Catchpole & Rye manufacture bespoke luxury baths.

Tony O'Donnell, Catchpole and Rye Bespoke bathroom fittings. Photography by Richard Cannon.

Tony O’Donnell, Catchpole and Rye Bespoke bathroom fittings. Photography by Richard Cannon.

It was the discovery of an old bath in tony and Elaine O’Donnell’s new house in Kent that prompted the birth of Catchpole & Rye in 1990. ‘It needed restoring, so we set about trying to find someone who could do the work, but there wasn’t anyone,’ explains Mr O’Donnell, who comes from tipperary, but has spent the past 30 years in the South-East. With no background in antique restoration—he’d done a variety of jobs including mining—he recognised there was a demand he could fulfil. ‘Our aim from then on was to find antique items for the bathroom and modernise their functionality, but maintain the look. It wasn’t easy and we more or less had to invent the industry here in Britain.’

The company earned many column inches last year when it sold a bath studded with Swarovski crystals to a Middle Eastern princess for the sum of £150,000. the sale is dismissed as ‘a bit of a gimmick’ by Mr O’Donnell, whose real passion is regenerating metal-casting and enamelling skills, among other techniques, here in Britain. ‘Most of our competitors have their stuff made in Poland and I can see why,’ he says. ‘We end up having to bring people over from Europe to teach our local workforce—it’s pretty galling. In Poland, they learn the trades in school.’

Despite these frustrations, the company is committed to keeping production in Britain so that it can control the quality and make things bespoke for its customers. Current projects include restoring the original baths from Nancy Astor’s house in Sandwich, Kent, which had plumbed hot and cold seawater, as well as casting baths for Harrods with its coat of arms.

For further information, telephone 01233 840840 or visit www.catchpoleandrye.com

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