Charnwood: Homegrown heroes

Charnwood is celebrating 50 successful years in business; since the first prototype was made in a shed on the Isle of Wight in 1972, this highly innovative company has created an ever-evolving range of British-made stoves that are exported all over the world, as well as vitreous enamel signs for both the London Underground and the Paris Metro.

The early history of Charnwood demonstrates that necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. In 1972, against a backdrop of the oil crisis and Dutch elm disease that destroyed 25 million trees in the UK, founder Alfred Wells and his sons, Alastair and John, recognised an opportunity to design a stove that would make best use of the wood available, as well as offering an alternative way to heat homes without relying on fossil fuels.

The prototype was made in small premises in the village of Niton and exhibited at an agricultural show. The family received an order for 20 stoves and the business was born. Since those early days, the stoves have evolved and the staff has grown from three to more than 180 working in 90,000sq ft premises.

The Charnwood family.

Going green

With each new model, the burning process has been developed to make it cleaner, greener and more accessible. In 2022, that spirit of innovation is as alive today as it was 50 years ago: Charnwood is to launch two new stoves.

One is the revolutionary Skye E700, Charnwood’s most intelligent wood-burning stove to date, which has just been launched in the US and will soon be available in the UK. It is controlled by a microprocessor and is set to upend the way wood is burnt; once the stove is loaded with wood, the room temperature is set using the Charnwood app, which monitors the fire automatically, adjusting air flow to give the most efficient burn.

The other product is The Haven, a new, compact, wood-fired range cooker with a large view of the fire. Designed for cabins, bothies, off-grid and smaller homes, it combines the charm of a traditional range with the very latest efficiencies and clean-burn technology.

The Charnwood Haven.

British technology

The genius of Charnwood is that its team has employed the technology developed to make stoves in a range of other areas. Under the name A.J Wells & Sons, it has also become a major player in transport signage. In 1990, a vitreous enamel plant was installed, allowing the stoves to be enamelled in-house, giving birth to A.J Wells Vitreous Enamellers. This began a relationship with Transport For London, with A.J Wells becoming the principal supplier of signage for the London Underground.

In 2007, the company manufactured much of the new signage for the Docklands Light Railway and London Overground ahead of the London 2012 Olympics. A.J Wells has also supplied the Paris Metro and designed, developed, manufactured and installed signage for the new Elizabeth Line, including Canary Wharf, Tottenham Court Road, Paddington, and Whitechapel stations.

It also used its technical expertise to introduce the new VLAZE range of outdoor kitchens, responding to the new alfresco cooking trend. In 50 years, the business has grown from humble beginning to an innovative company that shows the capacity of design, manufacture and determination to create a thriving business with a truly global reach.

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