Bradstone was established in 1956 by Bradleys, a family-run business owned by Edwin H. Bradley. The introduction of the Bradstone brand marked an important milestone in the company’s history. However, to understand how the brand came to be, we need to step back in time to 1902, when the Bradleys story began.
Building on a Name
Edwin H. Bradley set up as a builder in 1902. His company – Bradleys – built over 250 houses between 1902 and 1914, which sold anywhere between £140 and £267 each – an astonishing thought in this day and age! In 1905, the business moved into quarrying before setting up as a builders’ merchant in 1918, selling aggregates, stone and lime to local builders.
By 1939, the business was rapidly expanding and to support its growth, Edwin H. Bradley set up a factory in South Cerney in the Cotswolds to produce rock faced concrete blocks – the fore runner of modern day Bradstone. And despite the country being at war, the business developed, supplying the war effort with sand, gravel and barrack blocks, and building gun placements.
By the time the 1950s arrived, the post-war business was rapidly becoming a major regional building materials supplier, establishing a strong sales force and purchasing its North End Farm production site in Ashton Keynes, which the business still operates from today. Demand was increasing for man-made stone to meet planning regulations and volume house building as quarrying of natural stone and labour costs were becoming too expensive.
Following research into the walling market, Bradleys realised they could improve upon local building product, Cotswold Dale, by replicating its natural stone credentials using reconstituted stone. The new product was created in 1956, using gang moulds, and the face structure was added manually, to create a tooled finish.
The Birth of Bradstone
Reconstructed facing blocks for external walls, as a viable alternative to Cotswold Dale, went into production and the Bradstone brand was born. Marketing swiftly followed and the first Bradstone brochure was developed in 1958. While its black and white design was simple, the brochure was certainly ground-breaking for the construction industry at that time.
The business went into a period of major expansion, introducing Rough Hewn in 1960. This increased the company’s potential for regional use and the first partial colour brochure – based on building the ‘dream home’ – launched in 1964.
The sales force increased rapidly in numbers during the 1960s to cover areas surrounding Swindon, with specialists in architecture and planning recruited to help target new business. Interest in Bradstone walling began to peak in areas outside of the Cotswolds, including the South West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire. The sales team grew and grew to meet increasing national demand.
Soon the product range increased to widen the Bradstone package. Cast stone was introduced in the early 1960s to included cills, lintels, window and door surrounds, and copings. Bradstone roofing slate followed in 1968.
With the introduction of Bradstone into new areas, the range of stone walling products developed rapidly to meet the local stone modules, face textures and shades. By the end of the 1960s, Bradstone had become a national product. There was strong support from builders who could build stone houses at a reasonable price, from architects who had a different medium to add to brick, and from planners who were confident enough to allow Bradstone to be used alongside natural stone.
To meet this demand and resolve the problem of increased transport costs, Bradleys increased its capacity at North End and Cleveland Farm in Ashton Keynes, and also at Boston in Lincolnshire to cover the Northern market.
With the company becoming a national player at the beginning of the 1970s, greater emphasis was placed on development. Although during the 1960s Bradstone had become extremely successful, the range was still based on coursed work with the introduction of larger ‘jumpers’ to give the appearance of a random wall.
Breaking New Ground
Following extensive internal development work, the masonry T-block was introduced in 1972. This quickly became the premier stone block on the market – and still holds its position today. The design allowed builders to give the impression of a multitude of sizes and a truly random appearance. This opened the door for Bradstone masonry blocks to be approved by planning for use in sensitive conservation areas, where other blocks would not have been allowed.
The Jewel in the Crown
By 1984, the family business had grown from a turnover of £2,000 in 1905 to £60m. The decision to sell to ECC Quarries came in 1985 and the business sold for £52m. In 1997, the business was bought by Aggregate Industries, now part of the LafargeHolcim Group. Yet despite its many corporate changes, Bradstone has remained the ‘jewel in the crown’ – and a brand that is known and loved worldwide.