Westminster Stone 2010
Can it really be 25 years since Westminster Stone first started to produce what many consider to be the finest wet-cast paving products, not just in Britain, but anywhere in the world? I suppose it must be because that's what it says on the front of the new brochure.
I know I first came across them in the late 1980s when an architect for whom my contracting firm had undertaken quite a bit of work, treated himself to an archetypal rural cottage lost amidst the Cheshire countryside between Northwich and Holmes Chapel, and had us lay a new patio and connecting paths throughout the garden using these dark greeny grey concrete flagstones of uncanny quality. We didn't do much residential work back then: we were street masons, specialising in public works, but the few patios the fledgling patio and driveway business had undertaken almost invariably involved plain grey 2x2's (which were consider less 'council-like than 3x2's) and the occasional fancy job using the legendary Marley Paving, which was scarily primitive compared to modern decorative paving but, at that time, was ultra modern and stylish with it's shocking greens, lipstick reds and buttercup yellows. (Click here to see some old Marley Paving still in regular use)
I've tried finding the notes from that job to see just which of Westminster Stone's products was used, but all the day book reveals is that the flags were delivered on Wednesday May 17th, just after lunch. I might not remember the product name, but I very definitely remember the product. I'd not seen anything like it before. These were the most impressive wet cast products I'd ever encountered. Many others must have had similar experiences because, 25 years on, the company is still manufacturing superb products, still pushing the boundaries of what's possible with wet concrete and polyurethane moulds, still leading the field with new ideas.
So: what has the celebratory "Silver Anniversary" brochure to offer? As we've come to expect from Westminster stone, it's a high quality 215x300mm (slightly larger than A4) full colour affair running to 48 pages that are stuffed to the gunwales with photies. The company is clever enough to know that its products speak for themselves, and it's photies that sell, so why waste much space on too much vacuous waffle?
The index page divides the catalogue into seven logical sections, five of which are devoted to particular styles (Traditional, Renaissance, Contemporary, Classic and Period Interior Flooring) with a couple of pages given over to a highly enviable case study of the paving provided to the Lion Quays Hotel in Shropshire, closing with an exhaustive technical section that gives all the information that most of us would ever need, including colours, sizes, weights, pack quantities and layouts. Get yourself a brew, find a comfy chair and settle down because this is a brochure that has to be pored over, absorbed and appreciated for just how much it contains.
Many readers will be familiar with the now legendary Westminster fare, so I'll highlight what is new. The Old Castle Blend range adopts the authentic moulding and textures of the Old Lancashire Mill and the Old Yorkshire Street products, but offers a wider tonal range, from the darkest Lancastrian shades to the lightest Yorkist hues and the finished effect is even more naturalistic and authentic, if that were possible. The range extends to all the product you'd expect, so the flagstones are complemented by setts, kerbstones, circle and octagon features, bullnosed step treads and even planters.
There's also a new light-coloured flagstone that will be supplied as a ten-sized 10m² project pack (Did you know Westminster Stone were the first to introduce proeject packs to the UK market? Now you know who to blame!) or as single sizes. Dubbed as Farmhouse Cream the flags are, as you'd expect, a buttery, creamy colour with a subtle riven effect surface. Images are sparse at the moment, but as soon as I get some, I'll make sure they are added to this item.
Speaking of project packs, the company has now extended its offering by providing Old Provence Tiles, Castle Cobbles and its multitudinous circle and octant kits as project packs, which they claim are more convenient for contractors and DIYers, as well as taking up less space and requiring less handling by stockists. They've also decided to start selling project packs direct from their factory, which will be a real boon for those who don't have a local stockist. Orders can be placed by 'phone (see below) or via their online sales website.
As ever, this latest brochure is jam-packed, with barely any free space. It may be that it's actually over-stuffed: it's certainly a fact that some of the photies deserve a bigger showing, while elsewhere the size tables may seem to be jumbled at first, but a sort of logic soon establishes itself. There is always a hard bargain to be made for smaller companies such as Westminster Stone. They have a wealth of stunning images and superb technical information, but the budget for a brochure just cannot stretch to additional pages which would allow all these wonders to be showed off to their best advantage.
Recognising this uncomfortable truth, Managing Director John Clifford has plumped to offer an online 'digital brochure' which can show much more for an outlay that can't be matched by hard-copy expensive printed brochures. At the time of writing, the digital brochure is simply an online 'flip-book' version of the printed catalogue, but the potential is there to offer more as the site develops. It's a little slow to load, but as John points out, it's still being developed, so hopefully the download rate will improve.
Take a look at the digital brochure , if only to familiarise yourself with just what is possible with modern concrete technology. In these days when it seems everyone and their neighbour has a cheap imported sandstone patio, it's worth reconsidering what the highest quality wet-cast paving has to offer.
Phone: 01978 710685 or Lo-Call 0844 248 9262
Online Sales: www.landscapesupplies.co.uk
Email: Click to Email