SHROPSHIRE’S ONCE-FAMOUS ROOFING TILE INDUSTRY AT A STANDSTILL
Wellington Journal 31st August 1946
A journal picture taken this week at a Severn Valley tile works, showing workmen sorting the first roofing tiles produced in the area sinve 1940
s Shropshire to lose its once-famous roofing tile industry?
This question is being asked by local observers, who for many years have been connected with the industries located in the Severn Valley area of the county.
This Salop industry, once world-famed, and which existed in the Broseley district for upwards of 200 years, led the country for two generations by the excellence of its products.
Now, at a time when roofing tiles are in greater demand than ever before, with the exception of one firm where production has been resumed on a small scale, the whole works in the are at a standstill.
When a Journal representative the other day asked a well-known figure in housebuilding his opinion, he was informed that the position was most serious, far worse than the brick position. Tiles were rationed out to contractors, and were only coming on the sites in very small quantities, and the completion of houses must in consequence be seriously delayed.
Reference to the tile shortage was also made at a recent meeting of Madeley Council, when Mr. J. B. Hickman (the architect) said they were rationed to 8,000 a fortnight on the Madeley site– enough for two houses. Mr. Hickman said the same position would arise at Dawley. Roofing timber was now being placed in position, and he added “We may get a few tiles”.
To gain further news of the plight of the tile industry a Journal representative, accompanied by the cameraman, made a tour of the area a few days ago.
Visiting one well-known roofing tile works, they found the premises under the control of the Ministry of Supply. Workshops and kilns were filled with a variety of stores. It is understood the Ministry of Supply took over early in the war most of the tile works for this purpose.
When the Journal spoke to a representative of this firm on the position he said his firm wished to make no statement.
Asked if it was possible to again commence to produce tiles on a competitive basis he declared this impossible. They had to mine the clay and could not compete against those districts which had the advantages of surface clay and the use of mechanical diggers.
Later a visit was made to another firm (John Doughty and Son.1931.Ltd) and the Journal here found that production, believed to be the first roofing tiles since 1940, had recently been commenced, and this is believed to be the only instance in the area.
The manager of this works said the cost of coal and wages represented perhaps 80 per cent of the cost of production, and agreed the mining of clay increased the wages cost.
Members of the trade point out that unlike essential industries engaged on war work, the tile trade closed down during the war, and the industry has none of the essential aids for recovery, which are being given other industries, nor does it receive any subsidy from Government.
Figures supplied to our representative show that before the war the tile output of the area was 32 to 40 million tiles per year, and 800 to 1,000 men have been employed.