What inspires design and metalwork company Novocastrian?

High end metalworkFrom high-end brass and walnut chess sets to bespoke blackened steel coffee tables and lighting inspired by the Victorian insulators strung above Britain’s railway tracks, all the products created by the skilled team at Novocastrian celebrate the industrial heritage of the north-east of England. Read on to find out about their history and the secret to their success.

How Novocastrian’s founder’s family history and background inspired his business

The firm’s founder, Richy Almond, comes from a long line of shipbuilders, and even the name – Novocastrian – is from the Latin word for a person from Newcastle. But Richy’s background as an architect, coupled with his passion for interior design, has led him to create a collection that is pure luxury. Novocastrian’s team of designers, metalworkers, engineers and welders forge bespoke products and create one-off pieces for wealthy clients and big budget design projects. Richy says he is passionate about showcasing the manufacturing skills of his home region and showing ‘what we can still do in Newcastle’.

Novocastrian is incredibly proud of its industrial roots. Richy explains: ‘I come from a long line of shipbuilders on my dad’s side. At one point pretty much every working-class bloke in the north-east was a shipbuilder or a coal miner.’

Richy’s father Paul was a draughtsman in a shipyard for many years before the industry went into decline. When Nissan moved into the area, Paul became one of many skilled former shipbuilders who set up businesses feeding into car manufacturing, with his own fabrication firm.

‘I grew up going into the metal workshop on school holidays and earning a bit of pocket money,’ remembers Richy. After studying for a degree in architecture, Richy began his career working for a high-end interiors practice in London. His ‘lightbulb moment’ came when his boss was looking to get a steel lampshade made for a client. ‘I sent the design to my dad and asked him if he could make it, and he sent me a prototype, which I put on the boss’s desk,’ Richy explains. ‘The following week we got an order for 12 of them. That’s when I first realised I was onto something.’

UK metal designHow Richy Almond set up and staffed Novocastrian

Richy founded Novocastrian – initially in partnership with his younger brother Paul, who runs his own metalwork company – in 2014, as a limited company. ‘The name comes from Latin, it’s basically an old-fashioned word for a Geordie,’ Richy laughs. ‘There is a Newcastle in Australia and they refer to themselves as Novocastrians.’

The company initially rented space in a factory before securing its own premises, a factory building in Washington, near Newcastle, three years ago. Richy set about building a team of skilled staff, many of them from similar industrial backgrounds to himself, and now has around a dozen employees, including designers, metalworkers, specialist finishers and apprentices.

Head Craftsman Marcus Rowan joined the firm seven years ago and Richy says he’s one of the ‘unsung heroes’ of the business. ‘He’s one of the most skilled craftsmen I’ve ever worked with – he’s incredible,’ says Richy. ‘He’s the one working with his hands to bring the designs to life’. Fellow director Andrew Bulley came onboard four years ago to support Richy, who currently splits his time between Newcastle and London, where he also runs an interior design business, Lind + Almond. Novocastrian’s claim is that ‘each and every one of our pieces is hand-crafted to order with passion and integrity by hardy northern souls’.

What are the three main strands of Novocastrian’s business model?

Novocastrian’s products are described as ‘elemental; humble yet timeless.’ Richy explains that there are three main strands to the business – each accounting for about a third of the turnover.

The first is the company’s core collection of products, which includes light fittings, console, coffee and dining tables, storage, mirrors, screens and other items like the chess set and candle blocks. ‘Our USP is that our collection is a starting point, and the products can be made-to-measure,’ he says. ‘We often have interior designers coming to us and saying they love a particular item, but they’d like it finished in a certain way or made to a different set of measurements. That’s no problem – our product range is designed to be modified.’ Many of the items in the company’s core collection were designed by Richy himself, and include a recently-launched range of light fittings inspired by his regular journeys between Newcastle and London on the East Coast Mainline. ‘I’ve been looking up at these insulators on the overheads above the tracks for a good 10 years,’ he laughs. ‘Victorian engineers were brilliant at making engineering and aesthetics cross paths.’

The second part of the business focuses on ‘special projects’, which are one-of-a-kind pieces for individual clients looking for something particularly special. In 2019 the team designed and made two huge bespoke maps for the main exhibition centre at the Dalmore Distillery in Scotland; one showing the Dalmore area and the other the sherry triangle in Spain, where the barrels for the whisky are sourced. ‘We used layers of brass, laser cut and hand finished, with resin markers, to create a sense of depth and scale,’ Richy explains. ‘It was very complex and a real team effort because it required lots of different skills.’

Lastly, the firm also offers more general bespoke items and architectural metalwork. Richy is passionate about the materials used by Novocastrian, with mild steel taking centre stage. ‘We have an almost blood-deep connection to mild steel; it’s what they built the ships with,’ he explains. ‘We love showing that steel can be elevated to be luxurious.’ Brass and bronze also feature in many of the firm’s products and Richy likes to source materials ‘as close to home as possible’, using slate from the Lake District and rare British marble. Many of Novocastrian’s customers are high-end interior designers looking for unique pieces and luxury finishes.

What does the future hold for Novocastrian?

Novocastrian recently launched a new collection of tables in collaboration with Britannicus Stone and local stone mason Sean Auld. The collection, called The Hagstones, is based on hagstones – perforated pebbles, which, according to ancient folklore, protect against evil spirits and curses. Richy explains: ‘A lot of my designs are very architectural and geometric, but customers sometimes ask for something more natural-looking and organic. Sean is fascinated by mysticism and we feel these hagstone tables are really special, using rare marbles sourced from the British Isles and finished by our hand-sculpted textured brass legs.’

Richy is also due to announce an exhibition in London in spring 2024, to showcase the company’s products, and hopes to one day have a permanent showroom in the capital. ‘I want to show what the north-east can do,’ he says. ‘I’m so hugely inspired by the heritage of my home region – it was once one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution. We’ve built a team of highly- skilled craftsmen who really push themselves to create beautiful things with their hands.’

The firm recently joined The Guild of Master Craftsmen as another way to display its commitment to high quality. Richy adds: ‘We are very unashamedly working-class manufacturers, but we are selling the best of the best. Our products are luxury and that is reflected in the price point. We’re very proud of what we do.’

You can get in touch with Novocastrian here:


0191 3389802