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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Brickyards, Bricks, and Clay.


There can't be many families, in our region, who, at one time or another, didn't have members who made Bricks. From Lye to Langley, and from Blackheath to Bloxwich, there was not an area that did not possess a Brickyard. As the region expanded, the need for building materials grew steadily. Blessed with an abundence of clay, an incalculable number of house and fire bricks were turned out, in a never ending flood. All made labouriously by hand, and employing thousands of women.



Some spent a lifetime in this trade, for there was very little else, a women could do, to earn money. Young girls, from the age of seven, started out as " Pages ", fetching and carrying the wet clay, to the work benches, where it was formed into bricks. Sometimes, as much as 14 tons a day had to be carried, clasped in their arms, and balanced on their heads. As females, they were unrecognizable, covered as they were, from head to foot in the sticky clay. They had a strange shuffling gait, and most were either bow-legged, knock-kneed, or had a pronounced hump-back. Once in this condition, it was there for life, short as life was in the 1850s. Higher up the scale, was the " Queen ", this was the woman who formed the bricks, and by whom the " pages " were paid. Whoa betide any page, who was slow bringing clay, or clumsy enough to drop, and spoil the finished bricks. Harsh treatment was dished out, even if they happened to be related. The hours were long as well, up to 15 hours, for the days quota was sometimes interrupted by bad weather, and rain also spoiled the drying bricks. The pay, for a typical 12 year old, was 4s 0d a week, which entailed working at least 75 hours, an avarage of about a half-penny an hour. No wonder some called the working conditions " worse than Egyptian slave labour ".

May 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404



The raw material for brickmaking, varied enormously across the region, Lye, Stourbridge, Ambelecote, and a few other small spots, were lucky to have deposits of Fireclay. Strange as it may seem, this clay had to be mined from great depths, just like coal. Whitley Colliery, just outside Halesowen, started as a coal mine, but was much more profitable mining clay. Nagersfield Colliery, just off Brettell Lane, was another. From the same area, came the material which went into the production of the glass house pots, vital to glass production. Prior to about 1740, most bricks were of the " narrow " variety, examples of which can be seen in the construction of Haden Hall, Old Hill. Come the boom years, and speed was needed to build as quickly as possible, so the 'eleven pound' brick became standard. Less bricks to lay, the quicker the build time. Not only did they make bricks, but Coping Stones, Wall toppings, Paving slabs, and even Gate Posts, were produced. In fact, and this was a proud boast, anything that could be cast in the Iron Foundries, could be made from clay. Well, almost. The one thing which gave the Industry a good start, was the construction of the Canals. Millions of bricks went into lining the sides, and many more millions into the bridges, and locks. A vast engineering project, that today we barely notice, but must have been the equivalent, of man walking on the moon at the time. A look at some old maps, will show that many other brickworks, sprang up along the routes of the canals, all around the Black Country. All this, from a work force of mainly Women and young girls, poorly paid, and at some dreadful cost to their health. Not for nothing were they discribed as " Brickfield Midgets ". Turning out 3,000 bricks per day, each " team ", was paid 3s 0d. ( about 30 pence today ) From the age of 12, working barefoot, they were expected, to carry up to 15 tons of wet clay a day, not the team as whole mind, but each child employed by the team leader, who had at least three helpers. It wasn't only the Nailers and Chainmakers who suffered hardships, a fact we should not lose sight of. Despite all the scars that were visible across the landscape, not much can be seen today. Just like the old mines, time and development have removed all the traces. The old " Marleholes " we used to play in have all been filled in, mostly with the rubbish, thrown away by a society which prospered from the hard work of our ancesters. What goes around, as they say, comes around.



It was Fireclay, which made a few lucky people very rich. The owners of land, once the clay had been had been found, had a ready market for it. The likes of Lord Foley, and Lord Dudley, as well as the families of Hickman, and Waldron, sold the product, at 34 shillings a ton. Mostly via Stourport, and down the Severn to Bristol and beyond. The brickworks of Stourbridge and district, in the 1850s, used 46,000 tons of clay, at the then price of 55 shillings a ton, producing a variety of furnace bricks. George King Harrison, ( the King of Clay ) who owned Perrins & Harrison, of Lye, included in his operations, the Brettell Lane, and Nagersfield Colliery and Brickworks.



