The History of Tile Making in Barton
Have you ever looked out of an airplane window at the houses below and thought of home? Maybe on your way to a long business trip you have wished to be back there. Well if you come from Barton-upon-Humber, the chances are that home is closer than you think, or at least a part of it. The chances are that a lot of those roofs you see turning the landscape into a weave of dusky reds and coal blacks below you come from just down the road at one of Barton’s tile works. Well … the dusky red ones at least.
It’s hard to comprehend just how much our relatively small town has done to colour the landscape of the UK in quite a literal sense. Barton-upon-Humber was once the brick and tile making capital of Britain. The kilns down by the Humber have been churning out thousands upon thousands of roof tiles, as well as floor coverings and other things, for more than 170 years. The rich, warm red of the tiles that are made here has proved timelessly stylish across Britain. This, together with their relatively low cost in the mid 19th century, meant that many thousands of buildings were built with roof tiles made in Barton. From the large country houses of the nouveau riche to the small, cramped cottages of the workers behind the industrial revolution, all kinds of homes were, and still are, sheltered by these simple yet beautiful tiles.
As the industrial revolution reached its pinnacle and passed, local tiles remained popular despite increasingly strong competition because of their attractive colour and many new housing estates continued to be topped with tiles made here in Barton.
The tiles still prove popular today, being produced at the Far Ings tile works and Hoe Hill tile yard and selling under the name of William Blyth, just as they did 170 years ago. Their welcoming warmth is popular with many new build developers and designers looking to make their houses stand out. This is not the only reason that the tiles sell well though: As one of the oldest consistent industries in the Barton area, the tile works still produce the same type of tile now as they have for many years.
Many of the buildings that have sheltered beneath Barton tiles for a significant time have become protected due to their historic significance, beauty or architectural quality, which means that the owners must retain the same features, including roofs through renewal after renewal. The outcome of all of this is that these owners look to William Blyth Tile Works time and time again to provide their tiles.
Today, the William Blyth company at the Old Tile Works continues to produce hundreds of red clay tiles. The company now also creates decorative pots and bowls using the same traditional techniques that have been used for more than 150 years that are for sale in the Artisan Village. Other attractions include a restaurant and coffee shop, along with a few small, independent shops and craft studios on the site.