Team Spotlight: Tony Mason “40 Years At Haddonstone”

This year Haddonstone celebrates 50 years of producing the highest-quality cast stone garden, landscaping and architectural products.

Remaining true to our heritage, all of our designs are still hand crafted to order by our dedicated team, who are based at our Northamptonshire manufactory.  With unrivalled expertise and the highest level of skill and craftsmanship, our team produce all our products in-house, from our bird baths, water features and statuary, to our award-winning building and construction components.

Tony Mason has been a key part of the Haddonstone journey, having worked at our manufactory for over 40 years.  Initially hired in a temporary role, Tony progressed to Production Director and now oversees all of our production.

We caught up with Tony to find out more about his role and his experience of working at Haddonstone over the years.

  • tony-mason

Tony, you first joined Haddonstone 40 years ago!  Could you tell me why you joined the company and what your role was back then?

My first full time job was as an apprentice motor mechanic which I did for approximately one year.  This business was based at Watford Gap service station on the M1 and the company lost the rights to recover cars / lorries from this stretch of the motorway. Many staff were made redundant and eventually the business closed resulting in my loss of employment.

I was then going to travel the world (😊) but my father was having none of that. My brother, Robert worked at Haddonstone as a mould maker and mentioned they were looking for a mixer man. I passed the interview with Bob Barrow and started my temporary job with the company in January 1980. It was my intention to resume my apprenticeship and in the coming months I was offered a position at Volvo, Northampton.  At this time, I was earning quite a bit more than an apprentice mechanic and I enjoyed the very physical work at Haddonstone.  So, I stayed a little longer!

  • production in factory

You are now our Production Director – could you describe a typical day or week and what you enjoy most about your role?

I am very much (I hope) part of the working team at Brixworth. I see my main role as to look above the trees and see what’s coming down the line and do my best to manage this with the resources available to me. Much easier said than done, and my day can change very quickly from dealing with a customer to a plant breakdown and everything in between.

My core chores for the day involve monitoring the sales coming into the business and making sure they flow as seamlessly as possible through the departments.

I am very lucky to have a magnificent team of people at Brixworth, I very much enjoy bringing people together to solve a problem. I do still roll my sleeves up and get stuck in, but mainly I am a conductor for people who are better placed and skilled than me to get things done.

I do enjoy a project coming to an end and making way for the next one. It’s very satisfying looking back at a drawing and then seeing a building which has resulted from this concept being built and this will be around a lot longer than myself.

  • WORKING IN FACTORY

You are based at our Brixworth factory. Can you describe what happens there.

The team of approximately 60 people are making stone, moulds, finishing and shipping mainly to order. We make approximately 14 tonnes of stone per day and have three material types. Dry-cast, Tec-stone and Tec-lite. Most of the production is Tec-stone and Dry-cast.  All stone is cast, and we can only use a mould once per day due to the curing process. Depending on the material and design type other operations may also be required:

  • Bespoke needs a mould making, this is done at a rate of 10 per day.
  • Structural needs steel cages etc.
  • Finished stone requires grouping and packing onto pallets, or into export crates.

All the above requires planning and the team of managers and admin staff are busy, production planning, transport requirements, moulds, staff HR etc.

Can you describe some of the changes and developments you’ve seen at Haddonstone over the years?

When I started, the business only made dry cast products, mainly ornaments out of timber or fibreglass moulds (see pictures below).

Over the years the moulds became more complex and rubber lined moulds have become the norm.

Approximately 25 years ago the business decided to widen our material choice and offer our customer a wet mix product.  Over the years this has opened opportunities to cast complex pieces such as statues and large composite pieces using structural steel.

Lastly, we also developed a fibre reinforced stone known to Haddonstone as Tec-lite. This material is mainly aimed as a stick-on solution to decorate existing buildings.

Our business was one of the first UK companies to process our dry cast products using vapour curing techniques. Using this process, we can make a superior product and reduce the curing times, thus giving a speedy service to our customers.

As for our workforce our modern casting shops have drastically reduced manual handling due to the craneage we have made substantial investment in over the years and in the recent times we have developed a tool handler which has solved an industry wide problem with pneumatic tools.

Our delivery vehicles are now double decked and can carry up to 24 pallets of stone. The driver has a Moffett forklift truck to handle these pallets in a safe way – a little different to loose packing each piece of stone in wood wool.

Currently we are working on a project in our Tec-stone production area, which is aimed at reducing manual handling.

  • testing

You have been with Haddonstone for a long time! Tell me a bit about why you love working for Haddonstone.

I’ve always loved fixing / making things and Haddonstone certainly has ticked that box. Whilst it might seem we do the same things everyday nothing could be further from the truth. Each new project brings along new designs which require our staff’s expertise to make it into a castable piece.

I’ve progressed to the role of Production Director and along the way I’ve worked in all aspects of stone production. This journey has kept me interested and challenged which I believe we all need as part of our working life.

As you might expect I am more desk based these days and my role still develops. I can deal with high wealth individuals and customers who walk through the door to purchase an owl. Also, site work as complex as Poundbury to someone home fitting a pedestal.

Managing staff in a modern world is also a movable feast and its my role to ensure best practise is achieved at our busy site, this has been a challenge in 2020 and to this day due to Covid.

Have you had any career highlights at Haddonstone?

I have had many highlights and I would say these have been mainly dealing with people, you never know what’s going to happen / be said when dealing with people. It has been both hilarious and sad over the years I’ve worked in this business.

I still believe my greatest achievement is the results of improved manual handling for our staff. This has resulted in staff working many years past what could be expected 20 years previously. This brings great benefits to the business with highly skilled staff with an excellent product awareness.

  • Tony's favourite Haddonstone design: The French Urn

    french urn

If you had to pick one favourite Haddonstone design or range from our collection, what would it be and why?

One of our original designs is our French Urn.

It might seem a bit sad, but this is the best casting piece of stone we have.  Its shape lends itself to a near perfect casting and added to that it’s a beautiful design.

I am very passionate about our fireplace range and even had my own business / showroom displaying and fitting these products.  I have one in my home with a solid fuel stove which looks wonderful, like a fine wine it improves with age.

What do you think makes Haddonstone so special?

I started from the bottom of the business and have now reached the top of the production facility through hard work and caring about the business.

I do believe I could have achieved management roles elsewhere, however Haddonstone believed in me, invested in me, and promoted me.

Whilst it’s a bigger business now with our other sister companies the Haddonstone element still has a family stamp on it and is a company which does its best to look after its employees. There are a lot of staff within the business with over twenty-five years’ service so this must speak volumes.

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