News and views
Although much of Kirkpatrick hasn’t changed significantly in over 160 years, there’s always something new going on within our team, in our factory or with our products – which you can keep up-to-date with right here.
Made in Britain Matters
Welcome to the Kirkpatrick blog! Made in Britain matters!
Hello and welcome to the Kirkpatrick blog – this is our new space to keep you up to date about what’s going on at the heart of our operations. We know it’s good to look behind the scenes when you are getting to know a potential supplier and find out more about a company’s history, ethos and vision.
We’re delighted to let you know what’s happening – but what exactly do you blog about after more than 160 years of existence, when you’re now the only surviving black ironmongery company of its type in the UK?
How proud that makes us – that’s what!
You can already read what makes us special in our ‘about us’ section, or learn more about how our goods are handmade to last. Or why not meet our fantastic people who make up our close-knit team?
So, for our first blog post, let’s shine a light on one of our guiding principles – how privileged we are still be made in Britain and what it means to our customers.
Have you heard of the thriving Made in Britain community? We’re delighted to be members and to carry its stamp of approval on our site. This high-profile organisation supports and promotes British manufacturing, enabling buyers and consumers at home and abroad to identify British-made products.
That’s very important for us — we have a rich tradition of manufacturing in the heart of the Midlands and one that we are working hard to maintain.
Our methods are tried and tested and our many loyal customers are a testament to our commitment to outstanding service. Our authenticity and craftsmanship are renowned through the UK and beyond. Our products last a lifetime!
So, what are the benefits of still being made in Britain after all these years?
Our customers love it!
British consumers are favouring home-produced products more and more. We see a positive future as discerning buyers turn their back on cheap imports to back British manufacturing.
A boost for the economy
Your support means more investment, more products and more jobs. We’re thrilled to support the local, regional and national economy – ultimately boosting standards of living too!
We’re investing in our people. We have a very low staff turnover rate with generations of families relying on us for employment. We train and develop our people – encouraging a wider skill set. Why buy a low quality imported product when we have the traditional skills right here in the UK to offer a more authentic, high quality product?
When work is produced at home rather than abroad, this brings greater trust and peace of mind. You have full knowledge of where your purchase has come from and that quality standards are not only upheld but exceeded.
We are transparent and cost-effective – largely due to our UK origin.
Fair working practices
Not for us the mysterious working conditions we hear about too often from companies with workers abroad. Buying from us means buying from a company that complies with guidelines and legislation on fairness at work.
You guessed it! Buying British products in Britain means a road less travelled. We reduce our carbon footprint and when you choose to buy from us, you can also bask in the glory of helping save the planet.
THE KIRKPATRICK SCHOLARSHIP
We recently received a visit from a family who needed to purchase some coal tongs for a Christmas gift. Nothing unusual in that and we are always keen to show visitors around and demonstrate the high quality of our products and how they are superior to any others. It transpired that the family had connections with Walsall so this made the choice even more appropriate.
We subsequently received an e-mail from the family informing us that they had recently been sorting out their late father’s papers and had found a certificate showing that he had been awarded the “Kirkpatrick Scholarship” at Walsall Technical College in 1950/51. The family was wondering whether there was a connection with Kirkpatrick Ltd.
We are unable to say for sure but we are fairly certain that there is a connection. It is well known that William Kirkpatrick, our founder, was Mayor of Walsall in 1886/87 and was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Walsall Municipal Science and Art Institute. Indeed, the foundation stone still shows his name on the building. After his death, his son Vincent Kirkpatrick, was one of the Vice-Presidents of the Institute. It seems reasonable to assume, therefore, that given their philanthropic nature, then it would not be unusual for them to sponsor a local scholarship.
The image to the left shows a copy of the Certificate from 1950/51. If anyone can shed any more light on this or on any more history of our Company then we would be glad to know of it.
Our products in Iceland
That’s the country….not the shop! We were recently sent a few photos from a gentleman in Iceland who purchased our products for some gates he was making. This photo includes our 2442 lever handle, a 586 door knocker and 819 hinge fronts, (dummy hinges).
We currently send our malleable iron door and window furniture to the USA, Eire, Sweden, Holland and Japan amongst other countries. If anyone from outside the UK has any images of our products in situ please send them to us and we will be glad to feature them here.
