York Handmade plays pivotal role in Westgate Centre redevelopment

The award-winning York Handmade Brick Company has played an important role in the radical redevelopment of the Westgate Centre in Oxford.

York Handmade, based at Alne, near Easingwold, supplied 115,000 bricks for the exterior of the flagship John Lewis store, one of the anchor tenants of the new-look Westgate Centre.

The contract is worth £150,000 for York Handmade, one of the leading independent brickmakers in the UK.

The Westgate Centre is a joint venture between Land Securities and the Crown Estate and is scheduled to open this autumn, following its £440m facelift.

The development in the city centre will eventually have more than 100 shops, 25 restaurants and cafes, a cinema and 61 flats. There will also be a 1,000-space underground car park, rooftop terrace dining and new public spaces and the development will "create around 3,400 jobs in and around Oxford" when complete.

David Armitage, chairman of York Handmade, commented: “It was a tremendous honour to be asked to provide so many bricks for such a prestigious project. The old brutalist Westgate Centre, iconic in its own way, is being replaced by a much more sensitive and modern development.

“The redevelopment of the Westgate Centre highlights the new fashion for replacing concrete with brick, which creates a softer, more attractive appearance. In a historic city like Oxford, this is much more appropriate. In this way, the new Westgate Centre is a bold statement of intent, with our bricks playing an integral part.   

“Our long thin Maxima bricks, which are becoming increasingly popular, provide a distinctive and sensitive look. It was crucial we got this look right, otherwise the John Lewis building would have looked completely out of synch with the rest of the new Centre.

“We have been working closely with contractors Laing O’Rourke and brick merchants Modular Clay Products and it has been a real team effort. It is a privilege to work on such a crucial development in such an historic city,” he added.

Apart from John Lewis, shops at the new Westgate Centre include Hugo Boss, Ted Baker, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Victoria’s Secret, Jo Malone, Russell & Bromley, Blackwells, Pret, River Island, Sainsbury’s and New Look.