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Company History — Dennis Ruabon Tiles

Pure Welsh Clay for over 125 years

Photo of Henry Dennis

Henry Dennis
(photo: Wrexham Museum)

Dennis Ruabon Tiles is the only remaining quarry tile manufacturer in the UK. Originally founded by the famous local entrepreneur, Henry Dennis, in 1878 when vast amounts of high quality Etruria Marl clay were discovered in Ruabon. The site was the largest of its kind and constructed immediately adjacent to the clay reserves. An innovation at the time was an endless chain tramway, driven by steam power. This fed the clay directly to the works delivering it at the exact locations required, the same pure Welsh clay is used to the present day.

The Ruabon “Red Works”, as the site was first known, commenced producing ridge tiles, chimney pots and ornamental terracotta. It was here that the famous quarry tile was born – the Ruabon tile, which is today still Britain’s best-known quarry tile.

The giant Hafod Red Brick Works in 1906

The giant Hafod Red Brick Works in 1906 (photo: DRO)

The company went on to produce a vast range of floor and roof tiles with an extensive range of fittings and the famous Ruabon red bricks, which were used in the construction of many historical buildings. The majority of the products were hand crafted and fired in a vast array of “Beehive” kilns, which were loaded and unloaded by hand. Waste methane gas from nearby collieries was also utilised for firing the kilns.

The company gradually underwent a transition to specialising in quarry tiles and fittings and a busy craft department produced a vast range of special ornamental tiles and fittings. Many bespoke designs and commissions were undertaken for prestigious installations. Most Victorian tiles and tiles found in many historic buildings proudly bear the “Dennis Ruabon” stamp on the reverse, often accompanied by “Made in Wales”.

An early company ad

An early company advertisement

In the early 1980’s a major investment and modernisation programme saw the construction of a completely new factory and plant complex with a further major investment to install a modern high speed, computer controlled tunnel kiln, which is over 100 metres long. Automated handling and transfer equipment together with packaging and palletising plant completed the transformation.

1986 saw the introduction of Ruabon Clay Pavers made from the same Welsh clay as its quarry tiles. A unique combination of extrusion and pressing together with meticulous clay preparation realised a clay paver of outstanding technical qualities with the natural beauty of Ruabon’s earthtone shades. During this time many town and city centre developments centred around the use of Ruabon Pavers, with the expansive Cardiff Bay a prime example.

Dennis Ruabon has continually developed and updated its Quarry Tile and Clay Paver range and remained the UK market leader in Quarry Tiles throughout with considerable sales to export markets worldwide.

In 2001 the company became Dennis Ruabon Tiles Limited and saw further growth in 2003 with the acquisition of the Hawkins quarry tile business. Dennis Ruabon now manufactures Hawkins brand tiles in Heather Mix and Hawkins Red shades. The company remains the undisputed market leader in quarry tiles with an extensive network of distributors and retailers. Newer innovations include the development of new products such as the unique Paving Tile, which combines the qualities of a quarry tile with the attributes of a clay paver, and the introduction of a large format 300 x 300 quarry tile. A new range of tactile surfaces was also introduced to comply with requirements of The Disability Discrimination Act 2003.

A complete service is provided for architects and suppliers from planning and preparation through to maintenance and aftercare and extensive Technical data is available for every conceivable application.

Throughout, the company has maintained its commitment to quality and service. All products conform and exceed all applicable National, European and International standards. All production and service operations are accredited to BS EN ISO 9001:2000 and all products are independently tested and approved at the laboratories of British Ceramic Research. Maintaining its early traditions, every single tile is still inspected visually before being packaged in addition to extensive quality control checks at each stage of manufacture.

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