York Handmade takes the yellow brick road to London

York Handmade’s Guy Armitage

The award-winning York Handmade Brick Company has begun to manufacture the iconic yellow stock bricks which were used to build millions of houses in London in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

York Handmade, based at Alne, near Easingwold, has already received an order for 30,000 London Yellows, with an order for another 100,000 in the pipeline.

Guy Armitage, managing director of York Handmade, the leading independent brickmaker in the north of England, said: “This is a tremendously exciting and prestigious new project for us. There is a massive demand for the historic yellow bricks which defined late Victorian London and we are now able to satisfy it.

“The traditional London brickworks which supplied the yellow bricks have now been built on, as London expanded outwards towards Middlesex, Essex and Kent, so now the vast majority of these bricks are produced overseas. It seems only right these such a quintessentially English brick should be made in England.”

He added: “The buoyant London housing market is encouraging many home-owners in the capital to invest in their houses, with refurbishments and extensions, thereby fuelling the demand for bricks to match what is already there. This has provided us with a tremendous opportunity.”

York Handmade is working closely with Stevenage-based Marshmoor Bricks, who will distribute York Handmade’s bricks to builders’ merchants across the south of England.

Alex Wheeler of Marshmoor Bricks said: “As well as selling to key builders’ merchants who serve London, we will be promoting these special bricks to London architects.

“Originally London Yellows were made along the Thames Estuary, thrown by hand, fired with coal and household waste. The refurb market and the desire for traditional forms in architecture has fuelled demand for these bricks in London and York Handmade is potentially the only company in the UK who can make them.

“The potential is immense. If York Handmade can manufacture these yellow bricks consistently, then we can sell a million a year,” added Mr Wheeler.”

Guy Armitage added: “There is a fascinating historical symmetry to this resurgence of interest in London Yellows. There were many attributes of bricks from the regions such as Yorkshire that were appealing to the influential specifiers of the past. For example, the architects of the Arts and Crafts movement were very keen to distance themselves from the mechanisation, and uniformity of a rapidly industrialising Britain.

“This began as early as the William and Mary and Queen Anne period, including the buildings of Christopher Wren and the gauged brickwork he is associated with on buildings such as Kensington Palace, the Francis Fowke designed Royal Albert Hall opened in 1871, through to the buildings built up to the start of the First World War.

“It is in this rich tradition that brick continues to be the material that helps bridge the divide between the traditional and the contemporary, as well as give buildings a look of uniqueness and individuality.

“Nowhere is this more evident than where our handmade bricks from York have been used in 21st century London, including bricks used on buildings as prominent as the Shard, London Bridge Station, Highgate Junior School, Highbury Stadium and Carmelite House on the Victoria Embankment.”


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