Celebrating 150 years of a great British icon
Over the last century the UK heating industry has changed dramatically, growing and innovating at an unprecedented rate to provide greener, cleaner heating and hot water solutions tailored to the needs of the modern consumer. But while the industry may be continually evolving, one name remains the same - Baxi. Here Jon Phillips reflects on 150 years of a great British industrial icon.
Today's high efficiency boilers, renewable heating solutions and smart technologies are a far cry from Baxi's humble beginnings in Lancashire where founder Richard Baxendale began the Baxi story.
The industrial revolution had been the catalyst for a boom in railway building, so in 1866 ironmoulder Richard Baxendale went into partnership with Joseph Heald to build railway wagons from wood, iron, steel and brass. In 10 years, Baxendale and Heald manufactured 30,000 wagons at their foundry in Chorley, until the business fell victim to the worldwide depression of 1879.
Two years later, Baxendale was back in business in Chorley as 'Richard Baxendale and Sons: Engineers, Millwrights and Machinists'.
In the 1930s, a concept created by Richard's grandson John, became the company's first product for the heating market and the first to use the Baxi name.
John came up with the idea for an underfloor draught fire after watching his maid struggling to clean out a fireplace with an ash spoon in the form of a salamander. His concept was for a grate in which the rate of burning could be regulated to keep the fire burning continuously and efficiently so that all the fuel was burned to dust and only needed emptying once a week. By drawing its air supply from under the floorboards, the Patent Fire lowered the grate to floor level.
Launched to the market in 1935, the Baxi Patent Fire was sold at shows all over the country and by the late 1930s, a distribution network had emerged to sell the product to an increasingly consumer driven market.
By the 1950s, Baxi had become a household name for heating, with orders for the underfloor draught fire still going strong.
In the 1960s, Baxi saw a growing trend for gas products and appliances and began to develop its own range of gas boilers. In 1966, the Baxi Bermuda was launched, taking the market by storm. The unique Baxi Bermuda offering combined a living room gas fire with a back boiler small enough to fit behind the hearth and providing domestic heating and hot water.
Baxi continued to diversify its portfolio and focused its attention on boilers and heating products. In 1989, the Baxi Solo was launched to great acclaim - the innovative cast iron wall hung boiler could be fitted by a single installer, making it popular in the trade.
The late 1990s/early 2000s saw a rapid expansion of the Baxi offering to customers through a series of acquisitions. In 1999, Baxi acquired the heating division of Blue Circle, to take on the Potterton, Myson, Chappee and Valor Fires brands, and later purchased Heatrae Sadia and Santon to strengthen its hot water product range.
Changes to the Building Regulations in 2005 inspired Baxi to create a new generation of high efficiency boilers. They were well received in the market and in 2006, the Baxi 105E became the UK's biggest selling combi boiler. A year later the Baxi Duo-tec Combi HE was named Which? Best Buy and CORGI Boiler of the Year 2008.
The introduction of the Baxi EcoBlue range in 2014 was a landmark in product innovation. The range of wall hung boilers was designed based on feedback from installers and end users across the country as to what they wanted from a boiler. Numerous field trials ensured the Ecoblue was both reliable and efficient.
A year later, the Energy Related Products (ErP) Directive was introduced for heating products across Europe. Baxi again ensured its products were compliant and met the needs of its customers, and invested in support work to ensure its installers and supply chain understood the implications of the Directive.
From those early days in a foundry in Chorley, the Baxi business has grown to become a leading UK boiler manufacturer employing nearly 1,600 people. It has a factory in Preston, close to where the company began 150 years ago, where it makes over seven million components each year. It is the only UK boiler manufacturer with its own foundry, and its paint shop has been benchmarked by Mitsubishi.
From new technologies to an app for installers, Baxi continues to innovate and find new ways to inspire loyalty and support its customers, adapt to the changing landscape and ensuring the Baxi name remains synonymous with the UK heating industry for many more years to come.
For more information on Baxi please visit our brand history page.