South West mining firm strikes gold with UK’s first sustainable brick production line

Posted on 26 Apr 2024 by The Manufacturer

A Dorset mining and manufacturing business, responsible for the supply of stone to some of the UK’s most historic buildings – including Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral – has created a pioneering production line to launch a new first of its kind natural brick range and springboard for growth.

After spotting a gap in the market to produce naturally sourced bricks from offcuts of Portland stone, Albion Stone developed the first production line in the UK producing low-carbon bricks from natural stone in a move that sets the business up for future growth.

The production line will produce one million bricks per year as part of Albion Stone’s new Heritage Portland stone range. The bricks are created by cutting blocks of surplus Portland stone into slabs, then into bricks. This process produces 75% less embodied carbon than traditional clay fire bricks, which need to be mixed, formed, dried, and heated at extreme temperatures consuming a high rate of energy.

Albion Stone creates its low-carbon bricks by cutting blocks of surplus Portland stone into slabs, then into bricks.

The investment, which was supported by a £450,000 asset finance package from Lloyds Bank, will allow Albion Stone to more than double its manufacturing capacity and diversify its product range, producing a standard product for the mass market for the first time to increase its revenue stream. As a result of the new facility, the business has brought on an extra five team members and is on track to grow turnover by 20% to £10m in 2025.

Albion Stone’s new facility and Heritage Brick range will mean it can process an additional 8,800 tonnes of Portland stone, which is the equivalent weight of 20 747 jumbo jets. The business also has plans in place to open a second Heritage brick range manufacturing plant to increase production capacity.

The fourth-generation family-owned business was founded in 1952 and since then, Albion Stone has gone on to lead the sector’s switch from quarrying to mining Portland stone. Albion Stone’s high-quality masoned and carved stones can be seen across the UK’s most historic buildings including St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, the new London Stock Exchange and as far as China, Australia and Japan.

Michael Poultney, managing director of Albion Stone, said: “We’ve been extracting and producing Portland stone for just gone 40 years. Twenty years ago, we switched from quarrying to much more environmentally sensitive mining of Portland stone, but in just 12 months we’ve made some of the biggest and most innovative progress the natural stone market has seen for some time.

“Our surplus blocks of Portland stone have always been an issue – these stones have a range of geological features that are deemed too variable for most traditional architects. We’re really excited to be able to take advantage of this stone in a fresh and innovative way, and create a whole new product that will dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of some of the world’s biggest and most historic projects.

“The support provided by Lloyds Bank has allowed us to lay down foundations that will fuel the business’ growth for the next five to ten years. It will inject a new lease of life into our manufacturing process through state-of-the-art technology that will also help us provide a quality low-carbon product to a new set of customers.”

Daren Rose, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “It’s so encouraging to see a business like Albion Stone making moves to enhance its growth trajectory by investing in both product and manufacturing. The business has taken creative steps to challenge an issue that’s persisted for years with the results being a huge disruption to the natural stone sector and a problem solver for the built environment.

“We’re proud to support a local business that continues to showcase the gold standard within their trade, and we look forward to seeing them embrace new growth opportunities for years to come.”

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