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Public urged to vote as Suffolk’s brick-making ‘heritage heroes’ vie for national title

PUBLISHED: 11:47 15 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

Suffolk hand-made brickmakers have expressed delight after making it onto a list of England’s ‘heritage heroes’.

The Minter family at Bulmer Brick & Tile near Sudbury have been mining rich seams of London clay on their small farm for more than 80 years, and their bespoke bricks can be found on a host of historic buildings.

The business is now one of 15 finalists in the Historic England Angel Awards 2018 and will be vying for the title Best Craftsperson or Apprentice on a Heritage Rescue or Repair Project for its work on high profile buildings, including Hampton Court Palace and the law courts at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in London.

It will be up against two other finalists - Reuben Marsh for his restoration of the World War 1 memorial window in a Cornish church and a lead mining project by the Allen Smelt Mill volunteers in Northumberland - with the results decided by public vote.

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.

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

Tony, the firm’s managing director, said the work they do is “very specialist”, 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. Peter later discovered a tile kiln of the land, carbon-dated back to the 1450s. It’s now believed that brick-making existed there as far back as Roman times. “It’s very much bespoke,” explained Tony, adding that the firm was the last of its kind in England, making only hand-made bricks.

“Sometimes when I look at the catalogue of work we do, it takes me aback.”

Winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony at London’s Gillian Lynne Theatre on November 27. Voting is now open, but closes on Sunday (November 18). To cast your vote, go to HistoricEngland.org.uk/AngelAwards

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