Colt Cowls – Setting the Record Straight

Many weird and wonderful stories swirl around the small world of chimney cowl manufacture – who was first, who did this and who did that. To find out we interviewed Peter Stedman, Managing Director of Kaysted Ltd about the history of the development of chimney cowls since 1931 when the Colt Universal Cowl was first launched.

Colt Cowls – Setting the Record Straight1931
The Colt Universal Cowl was developed to reduce downdraught in chimney flues which at that time burnt mainly coal and coke. The aerodynamic principle involved in the design was a great success but sales were slow to start. The real growth was generated when the now widely copied Money Back Guarantee was introduced. This guarantee was not that the cowl would solve all chimney problems but that if it did not work customers could get their money back. That guarantee has been maintained without a break since then and it still features strongly in the company’s promotions.

1983
Stedman has been the Managing Director of three companies designing, manufacturing and distributing Colt Cowls since 1983. When he was first appointed Managing Director there was only one Colt Cowl product and one serious competitor on the market. The product was the original Colt Cowl Universal Cowl which is still made to the same design. The competitor was Brewer Metalcraft Ltd who also had only one main product – the Brewer Cowl.
Both organisations have since changed ownership and increased their product ranges.

1985
By 1985 there had been a huge increase in the use of decorative fuel effect (DFE) fires which burnt gas in a traditional looking fireplace instead of coal or other solid fuel. The new regulations for such fires meant that the Colt Cowl could not be used and Stedman set about the design, development and testing of the Colt Top All Purpose.

This product was unique in that it was the first omnidirectional (effectively circular) cowl for both solid fuel and gas/oil applications. Now fully assembled, to reduce the overall cost at the time the product was supplied in a knock down form for assembly by the customer. The prototype was tested extensively for its performance in wind and rain simulating equipment.

The finished product having been tested to the then British Standard at Advantica’s laboratories was test marketed throughout the West country through UBM branches (long since taken over).

It was an immediate success and was quickly taken up and stocked by Builders Merchants throughout the UK.

What was different about the Colt Top was that:
a) it was circular in shape which made it omnidirectional in reducing downdraft
b) its aerodynamic shape increased updraft
c) its design substantially reduced rain entry.
d) it was sold in conjunction with a free in-store display stand, many hundreds of which were sent out and installed in merchant premises, further increasing sales.

Perhaps the most important decision taken was to powder coat the All Purpose version in brown (or terra cotta) colour. This was the first cowl to be made this way and all (or almost all) products now on the market have copied this principle because the powder coat colour makes the product merge with a chimney pot (if it is brown clay) and the paint protects the aluminium from oxidization.

A very substantial investment in production tooling made the manufacture much faster and of better quality. Production commenced at a factory near Wandsworth, South West London.

The Colt Top was made in South London for some years before production was moved to a small company in South Wales.

1989 - 1997
By now Stedman had carried out a management buyout of the company (in 1989) from his employers and it was then that the company set about increasing the range. The most important product to emerge after extensive design and development in 1997 was the Rotorvent® revolving cowl. Sales of this product which was made from a pressure die cast base in aluminium with a stainless steel revolving rotor grew very rapidly. This product was made in a factory in the south of England and was subsequently moved to another in the Midlands.

Apart from its overall design it incorporated a then unique feature by which the individual tabs at the base of the rotor blade were “stitched” in place. This design has also been copied by competitors who obviously thought it was a good idea!

2004
Subsequently the product’s design was improved and production   moved to China along with all other cowl products where Colt Cowls now achieves vastly superior quality to that which was made in the UK and at a substantially lower cost.

The factory is quality controlled by SGS UK Ltd to 1S0 9001:2008 and regular audits by SGS and more importantly by members of the company several times per year ensure that the superior quality for which Colt Cowls are known throughout the UK is maintained.

2011
On the 5th October 2011 James Stedman was appointed Managing Director of Chimney Cowls Ltd and his activities have seen maintained substantial growth in both products and sales.

Colt Cowls – Setting the Record Straight 2015
Today the company has a comprehensive website www.coltcowls.com on which the company’s cowl products are displayed and a 36 page A4 colour catalogue is also available with a separate Trade Terms brochure.

The range now includes twin wall flue system and flexible flue liner plus a superb range of adaptors and pot hanging cowls.

Colt Cowls is the brand known throughout the UK for quality and performance and although in recent years there have been many cheaper and often less reliable products on the market the Colt Cowl continues to be the product asked for by name as the product that guarantees quality.

The new Colt Cowls Quality Mark now attached to every product confirms this promise and customers will soon be able to assure themselves of Colt Cowls quality by the presence of the Quality Mark.

The Chimney Cowl range is available from Builders Merchants, fireplace centres and many hardware shops throughout the country. The Chimney Cowl catalogue can be obtained by calling Head Office on 0870 241 1041 or visit www.coltcowls.com.

 

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