Decorative aggregate supplier Long Rake Spar is celebrating a major milestone in its history as it reaches its 150th anniversary.
Set in the heart of the Peak District, the company has evolved from a locally run prospecting mine to one of the country’s leading suppliers of decorative aggregates and landscaping stone.
Originally founded in 1867 as a mine near the village of Youlgreave in Derbyshire, the business was chiefly concerned with the extraction of bright white calcite, more commonly referred to as Derbyshire ‘Spar’.
The mineral was popularly used in Victorian gardens, as a pebble dash on the outside walls of houses and in Terrazzo floors and wall panels. The uniform whiteness and sparkling aesthetic of Derbyshire Spar continued to drive demand and several mines were operating in the county, with Long Rake Spar leading the way in excavation.
By the 1920s, there were 15 miners employed who extracted over 12,000 tonnes per annum. This volume was distributed all across the British Isles for use in high end applications and buildings.
This success led to an increased expansion of the mine through the 1950s and 60s which at its height of production, was extracting on three levels underground with operations running for two kilometres.
Above ground, there was an extensive surface works which processed the Spar by washing, crushing and screening it into the desired sizes.
In the 1970s, the mine was reaching the end of its prosperous Spar vein and in 1972 it was purchased by Derbyshire Silica Firebrick, who continued to operate the surface workings to process Derbyshire Spar from the surrounding quarries and mines.
By the end of the 1970s, there were only two miners working below ground, and in 1981 the mine finally closed although the surface plant remained open.
In the 1980s the fortunes of the site changed as T & T Broadhurst saw Long Rake’s potential as a processor and distributor of decorative material.
Trevor Broadhurst, his father Tom and his mother Jean bought the company in 1985 and immediately began to expand the facilities at the plant and the variety of aggregates that Long Rake Spar supplied.
After the acquisition, a period of expansion into new specially developed product lines followed, building on its established reputation in the dashing, flooring and concrete markets.
Technological advances in mineral processing meant that the washing, blending and drying capabilities at the Derbyshire site were able to meet the changing trends and high demands of the construction industry; allowing Long Rake to contribute to some of the UK’s largest building projects in the 1980s and early 90s.
Through a combination of determination, entrepreneurial thinking and true innovation, the company went from strength to strength, increasing its product offering to include a range of imported materials alongside its UK sourced products.
The introduction of the Platinum range, featuring predominantly imported materials, offered builders’ merchants, landscapers and contractors access to a selection of styles and colours that had not previously been available to the UK landscaping market.
The unique colouring of products like Flamingo, Onyx and Black Ice meant that builders and landscapers could expand their design options, offering homeowners a wider selection of exclusive choices.
These products have maintained their best-selling position across the UK market as Long Rake Spar has maintained its dedication to customer service by fostering strong relationships and continually offering new products and solutions.
This is underpinned with innovative marketing and unrivalled sales support. In 2015 Long Rake experienced its greatest development so far, the acquisition of a 20 acre dock site at Rye, East Sussex.
Customer satisfaction was at the forefront of this critical expansion, Managing Director Trevor Broadhurst commented: “The new manufacturing capacity at Rye will be invaluable in enabling us to meet the growing demands of the market and continue to provide our customers with the excellent service and product offering that they have come to expect from our business.
“Given its location, Rye will allow us to respond quickly to their requirements with unparalleled efficiency into the South of the country.”
As it celebrates its 150th anniversary, Long Rake Spar continues to look to the future.
At the beginning of 2017, Graham Boyd joined the business as Joint Managing Director and his appointment will oversee a period of transition with increased investment in the drying, washing processing facilities at both the Derbyshire and Rye sites as well as the opening of new offices in Youlgrave.
These developments will enable Long Rake Spar to remain at the forefront of the Decorative Aggregate market as it enters the next phase of its long and illustrious history.
For more information on Long Rake Spar click here.