True to tradition - the resurgence of handmade clay roof tiles

Genuine handmade clay roof tiles are experiencing a strong resurgence as specifiers seek to create distinctive traditional roofs for both sensitive heritage refurbishments and exclusive new housing developments.  One year on from its launch, a new range of premium handmade clay tiles is giving specifiers a much greater choice and making it easier to create bespoke natural clay roofs.

The Canterbury range was launched by manufacturer Marley Eternit after it identified there was an increasing design need for authentic handmade clay plain tiles, yet there were limited product options available to specifiers in the UK.  With 150 years of heritage in the manufacture of clay roof tiles, the company was able to revive the traditional skills and expertise it had used in the past to create this beautiful new range of handmade clay roof tiles.

Oakworth Homes and Benchmark Self Build used 2,000 Canterbury tiles on a contemporary installation based on the design of a real home – featured on a show home at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

Mark Twynam, managing director at Benchmark Self Build, explains: “As usual, our show house was based on a real home which was Benchmark designed and featured an Oakworth Homes offsite manufactured timber frame for Mr and Mrs Vivian who we met at the show in 2013. They asked us to create an oak fronted building, with a rustic feel to complement the vernacular of the West Sussex village they live in.  We brought these plans to life on our stand at the national Homebuilding and Renovating show and specified the Canterbury clay tiles to achieve a rustic aesthetic for the roof.

“The tiles provide an authentic finish for the roof, which is required at the home’s actual site in West Sussex due to it being a conservation area where houses are required to be built from materials that are complementary to the lovely old village.”

The Canterbury clay plain tiles and fittings are all created by skilled craftsmen at Marley Eternit’s specialist clay facility in Keele, Staffordshire, using the same time-honoured traditions that have been used for hundreds of years.  The traditional hand making process brings random undulations and variations that give each tile a unique appearance and character.

Available in three colours, the tiles are manufactured from Etruria Marl, which is widely accepted as the finest clay for strength and durability.  The Loxleigh has an antique appearance due to its semi-sanded finish in red and grey shades, Burford has a rich red brown tone in a fully sanded texture and Chailey has a vibrant orange tone and can also be used as a contrast tile for vertical tiling.  The colours can be used on their own or mixed on site to achieve a beautiful bespoke blend, giving a patchwork of colours that is often seen on traditional roofs in Suffolk, Sussex and Kent and is ideal for specifiers looking to create truly individual roofs.

Sarah Jackson, marketing product manager from Marley Eternit, comments: “Architects, specifiers and designers are rediscovering the beauty of natural handmade clay tiles and there has been a noticeable resurgence in their use.  We developed the Canterbury range, using our heritage in handmade clay tiles, to meet the growing needs of today’s architects who are often tasked with creating distinguished, individual properties. 

“In many cases, planners will only accept genuine handmade tiles for heritage or conservation projects and there is also a growing demand from premium and niche housebuilders, looking to differentiate their properties with an authentic handmade clay roof tile.  While handcrafted tiles offer a very good, more cost effective, alternative, in some cases only a genuine handmade tile will do. Our range of colours and textures enable designers to create completely bespoke roofs and the unique handmade process means that no tile will ever be the same.”

Canterbury clay plain tiles are available with a comprehensive range of traditional handmade fittings and decorative accessories to achieve the perfect finish.  For more information, samples or to see a short video of the traditional hand making process in action, visit or call 01283 722588.

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