Expert local craftsmen are keeping tradition alive in Kent as they revive and restore the iconic red Kent peg tiles which adorn several of the listed buildings on the Hadlow Estate.
The eye catching tiles, which give many of the county’s houses and farm buildings their distinctive appearance, were first used by the Romans. Today they are still found on the walls and roofs of a number of buildings on the Estate. In order to preserve this heritage, the Estate has a detailed inventory of all its listed buildings so that specialist maintenance can be scheduled as needed.
The Estate works with a number of specialist contractors and building firms. Thanks to their expertise and knowledge of the ongoing conservation programme, local roofing contractor Karl Terry and his team have been drafted in most recently. They’ve worked on a number of properties which feature the Kent peg tiles, as part of an ongoing schedule of restoration and repairs.
They include works at a 17th Century traditional farmstead – with its farmhouse, granary, cattle ranges and barns – which is undergoing restoration, as well as to other listed tile-hung farmhouses and barns on the Estate. As they are Grade II Listed, every necessary step is taken to ensure the buildings are restored sensitively.
Before any work begins, photographs are taken of each structure to record the distinctive designs and patterns of the tiles, so they can be put back in exactly the right place. Scaffolding is then carefully put up before Karl and his team begin the painstaking task of removing each individual tile to check it and clean it, before it is rehung. Around twenty percent of the tiles will be broken on each building, so reclaimed tiles from the Estate’s stock, or those sourced from specialist suppliers, are used in their place.
Karl Terry explains: “Before we start there is lots of work to do behind the scenes to prepare the area and ensure that we are preserving its historical elements. As well as cleaning the tiles and replacing those that have broken, we also replace all of the battens and rehang the tiles using aluminium peg drops.
“This conservation work will preserve these buildings for many years to come. It’s very rewarding to take something that has formerly been very beautiful, but may have fallen into disrepair, and bring it back to life.”
Kate Teacher, of the Hadlow Estate, said: “We are lucky enough to have some really beautiful listed buildings and we take the conservation, repair and restoration of them very seriously. We work closely with expert local craftsmen such as Karl and his team, to ensure we are getting these repairs right and conserving these buildings sensitively for the future. Kent peg tiles are part of the architectural landscape in the county and so it’s important to us that we preserve this wonderful part of our history.”
Original Kent peg tiles were always made with locally dug clay and range in size from 9 to 10 inches high, to 6 inches wide. They were introduced by the Romans and then saw a resurgence in the 14th century, when production was in full swing once again. In 1959, the last works closed in Staplehurst, though in recent years the tiles have enjoyed something of a revival and now a number of local firms manufacture them using locally sourced clay – reviving an ancient craft, and ensuring the Kent vernacular style of architecture can be preserved.
Kate Teacher says it has been important to the Estate to be able to continue with its planned restoration works during the Covid-19 crisis. She continued: “We have been keen to continue our programme of renovation and support local tradespeople during the difficult period of lockdown, while ensuring everyone is able to work safely and adhere to social distancing. Thankfully, that is quite easy to do when working on a roof outdoors.”