Late 2019 marks the centenary of concrete tile manufacture in the UK through BMI UK & Ireland’s Redland brand. The build-up to this remarkable milestone of 100 years of concrete tile manufacture is being marked by the company acknowledging not only its rich heritage and experience reaching back 180 years, but also the achievements, innovations and philosophy that has led it to be the largest manufacturer of flat and pitched roofing and waterproofing solutions in the UK and Europe
When the Redhill Tile Company was founded in Surrey in 1919, it was the start of a journey that would end in the concrete tile maker being part of a business that now spans the entire spectrum of roofing solutions: from concrete, clay and metal tiles and reconstituted slate through to reinforced bitumen membranes, hot melt, single-ply and liquid waterproofing systems.
The modern story of BMI UK & Ireland starts in the ‘Swinging Sixties’. In the first three years of the 1960s, Redland enjoyed tremendous growth as it opened or acquired seven new factories – including the Grovebury Tile Works in Leighton Buzzard, replaced by the nearby Vandyke Works, and Shawell, near Lutterworth. The Grovebury site continued until 1979, when a modern, fully-automated factory was built just under two miles away.
Shawell – which makes the highly popular plain tile appearance Duo-Plain concrete tile – recently benefited from a multimillion-pound investment in a new DuoPlain manufacturing line that will help secure supply of these important products into a market that is currently experiencing great demand and extensive lead times.
In 1963, Redland launch Stonewold II. Used on thousands of roofs across the country, Stonewold II is the original flat-profile concrete slate with interlocking edges. Imperially-sized and suited to larger roofs with pitches as low as 17.5o, it is ideal for achieving a cost-effective slated roof effect. Impressively, the original tile line is still in use.
Always focussed on innovation and pioneering technologies, 1965 and 1966 marked two major achievements for the company. First, in Horsham, Sussex, in 1965, Redland built the construction industry’s first wind tunnel, dedicated to the testing of roof systems in the harshest weather conditions. The first wind tunnel’s power came from a mighty Merlin engine, the WW2 legend remaining in place until the tunnel was rebuilt at a cost of £2,000,000 in 1990.
Second, in 1966, Redland invented the concept of dry fix roofing, with its first patent for a dry verge system. Dry fix has now become a norm, with the latest company development being BMI’s introduction of two new dry verges to meet the requirements of BS 8612: Dry-fixed ridge, hip and verge systems for slating and tiling – a new British Standard published in 2018 to ensure that dry fixed products are adequately designed and installed to be fit for purpose.
Such innovations in the 1960s required a new level of technical understanding, and towards the end of the decade Redland produced its first technical manual – the famous Redland Red Book, the piece of go-to literature resource for the roofing sector for decades.
Finally, the decade closed with Redland purchasing a large holding in an Australian company, Monier, a name which – like 1950s investment in Braas – was destined to dominate the future direction of the company.
With a heritage in concrete tile manufacture going back a century, not to mention 180 years in clay, BMI – formed in 2017 following the coming together of Icopal and Monier Redland – will be celebrating the advent of the tiles in the UK later this year. In the run-up to the celebrations, the company will continue to share more about its superb pedigree, major milestones – and enviable history of pioneering and innovating new materials and methods.
BMI UK & Ireland is part of BMI Group, which has more than 11,000 employees worldwide in 40 countries and runs over 150 production facilities. With the group having made its home in central London, BMI UK & Ireland is settled in its head office premises in Milton Keynes.
For more details of BMI UK & Ireland’s heritage and flat and pitched roofing solutions, visit www.bmigroup.com/uk