Howells Patent Glazing was appointed manufacturer and supplier of a bespoke glazing system for one of the greatest examples of Gothic Revival architecture in Britain, the Towers, known to millions as the centrepiece of Alton Towers Resort.  Adapting its popular HGR 1 rafter bar, the Black Country business supplied roof lanterns for the restoration of the house conservatory, a significant feature of the south side of the house.

Roof installed by Howells Glazing 2012 using an adapted version of their bar range

Dated around 1815 – 1817, the conservatory was designed by architect, Thomas Hopper, in the Gothic style, with a glazed fan vaulted ceiling believed to be inspired by the chapel at Westminster Abbey.


Built of stone, with iron framed windows and a glazed timber roof, it comprised three elements; two long glasshouses linked by an octagon with Gothic windows.  A fourth element was added later, in 1824, to connect the conservatory with the new Octagon Gallery.


Conservatory Conservation

As part of its commitment to preserving the site’s historical features, the Resort commissioned the restoration of the house conservatory in late 2010, including the re-instatement of the whole roof, using a timber structure with aluminium glazing bars.  As the buildings were listed, the conservation officer was looking for sections which reflected the original form of the roof lanterns, as far as was practicable.  It was proposed that the lanterns were constructed in powder coated aluminium with single glazing.


After a stringent tender process and submission of section details and examples of similar lanterns to the planning officer, Howells Patent Glazing was appointed manufacturer and supplier of the roof lanterns.  Working alongside Staffordshire-based contractor, Seddon Construction, Howells was tasked with producing and installing the roof in just four months, completing the contract prior to the new tourist season.


To meet the slim, pencil line requirements of English Heritage, the patent glazing specialist adapted its popular HGR 1 rafter bar to create a bespoke glazing system.  The 37.5mm slimline aluminium glazing bars sit on the wooden rafters so the view from below is timber, as it would have been originally.  To complement the mullions, crestings were designed specifically for the conservatory featuring fleur de leys.   These were profile cut from 6mm aluminium.  The aluminium bars and crestings were powder coated in RAL 9010, an off-white satin finish.


Future-proof Reconstruction

That was seven years ago, since then the conservatory has been a magnificent spectacle for the many thousands of visitors passing through the Staffordshire tourist attraction.  David Rhodes, head of buildings and estate at Alton Towers, comments, “With regard to the roof, we have had no issues over the past seven years and it is performing as expected.”


Tracey, business development manager for £3m turnover firm, Howells Patent Glazing  joined a panel of Black Country business figures to discuss the impact of the 2018 Budget on the West Midlands economy.


Tracey told the Budget review at Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre that it ‘was disappointing for businesses like hers,’ and that ‘it wouldn’t have much impact on small businesses.’


Courtesy of Express and star

As a director of a family firm with more than 40 years heritage, Tracey was keen to hear of improvements and investment for SMEs and personal development.  “There were a couple of really positive announcements,” says Tracey, speaking after the event from Howells’ head office in Cradley Heath.  “The savings on business rates will be helpful for those similar to ourselves, as will the discount on the training levy.  We are invested into upskilling our staff and this will help with the next round that we undertake.  There was also a concerted effort to help micro businesses become digital.”


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Howells Bloopers Blog

In a world where image is king, we are constantly looking for good pictures to show off our products. But it is not easy trying to get good photos of our completed work. We encourage customers to send us snaps of our products after installation and we ask our fitters to take pictures as often as possible. The problem with the latter is, while our portion of the job might be finished, the job overall is far from complete. For that reason we end up with images of a building site; scaffolding still up, workmen/women in the background and rubble and packaging strewn around. These don’t make for particularly professional looking works of art.


We recently decided to take a look at the images we publish on our website. There were hundreds of them. Some were excellent, some……not so good. In an effort to brighten up your day we thought we would share some of the not so good ones – the Howells bloopers.


This example comes in 2 parts and is one of my all time favourites. These featured on our website for years. Firstly we have a lovely builder’s bum in the background with some nice mood lighting…….


Then later, in the next, shot we have an audience for the photo taking.

That’s it lads, get in on the action here. Say cheese!

Next is what I like to call ‘glazing bar from heaven’. I always play some angelic sounds in my head when I look at it. I think someone got a little experimental with photoshop. There is a Michelangelo feel to this don’t you think? Who said patent glazing bars can’t be high brow?


Below we have a wonderful example of ‘work in progress’. Some beautiful mono pitched glazing can be seen. In an attempt to emphasise the high specification used here we like to have some bricks lying around, some lining and a camping chair just in shot #keepingitreal.


We offer an Amazon voucher as a gesture of thanks to our customers who do take the time to send a photo of the finished job. The majority are excellent but sometimes it feels a little bit like the

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What do you expect whilst spending your hard earned money?

