FANCY a trip to a stove factory? Who wouldn’t!
A few weeks ago 10 intrepid Guild members visited the Charnwood factory (AJ Wells) on the Isle of Wight. Charnwood is the UK’s longest running stove manufacturer and is now managed by three generations of the same family. This was the first ever group of sweeps to have a tour so they were privileged indeed.
Les Bowering of Green Sweeps in Hampshire sent us the story of the day. Many thanks Les for your organising.
BEFORE we start, a big thank you to both David Knight of Charnwood for treating us all so well, and our own Andrew Taylor for making contact with David and arranging the visit. Unfortunately Andrew couldn’t make the trip.
A sterling effort was made by Guild sweeps Alastair Kemp, David O’Donnell and Paul Solicari to attend the visit. They had a very early start in order to meet seven of us Hampshire sweeps on a glorious sunny morning in Southampton. From there is was a short ride by hydrofoil across the Solent to the Isle of Wight for a tour of the factory.
After a quick introduction, and a welcome cup of tea, managing director Hugh Wells came over to introduce himself. We had a quick discussion about the state of our industry and the ethos of Charnwood before starting the tour.
Charnwood have recently invested heavily in new equipment and a new warehouse, which was already pretty full of stoves ready for the autumn surge we all expect. We were then taken through the production line, showing the mix of automation of the repetitive jobs, the amount of high end tooling and cutting equipment allowing a huge amount of flexibility in production, and the areas where more care and attention require manual work, such as quality control. I am sure none of us really knew what to expect, but we were all mightily impressed with the set up.
The final part of the tour took us all unawares. Charnwood have an enamel plant, producing vitreous enamel signage and architectural cladding. Think tube station signs, way-finding signage and blue plaques, amongst other things!
After an excellent lunch we had a presentation from David Knight, Area Sales Manager for South East, about the history and business principles of Charnwood. He gave us an insight into their plans for the future and their Fairtrade initiative, BODJ, which supplies fireside accessories. We then got our hands on some new stoves and had some good and frank discussions about stoves and baffles (please make them so we can get them out easily!), and our views on how customers use the stoves.
After a thoroughly enjoyable day, we left with our goody bags (yes, they gave us a great goody bag folks!) and stopped at a pub for a quick drink and chat before coming back across the water to head home.
If anyone gets a chance to do a tour at Charnwood, I thoroughly recommend it!
Les Bowering, Green Sweeps, Hampshire
Sascha Meding, vice chairman of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps said: “It’s great that our members can get together to do this sort of trip. We help out a bit from the office but it’s mostly members that do the organising and everyone always learns so much.” He added: “I very much hope there will be another trip as I’d love to go there myself.”
Thanks once again to all at Charnwood. Please take time to check out Charnwood’s website. This quality British manufacturer has a long history of ethical operations and culture – you’ll be surprised at some of the things they do and the way they do them. https://www.charnwood.com/
Peter Fuller doing his homework
If you have questions about the trip, ask those who went: Les Bowering, Rob Ralls. Gary Ralls, David O’Donnell, Paul Solicari, Joanna Thurgur, Cliff “Dutch” Goddard, Alistair Kemp, Peter Fuller and Matt Carless.