If you are looking to match original cast iron work on an historic church, there is a good chance that a traditional foundry near Huddersfield can help you.
The store-room at J & J W Longbottom Ltd is an Aladdin's cave containing thousands of beautiful patterns for hopper heads, gutters, pipes and gratings includinga gutter designed by A.W.N Pugin.
"The collection grows and grows and that's to the good because the more patterns you've got, the better chance you have of giving the customer what they need," says Managing Director Simon Gudgeon.
Cast iron rainwater goods
Longbottom is one of the last traditional foundries in the UK producing cast iron rainwater goods. The company operates at the Bridge Foundry in Holmfirth, the same site where it was founded by Joshua Woodhead Longbottom and his brother, Joe, in the 1870s.
In the nineteenth century, there were three foundries in the town benefiting from its riverside location and the then excellent rail connections. Longbottom is the last one left and continues to be a significant local employer. In 2019 they celebrated the centenary of their incorporation as a limited company.
'Men working now have had the skills passed down from their seniors and these continue to be passed on down the line," says Simon, a member of the family that currently runs the business.
The Bridge Foundry has been extended since the early days but a foundryman of 150 years ago would still recognise his place of work.
Says Simon: "it's a source of pride is that we still do things to a traditional method. That's important in the business we're in. We would not want to change."
In 1992, Longbottom bought another long-established foundry, Sloan & Davidson of Leeds, acquiring their impressive range of patterns. Many of these have proved a good match for churches. Even if Longbottom do not have the pattern, they can make a bespoke version.
"We are regularly sent photos asking us to replace like for like," says Simon. "Quite often we can say 'you're in luck' and can supply from stock or make it in a day or two."
The company has supplied ironwork to Westminster Abbey for many years including non-slip gratings for the thirteenth century Triforium, where galleries opened to the public in 2019.
"The gratings were designed with decorative holes but they also had treads on the top. They were made to a certain shape to fit the stone that went in all sorts of directions. That was a big challenge," says Simon.
The company has also supplied bespoke gratings to match the existing ones at Wakefield Cathedral.
Business is booming following the coronavirus lockdown as the company clears a backlog of work that has built up.
"It's a very popular service. With Victorian churches, a lot of their rainwater goods are cast iron. Good cast iron will last over a century so we're in a period now when it is coming to the end of its lifespan and we're one of the last suppliers of these goods. There's quite a high demand."
Profile written by Elena Curti