Clients ranging from Cathedrals to nuclear plants and plumbers to trawler men have come to trust the quality and skills of centuries old Rotherham firm Heaps, Arnold & Heaps.
The Barbot Hall Industrial Estate business has been making products from lead for more than 240 years, but no-one could ever accuse it of failing to move with the times.
The company has developed the skills necessary to work for highly safety and quality conscious nuclear, medical and defence industries, making shielding for use in power plants, laboratories, hospital x-ray facilities and other applications. Those capabilities expanded significantly following its acquisition last year of Sheffield-based Starweld Engineering.
Harleston Street-based Starweld offers a range of stand alone welding, fabrication and engineering services, which also include making machined lead products to exacting tolerances, including containers used for safely transporting radioactive materials.
At the same time, some of the firm’s oldest products remain firm favourites and, thanks in some cases to new developments, are winning the company new business.
Following its move from Leeds to Rotherham, the company has become the UK market leader in making weights for sash windows – believed to be a Dutch invention which were first installed in stately homes such as Chatsworth in the 17th century. Heaps lays claim to having about 70 per cent of the UK market for lead weights, which are still being installed in modern homes today.
The company has notched up an even bigger achievement when it comes to making ‘came’ – shaped sections made from lead into which stained glass slots and is held.
Heaps sells came to restorers and modern day stained glass craftsmen through wholesalers, who also distribute the glass, tools and consumables, and knew from its relationship with them that it had about 60 per cent of the market.
“We realised we needed a slightly different type of lead if we were to compete with some other players, so we developed one,” says Heaps’ general manager, Marc Briscoe.
“The market is reluctant to change – there is extreme customer loyalty and we became resigned to the fact that the UK market wasn’t going to take any more of our lead came, so we made contact with Peli Glass Products in the Netherlands.
“The European market has slightly different tastes in terms of finish, so we redeveloped the product to suit that market. Peli started feeding us small orders, which became more and more frequent and then we were invited to Glasstec, which is the exhibition for the glass and glazing industry in Europe.
Heaps went to the exhibition in Dusseldorf with help from Rotherham Investment & Development Office and shared a stand with Peli.
“People were very, very interested. Now, there isn’t a day goes by that we don’t receive an order from Europe through Peli,” says Marc Briscoe.
“The European market built up gradually and then, all of a sudden, UK distributors started asking if they could take a look at our European-style lead came.
“It’s going great now and we have got about 95 per cent of the UK market.”