How to fit 1053 Bell Pull
Follow this link to see how to fit a Butler Bell using our 1053 bell pull. This video was filmed by our friends at Cast in Style:
Castinstyle factory visit
We were very pleased to welcome Donna and Nikki from Castinstyle to our factory last week. To say they found it interesting would be an understatement. Follow their posts here:
We are always keen to show anyone around our factory. Kirkpatrick is the only remaining UK manufacturer of traditional black ironmongery. You would have to visit India to see any of our competitor’s products being made.
The photo shows our despatch team with Donna.
L-R Jack, Mark, Donna, Keith, Neil, John.
Thank you to SS for this kind message:
“I have received the gate replacement gate latch and have just fitted it. It works perfectly and is so much better than the latch originally supplied by the gate installer. It is much heavier, obviously of much better quality and looks like it will last a lifetime.
Thank you and your company for confirming my faith in British workmanship and quality. If only everybody could get to try these latches they would not wish to settle for anything less.”
Made in Britain
Not sure how many of you saw Countryfile on BBC on 4th September but they did a feature on supermarkets and how they use brand names. Basically, they are using clever marketing techniques which give the impression that meat is sourced from UK farms when, in fact, this is not necessarily the case. Tesco were featured but the suggestion was that others do the same thing. Tesco have brands such as Boswell Farms and Woodside Farms. Most people buying meat would tend to look at the brand and assume it was from a bona fide farm in the UK. Look more closely at the label and this is not the case even though it may be packed in the UK.
There is a similar situation we have in the ironmongery industry. Kirkpatrick Ltd is the only UK manufacturer of traditional Black Ironmongery but our competitors use similar marketing techniques to suggest that their products are made in the UK whereas they originate in India. The use of British place names give the impression of traditional British products but where is the Union Jack or a statement to the effect that they are truly British Made? The answer is that they can’t do this because it would be untrue. Kirkpatrick are the only supplier who can truly say this and we are entitled to use the Union Jack and more specifically, the Official Made in Britain logo.
It’s a pity, really, that although the food industry has to state the origin of the product somewhere on the packing this does not apply to ironmongery. We do what we can to educate our customers and our customers’ customers, (ie, the end user), but it is difficult. People see a traditional looking product in a nicely produced catalogue or website, (maybe with an accompanying video showing something being produced) and assume that it is being manufactured in the UK. The importers certainly don’t do anything to change this perception. A few weeks ago our Sales Director had to “re-educate” one of our stockists who still insisted that the products of one of our competitors were produced in the UK. If our stockists don’t know then what chance do the general public have?
So while everyone doesn’t want a British product and is willing to buy a cheap and cheerful imported one, how many people out there have been “duped” into thinking that they were buying into a product line full of authenticity and high quality? How many people have attempted to attain a traditional look in their British home but done so with an Indian product? Judging by the reaction on Twitter to the Countryfile feature it seems that the British public don’t approve of being misled.
Some won’t be bothered but if anyone out there wants an authentic piece of traditional British Black Ironmongery just ask where the product originates from. Basically, if it is not Kirkpatrick it is not British.
Customer service and workforce skills
The photo shows one of our 1564 lever handles alongside a pair which were not manufactured by Kirkpatrick. Its an interesting story. In the early 1980’s there were three Companies within half a mile of our factory all making similar products, (we still have copies of their catalogues). The other two, (Hope Works and Old World Fittings), both fell by the wayside leaving Kirkpatrick as the only UK manufacturer of traditional Black Ironmongery. We had a visit recently from a gentleman who lives locally who bought these levers around 30 years ago. To the untrained eye, maybe, these handles look very similar. We identified immediately, however, that they were not made by us. The antique effect is not as authentic as ours but the other obvious difference is that the method of springing is different.
The customer’s problem was that the springs inside the handles had failed and he wondered if we could replace them. We do get enquiries like this from time to time but the products involved are generally cheaper, low quality imports and we have to say “no”. On this occasion, however, because of the local connection, we accepted the challenge. We were able to dismantle the handles and by adapting our own springs we were able to re-assemble the lever with the original springing method providing a virtually new set of door furniture, even though it was over 30 years old! (We also had to re-coat them with our powder coat finish).
This demonstrates the skills of our workforce and the way we, as a Company, will always go the extra mile to find a solution to a customer’s problem. We take pride in our customer service.
A few hints on how to select period ironmongery for your home
Choosing the correct Ironmongery for your home is vitally important because as well as being functional it can also be decorative and it will add the finishing touch to the look that you have spent so long trying to achieve.
