Feature Article /
Oct 16, 2017

Drummonds: U.K. Company Evolves from Salvaging Operation to Global Brand

hammered copper wye tub

Each tub is made to order by hand in the Drummonds foundry and workshops, taking up to 15 hours to complete. The historic method of sandcasting, using solid cast iron, is used. Photo courtesy of Drummonds.

This is the first installment in a new series that explores the world of luxury brands.

Drummonds started life as an architectural antique salvaging operation in the United Kingdom, but it has evolved into an international brand whose products can be found in high-end projects across the globe.

The company’s beginning was humble.

In 1988, Drummond Shaw was restoring his period home in the picturesque hills of Surrey, England. Frustrated by the dearth of authentic pieces, he called upon his background in architectural salvaging to set up Drummonds Architectural Antiques. Specializing in saving unique items from properties about to be refurbished or demolished, he quickly became one of the country’s go-to dealers.

Shaw’s passion had always been classic bathrooms, so he decided to make that his focus.

“Mr. Shaw set out to learn everything he could about sandcasting bronze and hand-forging iron, as well as the intricacies of porcelain casting and stone masonry,” says David Schlocker, a California-based former kitchen and bath contractor and now president of his eponymous luxury products marketing and PR firm.

“He was determined to build a factory that could craft products that are beautiful recreations of historic styles, but also precise replicas that could stand proudly in any home.”

The foundries of Victorian England, where generations of craftsmen honed their skills, inspired Shaw. What would set Drummonds apart from many of its competitors was this respect and adherence to craft and design heritage.

Twenty-eight years later, Drummonds is a highly regarded manufacturer of handmade and bespoke bathroom ware, with products that can be found in tony British townhouses, Scottish castles, seaside homes in Japan, and hillside enclaves in Los Angeles.

Drummonds tubs, fixtures, and bathware aren’t inexpensive. The capacious, curvy hammered copper Wye tub, based on an 18th-century boat bath design, retails for about $16,000. Offered in unlacquered, polished, brushed, and antiqued metal finishes, the Derwent towel bar sells for around $300. The diminutive Bourne vanity basin runs about $1,000.

What gives the brand its luxury credentials?

“We’ve built up our manufacturing capabilities over the years on the pursuit of quality and longevity,” says company director James Lentaigne.

Letaigne notes that in a world of mass production and machine-made products, adhering to traditional manufacturing—along with precise craftsmanship—is the key.

And patience is a virtue; these old methods necessitate a markedly longer fabrication period.

Drummonds uses lost-wax casting, a long-established process involving hand carving in wax, which creates unique molds each time.

“This method allows extremely fine detail to be reproduced exactly as intended,” Lentaigne points out. “Time and care is then taken over the polishing of each piece to achieve an exceptional quality and finish, before each product is assembled, checked and packed by hand, ready for delivery.”

The products are made in one of three company-owned factories, and the craftsman’s touch follows the pieces from beginning to end.

Drummonds uses English clay, known worldwide for its fine grain and malleability, to make the sanitary ware.

It takes several weeks to make each basin. The clay is constantly mixed in small batches to maintain the proper consistency suitable for firing.

There’s about 12 percent shrinkage once the clay is fired, and the drying process needs to happen gradually—up to two weeks with a larger basin—to ensure the durability of the piece. Basins are manually finished and glazed, so each has its own unique character.

“There were no manufacturers on the market who could give us what we needed, so we opened a bath casting foundry, learning from past masters how to create larger, more robust items that were authentic designs and were also manufactured correctly,” says Lentaigne.

Each tub is made to order by hand in the Drummonds foundry and workshops, taking up to 15 hours to complete using historic method of sandcasting. The technique involves creating a mold by compacting fine sand to fit a metal casing.

Liquid cast iron is heated to around 1,150 degrees and then poured by hand into each individual mold to ensure the perfect temperature and precisely the right thickness. When the cast iron has cooled to a solid state, the mold is cut away by hand to reveal the iron underneath.

It will have taken on the texture of the sand and be slightly rough to the touch.

The outer surface can be left raw, painted, or polished. The interior of the raw cast iron bath is then ready to be enameled. The unique dry frit vitreous powdered enamel is sprinkled by hand up to five layers thick, sealing and giving each tub’s interior a beautiful undulating finish.

For architects and interior designers looking for classic English bathroom style, Drummonds is a company that respects time-honored craft and translates it into timeless luxury products.

Drummonds' head office and warehouse is located in Normandy, near Guildford, Surrey. In 2016, the company opened its first showroom in New York City.