Craven Dunnill celebrates 150th anniversary

British tile manufacturer Craven Dunnill is celebrating a century-and-a-half in business and claims to be the UK’s longest-operating UK tile supplier.

The company opened its original tile factory in Jackfield in Ironbridge in 1872, where it still manufactures tiles today. The company moved to its headquarters in Bridgnorth in the 1950s when the Jackfield site was acquired by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, becoming one of their main museum sites and manufacturing returned to the site in 2000 but it remains part of the Ironbridge world heritage site.

Craven Dunnill also has a second manufacturing site at Burslem, near Stoke.

To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the company has partnered with the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust to restore the historical signage on the original Jackfield factory, where original production methods are still used, paired with “secret glaze recipes” and hand-decoration techniques to ensure true authenticity.

The company’s decorative tiles can be found in locations such as the Palace of Westminster, the London Underground, Harrods and Kew Gardens. It continues to produce bespoke wall, floor and decorative ceramics for commercial and residential clients.

In 1916, Ironbridge resident FC Howells took over as managing director, having previously had notable success at Pilkington Tile & Pottery Co. The MD role at Craven Dunnill has been held by five consecutive generations of the Howells family. Current MD Simon Howells is the great-great-grandson of FC Howells.

Craven Dunnill expanded at the turn of the 21st century into supplying ceramic tiles and surfaces for the architectural and interior design sectors.

Commenting on the milestone, managing director Simon Howells said: “It is an honour and a privilege for us to work each day with the provenance and the heritage of the company at the front and centre of every tile we sell and every project we take on. On this 150th year, I am proud of our passionate workforce, our unrivalled portfolio and our commitment to British craft. We have a responsibility to the preservation of hand skills, craft education and excellence in British design, and are working towards amplifying these stories of our history to inform the next 150 years.”  

From Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, head of interpretation and exhibitions Gillian Crumpton said: “The 150th anniversary is a great opportunity to highlight the partnership between the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and Craven Dunnill Jackfield Ltd. This factory, now the home of Jackfield Tile Museum, was built in 1872 by Craven Dunnill & Co. and is the most complete remaining Victorian tile factory in the world. It was to their original factory that they returned in 2000 to produce traditionally styled, decorative tiles.”

Pictured above (left to right): Gillian Crumpton of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, former Craven Dunnill MD Peter Howells, production director Adrian Blundell and current MD Simon Howells

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