officially employ Adam Spicer, son of Andrew and Jane. Adam was a tile moulder for 2 years then moved on to other areas of production until eventually moving to a sales role within the company.
We decided it was time to experiment with something new. We had an unlimited supply of sawdust from local saw mills, and and an idea to use it as fuel to fire a kiln. We developed a kiln with a high power fan and a combustion chamber to ignite the sawdust. The heat was transferred to the firing chamber and the tiles were fired to over 1000°c.
After much experimentation it was concluded that a sawdust firing kiln could not give a consistent firing without considerable investment in space and machinery to ensure the continuous quality of sawdust. But with the ever-burning enthusiasm to produce more tiles the we decided it was time to grow again.
Joining with another company, the Spicer’s expanded, rebranded, and relocated to New Romney, with 21,000 sq/ft of inside working area and 10,000 sq/ft of yard space. Adding additional tiles, with a range of widely accepted sand-faced tiles, the company now employed 45 people and had a facility capable of producing 300,000 tiles per month.
Heavy investment meant we could invest in state of the art clay preparation and a brand new electric kiln, reducing waste and improving product quality.
The Spicer reverted back to being a family business, and once again used the trading name which was a well-known and trusted name within the industry - Spicer Tiles. Trading from the same premises in New Romney, the Spicer’s invite anyone along for a factory tour to see the love and hard work which goes into the products.