History of Sussex Asphalte
Sussex Asphalte is a family owned company that was formed in 1948 and has been continuously trading for 70 years.
The Company’s roots date back further, to the late nineteenth century and the Italian tradition for asphalting that has produced four generations of asphalters, to the current Company Directors, Julian and Matthew Coulter.
Julian and Matthew are the grandsons of Joseph Secchi, founder of Sussex Asphalte. Their mother, Eliana Coulter took over the running of the company with her brother Sid, in the early 1960’s and successfully built the company up over the intervening years.
Throughout its growth, Sussex Asphalte have stayed loyal to the principles of high-quality work that remains the hallmark of their reputation
Eli with Matt LeTissier & Paul
Eli, Matthew, Julian & Sid
Mastic Asphalt Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 – Eliana Coulter
In October 2017 Eliana Coulter sadly passed away after a short illness. Earlier in 2017 Eli’s contribution to the Roofing Industry was recognised by her peers at the Mastic Asphalt Council Annual Award Ceremony where she received the John Blowers Award for Lifetime Achievement.
The commendation that accompanied Eli’s Lifetime Achievement Award is reproduced here:
Eli took her first steps in the asphalting trade as a teenager doing time sheets and typing up quotes. She increasingly found herself doing a variety of jobs for the company, initially on a part time basis alongside her Convent schooling and full-time work.
In 1961 Eli’s father passed away and she was “thrown in at the deep end” having to learn all aspects of running the business while her brother Sid was on the tools. Eli had to learn quickly about measurements, design, estimating, and contracting, but she also got her hands dirty, regularly going to sites to deliver and collect materials at the end of the working day in the office.
Eli admits that in the early days some of her learning was a bit trial and error, but she found the support and advice of the Mastic Asphalt Council invaluable. In turn Sussex Asphalte has been an enthusiastic supporter of MAC.
Although she was a woman in what many would see as a male dominated trade, Eli never found it a disadvantage – anyone who worked with Eli knows she could hold her own in the asphalting trade.
She got on with the hard work of running the business, developing great working relationships with customers and contractors, and building an excellent reputation.
In terms of running a family business, Eli enjoyed support from her family, with everyone getting stuck in, sharing a real passion for the business and the asphalt trade. In some ways running the family business and raising a family merged. The business was family and the family was business which often meant the family working all hours to the support the business and each other.
Eli commented “you lived and breathed a family business 24/7 – it was your life”.
Eli’s husband Phil joined the company in 1969, and in the same way Eli and Sid helped their father during their school holidays, so her children Julian and Matthew followed suit.
Naturally Eli’s long career in the asphalt trade has seen many changes, with improvements in health and safety and the care of the workforce as being the most significant. Of course, technology has changed a lot as well. Eli recalled a two-ton mixer that looked like Stephenson’s Rocket. It took four hours to charge using wood and coke and was often looked after by a night man who would keep it going over night, getting occasional sleep under the mixer.
Eli on mixer circa 1960
To Eli the key to being a successful business was simple, there are four priorities that are more important than anything else:
- Ensuring high quality work;
- Taking care of and investing in your workforce;
- Looking after your customers;
- Having good relationships with your suppliers.
The commitment to high-quality work has been the hallmark of Sussex Asphalte over the years and when it comes to maintaining standards when laying asphalt Eli recalled a motto of her father that is as important to today as it was in 1948:
“You’ve got to believe it’s right. If you don’t believe it’s right, don’t do it.”
Looking back on her career Eli had much to be proud of and her personal highlights reflected her business priorities.
She delighted in the number of satisfied customers the company has worked with over the years.
Seeing her children Julian and Matthew become top quality asphalt tradesmen and taking over and growing the Sussex Asphalte business was a great source of personal pride to her.
The company securing contracts on some of the country’s most important monuments is another highlight, especially the work on St Paul’s Cathedral, which she described as a “crowning glory”.
Eli could rightly look back on her own hard work with a great deal of pride, building a successful business that continues to flourish today, while maintaining the traditions of the Asphalt trade.
Commitment to local employment and workforce development.
At the current time, Sussex Asphalte directly employs over 30 staff all of whom live in the Sussex area, thereby making a significant contribution to local employment and the local economy.
Sussex Asphalte is committed to the training and professional development of its workforce, supporting staff to undertake apprenticeships and professional qualifications. For example, we currently have three members of staff undertaking the Mastic Asphalt Apprenticeship at Hackney Community College.
In keeping with the example set by Eli, Sussex Asphalte’s workforce includes five women who have excellent knowledge and experience of the flat roofing industry
Sussex Asphalte is committed to working with local contractors and local supply chains subcontracting specialist services such as scaffolding to local companies wherever possible.
Community Work and Corporate Sponsorship
Sussex Asphalte is committed to supporting its staff and the communities we work in and we have recently produced a Social Value Statement that identifies what we do to contribute to economic, social and environmental wellbeing locally.
Here are some of the highlights of our Social Value work.
- Local Employment – we directly employ over 25 staff who all live in the BN post code area.
- We act as a gateway for young people into the construction industry with a third of our employees aged 18 – 25.
- We have five staff on Apprenticeship courses, four of whom are under 25.
- In addition to Apprenticeships, all of our staff benefit from a comprehensive training programme, including becoming approved installers for a range roofing materials.
- Supporting the local supply chain – wherever possible the sub-contractors we use are Sussex based.
- We have signed up to the Prompt Payment Code to support our suppliers.
- Work Experience – we are working with a local College to offer work experience opportunities.
Social and Wellbeing:
- Our staff receive Mental Health Awareness training and we are looking into signing up to the Construction “Building Mental Health” Charter.
- We are working with the Voluntary and Community Sectors in Brighton and Hove, Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden to make volunteering offers.
- Supporting Pyecombe Parish Council in a community project.
- Provided volunteering time to support the refurbishment of the Easthill Park Community Café an initiative to help young people into employment, provide education, enhance the park environment and support community cohesion in Portslade.
- Funded training kit for Lancing United Colts.
- Held a Charity Golf Day and Auction, and run the Worthing 10k to raise money for St Barnabas House and Teenage Cancer Trust
- Installed an Automated External Defibrillator at our yard in Pyecombe which is on the South Downs Way route.
- We recycle materials such as wooden pallets and spare roofing felt so that they don’t enter the waste stream.
- We promote the use of Mastic Asphalt which was the first industry in the world to achieve carbon-zero status.
- We have committed to end the use of Single Use Plastics
- By relocating our yard to an edge of town site, we have reduced traffic, congestion and air pollution at our previous constrained town centre site.
- By having a larger site, we have reduced the number of deliveries and traffic movement to/from our yard.
Sussex Asphalte are the corporate sponsors of two Premiership Football Clubs: Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton and Hove Albion, having supported the Seagulls since their new ground, the American Express Community Stadium, opened in 2011. In the 2017/18 season Sussex Asphalte sponsored the game between Spurs and the Albion at Wembley Stadium.