Perhaps the most basic item on a door is the hinge. The type of hinge you choose will depend upon a number of factors including the style of the door and its frame and also the weight of the door. The most basic type of hinge is a butt hinge which is designed to be cut into the frame and the door so that it is largely hidden from view when the door is closed. Thought should be given to the weight of the door in question as heavier doors may require additional hinges. Hinge fronts or dummy hinges can be added to the door as decoration.
More ornamental hinges are also available and are particularly suited to ledged and braced doors.
Consideration will need to be given to whether a Door Knob or Lever Handle is preferred for opening and closing the door. You will need to decide whether the door is going to be locked or not. Generally, (but not always), internal doors are not locked so a normal latch plate on a lever handle will suffice. On more traditional properties a Thumb Latch can be used for securing a door. These are available in a number of different designs.
Lever handles will also be available with a privacy bolt for bathrooms, for example.
External doors will require a lock. A traditional lever handle will operate a 5 lever mortice lock. A modern front door may have a multipoint locking system which can also be operated by lever handle.
Door knobs can be more difficult to operate by anyone of restricted mobility and consideration should be given to this. Door knobs can be used in conjunction with Rim locks. Additional security can be given by the use of a separate British Standard 5 lever mortice lock and by the use of rack bolts.
The finish and style of your door furniture will complement the age and style of your home. It will also be possible to match your door furniture to a certain extent so that a handle and a letter plate on a front door will match.
Similar consideration will need to be given to your choice of Window fittings. The type of fitting will depend upon your window. Window fasteners, for example can be fixed with a Hook Plate or Mortice Plate depending upon the style of frame. In addition, they can be lockable and can also operate a three point locking system. Window fasteners can generally be matched with a stay. To add to security locking pivots are available. Sash type windows will require different fittings.
If UPVc windows have been specified it is still possible to give a period feel by the use of specially adapted stays and fasteners. Additional variations also cater for night vents. It is also possible to add further security by the use of window rack bolts.
Certain considerations need to apply to both window and door furniture. Care instructions are generally included with most products and these should be adhered to so that your furniture retains its look and functionality.
Because Door and Window furniture is both functional and decorative it is always advisable to look for the highest possible quality. In recent years the UK market has been flooded with products with English sounding names but which are actually imported from India and China. However, it is still possible to obtain much higher quality British products. They will last longer and look more authentic.
New heating system
Its the middle of summer, (apparently), but we are looking ahead to the even colder days ahead with our new heating system. Part of our longer term plans was to upgrade the heating system at some stage. Exactly when it was first installed is not known but our offices and warehouse were built in 1960 so that part of it is at least 50 years old. The other part of the system covers what we call our Machine Shop, where our malleable iron door and window furniture is assembled. This part of the premises must date back to the 1930’s.
We had a breakdown just before the end of last year when one of the old cast iron water pipes sprung a leak. Although a temporary repair was put in place it was obvious that this wouldn’t be a long term solution so we decided to upgrade to a new energy efficient system. The photo shows some of the old pipework which we have removed and the boiler and warm air heaters in the warehouse which should keep us nice and warm in the winter months and also save us money in terms of energy consumption.
Currently, we are also installing modern radiant heating in the Machine shop.
Following the successful launch of our new look website last year, we have been hard at work collating a wide range of traditional and contemporary ironwork into our latest (and hopefully greatest) product guide.
We are pleased to let you know that the hours of perspiration and inspiration have paid off and it’s now in our hands and ready to send out to anyone who appreciates products which are handmade and British from start to finish.
We understand that nowadays many people prefer to view online – but there’s plenty of us who still prefer the good old fashioned experience of beautiful print.
We can smell the fresh ink of a brochure, flick through the pages at our leisure, carry it from room to room and even take it along to the stockists once we have decided upon the perfect choice for our homes or business.
Why not order your copy now and please let us know your thoughts too, as we’d love to hear from you. Happy reading from everyone here at Kirkpatrick.
Old printing blocks
These are just a very small selection of old printing blocks we have in our offices. They are all kept in what appear to be bespoke drawers/cabinets. We have to be honest and say that we are only assuming that they were used for printing purposes. No-one who currently works here has ever known them to be used. You can see a selection of lever and door pull handles.
Can anyone shed any light on how these were used? Is there a museum anywhere that would be interested in looking at them?
One day, when we get time we will set up a heritage room featuring some of these sorts of things plus old products, old documents, old photographs showing how Kirkpatrick Ltd has evolved over 160 years to the position where it is now the only remaining UK manufacturer of traditional Black Antique Ironmongery.
