Kent Peg Tiles
Looking to learn more about Kent Peg Tiles?
Kent Peg tiles have adorned roofs across Kent and the surrounding home counties for hundreds of years, certainly, if not thousands. The visual characteristics a peg tile lends to a roof is second to none. Each tile has its own features from fingerprints to “smiles”.
A “smile” is created in the mould when the excess clay is removed. The pressure of the wooden tool dragging along the back of the tile to remove the excess clay causes the tile to have a slight crease and fold in on itself. A real clue of a genuine handmade tile.
History reports that peg tiles were first introduced to the UK by the Roman’s, although popular production didn’t occur until the mid 1300’s.
In 1477, King Edward IV signed a charter which standardised the size of nibbed tiles (plain tiles) to 6.5 inches by 10.5 inches. A standard size for Kent peg tiles was never brought about, and to this day they still range from 6 to 6.5 inches wide and between 9 and 10 inches long. Nib tiles became more popular as time progressed, largely due to their ability to enable the roofers to lay the roof without having to fix every tile with wooden pegs or iron nails, although as time progressed, British Standards are now taking a more stricter stance on this.
In 1891 it is recorded that there were 150 roof tile makers in Kent. In 1914 it is recorded that there were 105. In 1938 there were 64, and now I as write this, I can count less than 5, including Spicer Tiles.
Making clay tiles the old-fashioned way. Two skilled
craftsmen pose for a photo opportunity.
Jane Spicer making a batch of oast-tapered peg tiles at our first factory circa. 1992.
Contrary to popular belief, hardwood pegs were not used as commonly as once thought, in fact softwood pegs were the preferred option for their ability to squeeze into the hole without breaking a corner.
At Spicer Tiles we keep to the traditional methods as much as possible, without going so far as using a horse to turn the pugmill. Mixing traditional methods with new technology allows us to make a traditional product as efficiently as possible. We extrude a lug of clay, apply the desired finish to the face of the tile, either sand or sawdust, and then throw the clay into the mould, the clay is spread around the mould by hand. The excess clay is then struck off using a tool made from Ash. This clay is then recycled back into the pugmill and the tile is nearly ready to be turned out onto the drying rack, but not before the square holes are punched through the tile using a tapered wooden stick, whittled from off-cuts from a nearby hedgerow. Tiles are dried for 4-6 days, depending on how kind the weather is, and then loaded onto our shuttle kiln by hand where they are burnt for 24 hours and cooled for a further 18. Our method of firing encourages variance in our colours, shades and shapes which make for a fantastic blend on a roof. Within our kiln we get hot-spots to cold-spots, with all the varieties in between.
A horse powered pugmill
Our mission is the keep production of Kent Peg Tiles alive for decades or centuries to come. We have a heavy focus towards conservation and restoration projects throughout the South-East. We encourage factory tours and take pride in exhibiting our production methods. If this is something you are interested in please contact our office on 01797 364777 or fill out our contact form here.
Spicer Red Antique Peg tiles on the vertical and Medium Antique Peg tiles on the main roof of this beautiful property in the heart of Charing, Kent.
Bespoke size colour Peg tiles were made for this project at the Weald & Downland Museum in West Sussex.
Pallingham Quay was a restoration project of a cart shed originally built in the early-mid 1800’s.
Please click here to see the full case study of Pallingham Quay.