As a measure of why he was called King of Clay, he never allowed his stock of maturing clay, to fall below 50,000 tons. Another large concern, Harris and Pearson, at nearby Ambelecote, became to large for their site, and so bought a bigger one, and built new works. At one time they had four pits in operation, and mining rights over a hundred further acres.The work force ran into hundreds, some of them having been with the firm for 40 years or more. As a tribute to the hardwearing and durability of their products, the Office they constructed, in 1888, in Brettell Lane, is still standing. It's still looks to be in immaculate condition, although the rest has long gone. One of the many firms in the region, that could be described,as a true Family Firm, in the old tradition.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 9, 2011 at 3:51 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

A delve through the records on the subject of Brickyards, shows that around 1840, there were over 750 Brickmakers in the region. Most of them were fairly small concerns, moving on when the local clay was exhuasted, and opening another one close by. No wonder we had so many holes in the ground. To account for the apparent large number, it should be born in mind that there were also over 2,000 Bricklayers, working their socks off, to meet the ever expanding need for housing. Well not all of them, a good many, with money in their pockets, would probably have spent a lot of time in the 2,000 pubs and beer house's. Some of which no doubt, they had built earlier, got to get the priorities right.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 9, 2011 at 11:33 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now, I asked myself, which area had the most Brickyards, and I was surprised at the result. Oldbury, Worcestershire. In 1866, with a boom in housing, workshops, and industry in general, the market for bricks was immense. Oldbury, at this time, had no less than 7 Brickyards, and the conditions for the mainly female workforce were appalling. Not withstanding, that the clay was now mixed by a machine called a " Pug Mill " , the young girls who carried the clay to the moulding tables, had a very hard life. The going rate for moulding bricks was from 2 s 10d, to 3 shilling a thousand. Working flat out, from 6am to 6pm, and sometimes 8pm, a good moulder could turn out 2,000 brick a day. In order to do this, the young girls had to carry, sometimes up steep slopes, between 8 and 10 tons of clay per day. They then had to lay out the moulded bricks to dry, and before starting work the next day, had to load the bricks on barrows, and take them to the Kiln. The girls started in the trade from about 7 years old, usually working for older siblings, or their parents. There are several recorded instances, of girls as young as 4, helping out in the yards. Less than one in ten ever went to school, and some of them didn't even know how old they were, as they couldn't read or write. This is the only group of females, who had a worse reputation than the women who worked the pit banks. Foul mouthed, rough, and forever in the towns beershops, they were the constant target of the more enlightened citizens of Oldbury, who campaigned long and hard, to eradicate this blot on the landscape. All to no avail at the time, there was simple no other work the women could do.Some of the owners will be familier to people interested in the subject of mining,  for in most cases, they are one and the same.



Mr Davis's Brickyard, Greets Green, Oldbury.

The manager was Samuel Pickley, who stated that they employed 15 moulders, and over 40 girls, all of whom swore like troopers, and drank like fish. Amongst the workforce were, Robert Hall, (10), Ann Watling,(17), Eliza Bennett,(16), Selina Bennett,(19), Maria Bryan,(17), and her cousin, Maria Bryan,(19).


Mr George Wood's Yard.

His manager was his wife, who ensured that the youngest girl in the yard was 11. They had 4 moulders, and employed 15 girls. She tried to ban swearing during working hours, but gave it up as bad job.


Mr Joseph Kendrick's Yard.

The manager here was William Langfort, said they had 5 moulders, and employed a further 30 girls in the yard, non of them younger than 10 years old. Eliza Astyn,(17), her sister, Maryanne Astyn, who was 8, and as a helper, their younger sister, who was just turned 4. Mr Langfort declined to say anything else.


Mr James Saddlers Yard.

James Hale was the manager, and they had a least 10 moulders, and over 40 girls in the yard, some of whom didn't know how old they were. Elizabeth Heardman,20), Mary Holden,(16?), Mary Tonks,(17), Susanna Garotty,(11?), Rosina Williams, (17?), Maria Hardy,(10), and Selina Parkes, (10?).


Mr Astyns Yard.

