The award-winning York Handmade Brick Company has provided 30,000 bricks for the restoration of the historic St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire.
This prestigious commission was worth £60,000 for the Alne-based firm, one of the leading independent brick-makers in the country.
David Armitage, chairman of York Handmade, said: “I think I am right in saying that St Albans is the home of some of the earliest examples of brick use in Roman Britain, so as a brick-maker, we are very proud to supply one of the birth places of brick in the UK.”
St Albans Cathedral stands on the site of St Alban’s execution and burial. He was the first Christian British martyr. The cathedral is the oldest place of continuous Christian worship in the country and is a blend of architectural styles spanning over a thousand years, containing some priceless original Roman bricks.
Mr Armitage added: “This order is one of the most important recently for us. It includes 4,000 differently-shaped special bricks. The order was originally for a competitor’s handmade brick. Sadly they ceased production so they could no longer supply the cathedral. Fortunately, we are able to move swiftly and match the specific handmade bricks for this project.”
Bashkar Rughani, managing surveyor with main construction contractors Thomas Sinden, said: “York Handmade have done a magnificent job at the cathedral. Providing bricks for both the Welcome Centre and the adjacent Chapter House, they have achieved a seamless look with a great finish, which has been extremely well-received. The colour is perfect, effortlessly blending in with the rest of the historic cathedral.
“This was a very important and prestigious commission. York Handmade stepped in at short notice after another British brick company had ceased production and was unable to carry out the order. York Handmade acquitted themselves perfectly,” added Mr Rughani. “They should be very proud.”
Catriona O’Neill of Edinburgh architects Simpson and Brown said: “We have worked with York Handmade on other projects in the past and have been pleased with their service and the quality of their products.
“The project at St Albans Cathedral involved the provision of a new brick and flint ‘Welcome Centre’ extension building, along with significant alterations to the existing 1980s Chapter House building – both of which required careful replication of the existing hand-made clay facing bricks which were made to bespoke sizes and shapes.
“We worked closely with York Handmade to determine the appropriate ‘match existing’ colour ratios, specification, and develop sample boards for comparison against the existing building prior to order.
“The bricks supplied by York Handmade are a very close match to the existing brickwork and the contractor has done an excellent job in merging these new bricks in with the old. Both ourselves and the client are delighted with the end result.”
St Albans Cathedral was awarded a grant of £438,000 from the First World War Centenary Cathedral Repairs Fund for the restoration.
This grant fully funded urgent work to the great west front, the Cathedral’s main ceremonial entrance, to repair and protect the medieval stonework of the west porches, the surrounding 19th century masonry, the grand oak doors and the stunning First World War memorial window.
The Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans Cathedral, said: “This grant not only halts critical damage to our ancient stonework and protects it for the future, but also renews our great entrance and the surrounds of our remarkable memorial window.”
The Welcome Centre, featuring York Handmade’s bricks, provides a new visitor entrance, retail space, interpretation and exhibition areas and the relocated vestry. Alterations to the Chapter House, which is now connected to the Welcome Centre, have renovated the existing café, providing additional education spaces and improving accessibility at all levels through the creation of new lift access and washroom facilities.