History

Established in 1947, CORLETTS  is a genuinely Manx company with ownership and control remaining within the same family since formation. From small beginnings in the depression of the late 1940s and 1950s the company has consistently embraced modernisation and innovation to move with the changing times on the Isle of Man, and indeed in itself help promote that change.

Based in premises at the Mill Road in Peel, where the family have operated for more than one hundred years, the early years of the Company (then called N.R. Corlett Limited), were for the most part concerned with public works contracting. Extensive contracts for the IOM Electricity Board (now the Manx Electricity Authority), the G.P.O. (Manx Telecom), and the Water Board (IOM Water Authority), saw the Company working all over the Island installing the infrastructure of the then modern age.

Early contracts included drainage schemes for Port St.Mary, Surby and Peel; Local Authority housing in Castletown and Peel; refurbishment of the Laxey Valley Gardens; telephone cable from Laxey through Agneash to the Bungalow. Two particularly high profile contracts carried out by the Company were the installation of a telephone cable from the Creg na Baa to the top of Snaefell, and extensive cabling in Douglas to convert the Douglas Corporation Electricity Department area from DC to AC.

Always with an eye to further expansion the Company acquired adjoining premises in Mill Road from the ailing Peel Oil & Fishmeal Company, and in a huge leap of faith embarked upon the first of several innovatory moves which were to soon place it at the forefront of the Island's construction industry. The production process for concrete roof tiles had been developed in the United Kingdom, and through an association with the Tile Development Company of Newcastle-upon-Tyne the Company was able to design its own range of roofing tile. After considerable development and planning the new automated plant was commissioned in 1963, and overnight the 'Double Roman' tile became the standard on the Isle of Man. In following years the 'Low Pitch' and 'Barrule' patterns followed, and for the next twenty years it was hard to find a building which had not been topped with "N.R. Corlett's tiles".

These roof tiles were manufactured by squeezing a layer of coloured concrete on to an alloy pallet in to which was moulded the interlocking pattern. Each tile was kept as thin as possible to save weight, and it was this that brought about the Company's next move. Sand for the concrete, brought by lorry from the Point of Ayre, was of inconsistent quality and most importantly frequently contained small stones, each of which would irreparably damage a pallet.

Having first identified workable deposits of sand alongside the Peel to St.Johns road the Company purchased Ballaharra Farm and having installed a Parker washing and screening plant, began production in 1965.

Although gravel deposits were minimal, the Company was able to produce a sand suitable for making roof tiles, and also provided the Island's first supplies of washed building sand. Water was pumped from the river Neb and after the washing process was returned to the river through settlement lagoons which filtered out the fine silts and clays.

The economic climate in the Isle of Man changed dramatically in the 1960s with the adoption of a new tax strategy, and as the boom continued in to the early 1970s it was clear that the Island's manufacturers were struggling to cope with the demand for locally produced materials. At that time the brick market was dominated by the Glenfaba Brick Company which, operating in Peel from premises adjacent to the Mill Road, produced a clay brick from material dug at the Raggatt.

Calcium Silicate bricks had been manufactured in the north of the Island earlier in the century but the plant had been dismantled and shipped to Australia. The Company identified an opportunity to begin producing these same bricks with a modern plant, using the sand deposits at Ballaharra, and in 1972 a Sutcliffe Speakman plant was commissioned. This plant encompassed the latest developments in technology which, although by current standards are outdated, made it the most highly automated plant of its type in Europe, and possibly even the world.

Sand and hydrated lime was mixed together to a moist consistency and mechanically pressed in moulds to the correct dimensions. The 'green' bricks were then handled by a vacuum system and stacked in units of 1000 on trolleys. This entire process was carried out automatically once the machinery had been started each morning. At a production rate of 3000 bricks per hour, a little over 7 hours filled the autoclave where the 'green' bricks were cured by subjecting them to steam pressure at 150psi for several hours, in the process turning them in to a white or pale cream colour.

Largely as a result of the production efficiencies created by automation these calcium silicate bricks rapidly became the dominant product in the market overtaking the Glenfaba brick which was still being produced on antiquated and labour-intensive machinery.

Although highly automated this plant was not capable of being adapted to make anything other than a frogged brick, so the product range was limited to ordinary common bricks and coloured bricks suitable for facing. As building regulations created a demand for higher insulation in dwellings the Company looked for a material with which to make an insulation

brick, eventually settling upon pumice dust. Initially supplies of the material were sourced from Shoreham but as demand for the lightweight brick increased , pumice was imported to Peel directly from Lipari, off the coast of Italy. Eight shipments varying in size from 800 to 1200 tonnes were brought to Peel, ending only when tightening building regulations precluded their use.

In 1971 a Neothlic chambered tomb was uncovered. The site was excavated over the next two years by a team led by Dr Sheila Cregeen of the Manx Museum to reveal one of the Island's ten Megalithic tombs which turned out to be the most important site on the Island for Neolithic pottery. The site yielded radio carbon dates circa 2,300 BC. A bronze age urn was also found.

Artefacts from the site are now in the custody of the Manx Museum, and stone lintels from the tomb are now displayed in the Pinfold at St.Johns.

In common with the United Kingdom, the Island's economy slipped in to recession in the early 1980s, and as recovery began in 1987 it was obvious to the company that a brick was no longer the preferred building unit in the industry - the concrete block was taking over not only due to ease and speed of use, but being made by a much simpler process enjoying a significant cost advantage.

At that time two plants on the Island produced concrete blocks using an 'egg laying' system whereby blocks are cast on a concrete floor by a moving machine.

Although efficient in terms of production capacity, the system was cumbersome and in 1988 the Company was the first on the Isle of Man to commission a static plant. The essential difference in the two processes being that in the latter the blocks are cast on pallets which move away from the machine which itself remains stationary.

The entire process is performed indoors with pallets being racked and stacked to take up much less floor space than required by the egg-laying system.

Sourced from Denmark, this plant was again highly automated comprising an integrated batching plant and closed circuit pallet handling facility. Whereas automation Sutcliffe Speakman style was mechanical, the automation in this latest plant was achieved through the extensive use of electronics.

Following on from the success of Our concrete block manufacturing, in 1999 CORLETTS commissioned the erection of a ready mixed concrete plant which was then adapted to produce ready mixed mortars, renders and floor screeds. When combined with our purpose built delivery vehicles CORLETTS are able to deliver mortar and render Island wide within a matter of hours. This innovative approach eliminates the need for the customer to have a mixer, sand, cement and labour onsite.

In order to meet with rising expections in quality in a dynamic market and to supply the recently installed ready mix plant a new sand washing and processing facility was installed in 2004, designed and manufactured by TEREX Finlay in Ireland. The installation of this plant represented a major commitment by CORLETTS, not only to sand production, but also to the recycling of inert waste. This was the first facility of its kind on the Island and led to us being able to recycle over 80% of inert materials brought in. The sand recovery equipment was updated in 2009 with TEREX Finlay twin hydrocylones, the was necessary to reduce waste, increase productivity and enable more precise grades of sand to be produced increasing quality overall.