There didn't appear to be a manager here, or at least nobody owned to being in charge. They had 6 moulders, and at least 25 young girls in the yard, plus a couple of boys. Jeremiah Laughlin,(9?), George Rose,(7?), who started at the yard when he was 4, and Betty Hoghead,(9?). No wonder they couldn't find the manager.


Mr William Bennett's Yard.

Again, no sign of a manager, but plenty of young girls around the yard which had 5 moulders. Ann Conner, (10?), Selina Harris, a very young looking 11.


Messers Saddler Brothers Yard.

It appeared that the manager from the other Saddlers yard, split his time between the two. Robert Whitehouse,(10) Lucy Phillips,(13), Anna Stanley,(13), were found in the yard, there were 30 others, and these were the only two who could read. But not very well they said. The owner did make a telling comment about the brick trade in Oldbury, he said that in Oldbury, they produced the cheapest bricks in the Black Country. At the prices they paid for them, why am I  not surprised.


Still, taken as a whole, if you discount the humped backs, the constant headaches, the bandy legs, and the arthritis from all that damp, it was a healthier lifestyle than most. Well, thats how they looked at it.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 23, 2011 at 4:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

By far the largest Clay pit that can still be seen, is the old Doulton Pit, in the now smoke free atmosphre, of sunny Salt Wells, Netherton. The rock strata has been exposed by many years of extraction, and the area has now been taken over by mother nature. Doultons of course, made a few thousand miles of drain pipes, and other products from the excellent clay bed, at their factory, " over the border ",  in Rowley Regis. Most of the bricks, that went to line the famous Netherton Canal Tunnel, (incidently, the only one in the country with a towpath on each side ) were made locally, and the fuel to power the kilns was mined at the nearby Primrose and Yew Tree Collieries, both within the old parish boundries. ( after 1865, it was merged with Dudley, and lost the status ) The large body of water above the clay pit, Lodge Farm Reservoir, was created to feed the canal with runs partly around it's edge. Pictures in the Images from the Forums Album.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 27, 2012 at 10:02 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Not so far from the Doulton Works, stood the Thornleigh Works of the Stourbridge Glazed Brick Company. A rather strange name for a company, which was located in Blowers Green, Dudley. Nothing strange about their products though, Tiles, millions of them, turned out every year for a whole variety of uses, mainly connected with water. SGB, who also installed their wares, had Tiles for Pit head Showers, Swimming Baths, Breweries, Chemical Works, Public Toilets, in fact anywhere that required waterproofing. Some jobs, like fitting out I C I at Redcar, involved over 6 years work. The Directors also set up a small firm to deal with the delivery of the products, Blowers Green Transport, which used the excellent " Sentinel " steam waggon for the task. Before the advent of pressed steel baths, SGB made their own, 3 inches thick, and weighing 5 cwt. They were so tough and heavy, when they were later removed, they had to be broken up with sledge hammers. They also made a full range of Toilet fittings, which can still be seen in Blackpool Public Baths. Progress however, eventually caught up with the company, and in 1959 the firm closed. By 1960, the site had mostly been cleared and today there is an Industrial Estate on the land. At least the name lives on, as Thornleigh Trading Estate.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 28, 2012 at 2:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Shutter Bug
Member
Posts: 2

Great research and history.

There's two Dudley brickworks are remember right away out of the many in the area; Gibbons Brickworks 1834 - 1980s, Gornal, Dudley.


Kettley Brick and Dreadnought Tiles, Pensnett, Dudley, 1805 - present, began manufacturing clay roof tiles in 1805 and have continued production on the same site ever since. The company's objective was to manufacture the finest plain clay roof tiles available. They use Etruria Marl clay from there own quarry, found in the seam running through the area located close by.

May 11, 2012 at 4:18 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

On the same subject, Dreadnought Brick and Tiles, I came across this magazine picture from the 1920s. Now I know a lot of folk have relatives, who spent many years of their lives making bricks, and this picture comes with a few names.



