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Suffolk heritage brick maker cements reputation with national accolade

PUBLISHED: 16:58 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 16:58 28 November 2018

Three generations of the Minter family, of Bulmer Brick & Tile Co: from left, Joss, David, Peter, Bart and Tony Picture: RICHARD DRURY

Three generations of the Minter family, of Bulmer Brick & Tile Co: from left, Joss, David, Peter, Bart and Tony Picture: RICHARD DRURY

Richard Drury

A Suffolk hand-made brick making family is surprised and delighted after scooping a national Historic England award for its unique contribution to restoring the UK’s precious heritage.

Bulmer Brick & Tile Company's yard  Picture: DARREN ANDREWSBulmer Brick & Tile Company's yard Picture: DARREN ANDREWS

The Minter family has been mining rich seams of London clay on the small farm for more than 80 years, and its bespoke bricks can be found on a host of ancient buildings.

The family business, Bulmer Brick & Tile, near Sudbury, took the Best Craftsperson or Apprentice on a Heritage Rescue or Repair Project title at the Historic England Angel Awards 2018 for its work on sites including Hampton Court Palace and the law courts at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London. It was one of 15 finalists up for an award, including two others in its category.

Peter’s sons, Tony and David, and Tony’s wife, Ruth, and their children, Bart and Joss, are all involved in the business.

Ruth, who attended the awards ceremony at London’s Gillian Lynne Theatre on November 27 with son, Joss, said they were “really, really delighted”.

“I must admit it’s nice to hope you might win but we weren’t expecting to, so a lovely surprise,” she said. “I think it’s just lovely to be recognised because we plod away here in the clay all day. We are not very good at self-promotion, so it’s nice to be noticed really.”

The family firm is headed by Peter Minter, now 84, whose extensive knowledge of the historic fabric of buildings has enabled the family to grow from a small firm matching bricks for individual customers to a thriving specialist business.

The work is very bespoke, and can involve producing anything from 180,000 to 250,000 bricks a year, but each to a specification so that they blend in with existing buildings. Specialist jobs include wall copings, each of which can weigh between 40 to 50kg.

Tony’s grandfather, Lawrence, bought the yard, which includes a 120-acre farm, in the late 1930s, and started the business. It’s now believed that brick-making existed there as far back as Roman times.

Adrian Saunders, commercial director at sponsors Ecclesiastical, congratulated the firm. “This award celebrates their craft skills and knowledge of historic buildings,” he said.

The judging panel included historian and awards host Bettany Hughes and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose foundation supports the event.

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