Everyone wants to receive good service whilst spending their long, hard earned money in a shop.

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Respect and manners is worth nothing, right?

When you enter a shop or supermarket, you want your hard-earned money to be valued with good customer service.   So, are respect and manners the answer?

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What’s the difference between good and bad services?

What’s the difference between good and bad services? Everyone throughout their life will have experienced them at least once from employees in different stores across the UK.

Features of a good service:

Good services is heavily judged in respect of the customer. If you receive good service it shows the employer and employees are respectful towards the customers. Good service should be included with any business as it offers many different positives; for example it works in both the customers and the companies favour, because it leaves the customer happy, satisfied and will encourage them to go back to the same place in the future, if their services are needed. Good services expand a business because if you show the customer care, respect and treat their requests carefully with the companies full efforts, it improves the name of the company as well as having a heightened chance of returning customers or drawing more in.

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The characteristics of good or bad service

I’m sure everyone has experienced good or bad service in their lifetime

So you ask this question well, what makes bad service?  It is impolite staff who have a lack of knowledge and are lazy. An example would be, when I was once in a shop and I asked for one of the staff to collect my order she then began to serve lots of customers and forgot about what I asked .This made me feel frustrated and annoyed as I was waiting for ages and it was very time consuming.

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Work experience to young people is the way forward for British businesses

Work experience to young people is the way forward for British businesses, there is much information about the skills shortage in the UK and what better way to tackle it than by inspiring the youth of tomorrow with a sneak peak of the dizzy world of commerce.  With national statistics indicating 695549 children born in 2003 and potentially seeking work experience in the UK and then another potential 2 million over the next 3 years, it feels that it is going to be an immense task to take on for schools and businesses.

Work experience has traditionally been ill used leaving the young nearly school leavers with experiences with stacking boxes, sweeping up and stuffing envelopes…. Hardly inspiring….  What if this experience could be turned on its head and instead a cohesive approach formulated by the company to truly give a glimpse into different departments?

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The trade show tide is changing

There was something missing at a recent trade show we attended. For the first time there was something slightly off kilter, a change in the tides. Maybe you noticed it too…….there was not a dollybird to be seen. Maybe that’s the wrong terminology but there were no scantily clad women of higher-than-average-attractiveness handing out jute bags, the recipient none-the-wiser of what product they were marketing. On the flip side there was a scantily clad man! Has the world gone mad? Have we as a society realised that using dollybirds is a thing of the past? Is it ok to have male dollybirds (not sure what they should be called)?


Brand awareness

Trade shows can be a great way to increase brand awareness or launch a new product that you are bringing to market. For some large companies it’s just what they always do. They already have the brand awareness; their products are well established in the market so they just go larger. Bigger stands, lots of adverts, maybe some fun freebies or novelty items on show and eye candy to draw people in. Maybe these things work but maybe they also belittle the products they are selling. Do they also undermine their customer’s integrity?

There have undoubtedly been advances in gender equality in construction but it still remains a male dominated industry. You can see the exchanged glances when a dollybird walks past, they do seem to do the trick at getting attention for the brand but does it make a positive impact? I’m sure it is often seen as a bit of harmless fun, but for women in the industry trying to be taken seriously it can be rather disappointing.


What does it mean, then, that this year there has been an absence of women in the dollybird role but sightings of their male counterpart? Does that make it even? Does it make it ok? Should we be relying on eye-candy in any form? Definitely have fun at a trade show, bring enthusiasm about your products, talk to people, get to know your customers, listen to the feedback, the good and the bad, get yourself a good stand, one that you have thought through carefully that you can be proud of.

It will be interesting to see if future trade shows go the same way or whether this was a one-off, maybe a batch of contaminated red lipstick that took out the entire population of trade-show dollybirds or a case of dollybird-flu. Or maybe they are a thing of the past, gone for good and just another thing we’ll all reminisce about in a decade or so.


By Claire Laverty

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Is a Smaller Builder the Answer?

Is a Smaller Builder the Answer?

For a long time smaller builder and businesses in the construction industry have felt somewhat overshadowed by the big main contractors who get awarded all the desirable jobs. But are the tides turning? With the unfortunate collapse of Carillion and now other large firms being put under the microscope is it more reassuring to use a smaller firm?
Looking specifically at house building, the Federation of Master Builders notes that small to medium builders had a significantly higher percentage of respondents who were ‘very satisfied’ with the work carried out. Of those who were ‘very satisfied’, SME builders had a score of 36% while the top 20 larger builders had only 17%. We know too well that a small firm relies so heavily on word of mouth and reputation to gain more work. Larger firms have a hefty marketing budget and the clout of a big brand name behind them to give them an advantage. In the David and Goliath battle of builders, smaller firms need a network of recommendations and testimonies to even the score.

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