There are a few names missing from the group, which may have been taken as a promotion item for the firm. A this time it was owned by Hinton, Perry,and Davenhill, and thats Mr Perry on the right, the only male in the picture. On the Back Row from the left; Molly Hughes, May Walker, Annie Hughes, Daisy Hill, not named, Ethel West, Lily Marsh, Daisy Hampton, Minnie Caswell. In the middle row from the left, ? Beck, Sally Taylor, Louis Malpass, Mirre Malpass, next two not named, Elsie Bonser, Mr Perry. On the front row from the left, Mary Jones, Sally Cook, Eliza Taylor, Lizzie Bates, Linda Abbis, next two not named, Alice Marsh, not named, Bertha Flavell. If anyone has anymore info on this famous Pensnett firm, do let me know.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 4, 2013 at 3:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Here's little fact you may not know about Bricks. When George III was on the throne, he got into a little difficulty with those pesky Yankee's just over the big pond. It dragged on a bit, and poor old George found himself a bit short of the readies. He did though have a rather brainy advisor, who suggested, that with all the building going on in London and elsewhere, he should impose a Tax on Bricks. Capital idea thought the King, in one of his more lucid moments, and so they did. The first levy on the Brickmakers, was 4 shillings per thousand Bricks sold, but the Tax, as any other Tax, was not popular. The Brickmakers struck back, and increased the size of the bricks, so not so many would be needed for each house, reducing the cost of building, and more importantly, reducing the amount they would have to pay. The King's Government struck back by specifying the volume of the bricks, and thats when a grove appeared in the top of the bricks. There was a steady increase in this Tax until 1805, when it settled on 5 shillings and 10 pence per thousand, and a truce was called. As the rate of house building increased, the brick makers began to agitate for the Tax to go, and in 1850, the act of 1784 was repealed, and the hated Tax was finally abolished. And I bet you thought it was a simple process, making bricks.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 16, 2013 at 3:48 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Strange as it is to relate, but there are, around the world, people who have an interest in Bricks. Yes, you did read that correctly, good old fashioned bricks. It's all to do with the names you see, for many Brickmakers of old, stamped their bricks as an advertising ploy. For those who are still reading this far, there are many different kinds and types of brick, and they all chart the progress of industry, in each area they were made in. Many men, spent their entire working lives making bricks, and amongst them, are one or two, who collected them from where they worked, and from other local companies. Now I can't tell you where the photograph that appears below was taken, nor the name of the gentleman who owns said bricks, but as you can see, he made good use of what he spent a few years collecting.



There are great many local Brickmakers Names incorporated into that wall, and I wish I had a picture of the other side of the wall. What I can tell you, is that it stands in the garden of a house somewhere around Lye, not a professionly built wall mind, but there again, it's someones little hobby. Just to round off the subject, I have included a few examples of the local brickmakers art.




Not to everyones taste I suspect, but a part of the rich social history that binds the industrial area we call The Black Country together. Oh, and I almost forgot, we also made the trowels and shovels that the Bricklayers used as well.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 2, 2013 at 10:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now I did say that I would like to see a picture of the other side of that wall, and Member Colin Wooldridge hasn't let me down. Not quite what I was expecting, but a fantastic use of the area's local products, and it comes with a sense of humour beside's. Non of us are here forever, and I'm glad to see, that in the short span alloted to us all, some make the most of it, and leave a mark. Enduring things are a pile of old bricks.



To finish off this little item, Colin has also sent me a little poem. Now it's not often that I include poetry, but this one will be dedicated to someone, sadly, no longer with us, as he died earlier this year. Simple, and to the point, is how it could be described, a few words that aptly sums up the folk of the region as well.




Very well put John, R.I.P.


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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Pedro
Member
Posts: 25

Alaska. at October 23, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Now, I asked myself, which area had the most Brickyards, and I was surprised at the result. Oldbury, Worcestershire. In 1866, with a boom in housing, workshops, and industry in general, the market for bricks was immense. Oldbury, at this time, had no less than 7 Brickyards, and the conditions for the mainly female workforce were appalling. Not withstanding, that the clay was now mixed by a machine called a " Pug Mill " , the young girls who carried the clay to the moulding tables, had a very hard life. The going rate for moulding bricks was from 2 s 10d, to 3 shilling a thousand. Working flat out, from 6am to 6pm, and sometimes 8pm, a good moulder could turn out 2,000 brick a day. In order to do this, the young girls had to carry, sometimes up steep slopes, between 8 and 10 tons of clay per day. They then had to lay out the moulded bricks to dry, and before starting work the next day, had to load the bricks on barrows, and take them to the Kiln. The girls started in the trade from about 7 years old, usually working for older siblings, or their parents. There are several recorded instances, of girls as young as 4, helping out in the yards. Less than one in ten ever went to school, and some of them didn't even know how old they were, as they couldn't read or write. This is the only group of females, who had a worse reputation than the women who worked the pit banks. Foul mouthed, rough, and forever in the towns beershops, they were the constant target of the more enlightened citizens of Oldbury, who campaigned long and hard, to eradicate this blot on the landscape. All to no avail at the time, there was simple no other work the women could do.Some of the owners will be familier to people interested in the subject of mining,  for in most cases, they are one and the same.