The Lincoln Imp
On a recent visit to Lincoln we saw the original Lincoln Imp. This cross legged creature has graced the pages of our traditional ironmongery catalogues for many years. It is always classed as a bedroom door knocker because of its relatively small size compared with a front door knocker.
The Imp is located in the Angel Choir located at the East end of the building.
Any Old Ironmongery
Here is just a small selection of old products that we have in our warehouse. We have door handles, cabinet handles, and one or two quirky items like the pointing finger. They were removed from our range many years ago and although we occasionally sell one or two we have decided that now is the time to offer them for sale. When they are gone they are gone….no more will be made. This makes them fairly unique. Contact us for more details.
Cold winter night
At a time when we are debating whether to refurbish or demolish our chimney stack, this ghostly image was taken last night. Its steam not smoke.The annealing ovens had been fired up and the dampness was being burned off. Another load of castings becoming malleable iron to make the best door and window fittings.
Its debateable whether its an atmospheric shot or just bad photography. Answers on a post card or by e mail etc etc
Traditional Window Fittings Ltd
In 2007 Kirkpatrick Ltd was approached by Keith Pacey of Traditional Window Fittings. He had identified a gap in the market place for a traditional antique iron monkey tail window fastener which would suit a double or triple glazed window. To work with double glazed units the fasteners needed to operate an espagnolette system and also have a much narrower back plate than a normal fastener for single glazed units.
By working together Traditional Window Fittings and Kirkpatrick came up with a workable solution and put new patterns based on the traditional Kirkpatrick curly end fastener into production, (protected with a patent held by Traditional Window Fittings). As with any new product there were teething problems to be ironed out but these were quickly solved and subsequently many thousands of these products have been specified on double and triple glazed windows.
Following on from the success of this product additional variations were developed based on the same method so that a bulb end fastener was also available. The obvious next step was to develop matching window stays in both antique and smooth iron versions in different finishes. Traditional style lever handles and letter plates suitable for modern doors were also subsequently developed.
As the only remaining UK manufacturer of traditional malleable iron door and window furniture Kirkpatrick was the obvious partner for Traditional Window Fittings. By using the skills and methods accrued over the last 160 years Kirkpatrick was able to react quickly and efficiently and expand into a market that had previously not been open to its products.
A handmade and British brand
We’ve been making consistently excellent ironmongery for a very long time now, but we’ve never been quite as good at shouting about our products or our expertise. In fact, we’d go as far to say that we’ve been one of British manufacturing’s best kept secrets – despite the high level of quality and service that we offer our customers.
So our team decided to discuss the culture, values and ambition of Kirkpatrick, and we found that what was important to us in the beginning still stood today. So although some things have inevitably changed, our commitment to genuine craftsmanship, product quality and the pride we have for our work have not changed one bit.
The result of our soul-searching over recent months, is a refreshed brand direction built upon our new motto ‘handmade to last’ – including our shiny new website and, in-time, our great new ‘look and feel’ will filter through the whole of the business.
So now we’re ready to tell our story, please drop us a line as we’d love to know your thoughts.
How old can you go?
We’re searching for the oldest piece of working Kirkpatrick Ironmongery in the UK. We have been manufacturing in Walsall since 1855 and we believe that because of the high quality of our products, there will be examples still in situ and still working from the early 20th century and even from the 19th century.
If you believe that you have one of our products which is still in regular use and you can date it, please take a photograph and send it to us. If you have details of when the product was purchased let us know. It may be, however, that you purchased a house with ironmongery already fitted. Again, if you believe it to be a Kirkpatrick product please send us an image with details.
The item may not be in our current range but we can authenticate it from our library of old catalogues.
So why not get snapping…?
Send any images to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shooting the Kirkpatrick team
As part of an ongoing rebrand project where we aim to give ourselves a fresh lick of paint, we photographed our team (well, those who weren’t camera shy) in their natural habitats in and around the Kirkpatrick factory right here in Walsall. You can learn more about the team and the expert roles that they undertake by visiting the Our people page in this section of our website.
Kirkpatrick at Grand Designs
As we do every year, Kirkpatrick again exhibited at Grand Designs Live – this time with an updated stand design and new look to boot. It was a very exhausting few days but well worth the effort as the stand was very busy across all three days and we met some lovely people along the way.
25 years and counting…
Congratulations to John Lovatt, one of our despatch department managers, who has recently achieved 25 years service. John started with us as a teenager and worked his way up to manager. He is responsible for an area including London, the South East and East Anglia. Thanks go out to John from the Directors and the whole Kirkpatrick team!