Mr Davis's Brickyard, Greets Green, Oldbury.

The manager was Samuel Pickley, who stated that they employed 15 moulders, and over 40 girls, all of whom swore like troopers, and drank like fish. Amongst the workforce were, Robert Hall, (10), Ann Watling,(17), Eliza Bennett,(16), Selina Bennett,(19), Maria Bryan,(17), and her cousin, Maria Bryan,(19).


Mr George Wood's Yard.

His manager was his wife, who ensured that the youngest girl in the yard was 11. They had 4 moulders, and employed 15 girls. She tried to ban swearing during working hours, but gave it up as bad job.


Mr Joseph Kendrick's Yard.

The manager here was William Langfort, said they had 5 moulders, and employed a further 30 girls in the yard, non of them younger than 10 years old. Eliza Astyn,(17), her sister, Maryanne Astyn, who was 8, and as a helper, their younger sister, who was just turned 4. Mr Langfort declined to say anything else.


Mr James Saddlers Yard.

James Hale was the manager, and they had a least 10 moulders, and over 40 girls in the yard, some of whom didn't know how old they were. Elizabeth Heardman,20), Mary Holden,(16?), Mary Tonks,(17), Susanna Garotty,(11?), Rosina Williams, (17?), Maria Hardy,(10), and Selina Parkes, (10?).


Mr Astyns Yard.

There didn't appear to be a manager here, or at least nobody owned to being in charge. They had 6 moulders, and at least 25 young girls in the yard, plus a couple of boys. Jeremiah Laughlin,(9?), George Rose,(7?), who started at the yard when he was 4, and Betty Hoghead,(9?). No wonder they couldn't find the manager.


Mr William Bennett's Yard.

Again, no sign of a manager, but plenty of young girls around the yard which had 5 moulders. Ann Conner, (10?), Selina Harris, a very young looking 11.


Messers Saddler Brothers Yard.

It appeared that the manager from the other Saddlers yard, split his time between the two. Robert Whitehouse,(10) Lucy Phillips,(13), Anna Stanley,(13), were found in the yard, there were 30 others, and these were the only two who could read. But not very well they said. The owner did make a telling comment about the brick trade in Oldbury, he said that in Oldbury, they produced the cheapest bricks in the Black Country. At the prices they paid for them, why am I  not surprised.


Still, taken as a whole, if you discount the humped backs, the constant headaches, the bandy legs, and the arthritis from all that damp, it was a healthier lifestyle than most. Well, thats how they looked at it.

In 1876 GTL Blenkinsopp, Factories Inspector, gave a vivid picture of his difficulties...... Oldbury was one of the chief brick making towns and there everyone's hand was against him. From The time he got out of the train, the news of his arrival was sent to every brickyard and the girls concealed. He then tried various other methods such as getting off the train at a previous station and driving to Oldbury in a closed carriage. But he would only touch one brick master and all the rest would be informed. Some Masters of large brickworks concealed girls in barges on the canals....

 

…."In one brickworks I found two girls concealed in a hay loft, so I searched the place. At the top of the flue was a box for concealing children. As I approached the occupier said that there was no need to look there as there were only bricks placed to dry. I then knew the scent was warm. I looked over the top of the bricks and could see nothing. Fortunately I had a box of matches and put a match on the top of the bricks. Immediately seven children stood up and began to cry furiously because they had been told that the Inspector would take them to prison or eat them. News was sent to the parents who seized me from behind and their children were rescued. The opposition was organised by the masters promising the parents to pay half the fine. If I had shown the slightest sign of yielding the law would have been a dead letter.”

 

(Social Conditions in the Black Country 1800-1900…Barnsby)

November 18, 2015 at 3:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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