Local Brick Making.
Bricks as a building material had been used since Biblical times, it was however a labour intensive operation often performed by slave labour, costly and time consuming. Natural stone was in great supply and quarried locally it could be dressed and made fairly uniform in shape but was heavy and cumbersome to transport and use. The stone being quarried from the sandstone, limestone and grit stone bassets which form part of the geology of the area. Brick had two things going in its favour; firstly the abundant supply of clays available and secondly and simply the fact that bricks could be held in the hand of one person. A novel form of taxation was once levied on bricks which led to the formation of a brick which was twice the standard size. Twice the size but half the tax.
Bricks were originally all hand made and as such were not always uniform in shape although the wooden mould used to shape them was. Brick is documented throughout the building of many local stately homes and houses, and were used in fairly large numbers in the building of Bolsover Castle and the Halls of Sutton and Hardwick. Stone was the main building material but brick was the status symbol of the era. When Richard Arkwright (Senior, later to become Sir), built the works and workers cottages at Cromford near Matlock he incorporated brickwork into the buildings as a show of his artistic flair and prosperity.
As coal was one of the main industries in the area and clay formed part of the underlying strata associated with the geology of the coal seams, it was inevitable that the two would go hand in hand. Potteries and brick working grew up with the coal mining enterprises, with the shaft and tunnel support in areas of permanent use being brick lined. i.e.. The pit bottom and major main air passages underground. All the areas around the Derbyshire coalfield exploited the easily accessible clay reserves to fabricate bricks for the numerous small collieries which sprang up from the late eighteenth century onwards. Collieries at Brampton, Old Brampton and Holymoorside were no exception. Rod Knoll mine at Old Brampton mined some small coal seams but specialised in the extraction of fire clay. At Slatepitdale mine east of Stone Edge Plantation, Holymoorside, which was abandoned in 1895. Had within its boundaries the Stone Edge Clay Pit (abandoned 1927). And the Sitwell Clay Pit (abandoned 1926). Another important mineral mined in the area was Ganister, which is a siliceous rock (high silica content) which when mixed with clay gave materials produced from it fireproof qualities which could be used as fire brick linings for furnaces and kilns. One such mine which extracted the ganister was the Nab Wood Ganister mine found at Walton.
Calow Colliery had a brickworks on Church Lane, many old bricks make up the access road on the site of the old works. The Allpits Collieries had clay pits and works on Blacksmiths Lane, a pond and arable field are all that is left of the site. The Adelphi mines of the Smith family on Duckmanton moor had clay pits and brick kilns according to the Ordnance Survey maps. The collieries at Storforth Lane Birdholme, were served with a brickworks at the side of the railway line from Clay Cross to Chesterfield. A brickworks existed on Pottery Lane, Whittington Moor, near to Pearsons Pottery. The company extracting clay from its coal mines at Barlow, Cutthorpe, Dunston, Newbold and the Whittington area. With brickworks nearby at Dunston. Also in the area was Tapton Lock brickworks which served the collieries at Stonegravels and Lockoford Lane and along the Chesterfield canal. Brockwell brickyard near to Chesterfield served the Newbold collieries Later the larger collieries at Grassmoor, Bonds Main, Bolsover and Pilsley produced bricks by mechanisation on the colliery site. The list is endless.
The movement towards mechanising the brick production process was a slow one which went on steadily throughout the Industrial Revolution. One useful invention which came during the middle of the eighteenth century was the machine which was capable of compacting the clay under rollers, but the bricks were still hand made in wooden moulds. Most of the labour saving inventions came along later in the nineteenth century. One such machine which came into production in the early part of the nineteenth century and was able to mass produce a uniformed shape of brick which could produce bricks cheaply and efficiently. This 'Plastic Brick' machine as produced by companies like Messrs. Batley of Parkgate Foundry Rotherham and installed at Pilsley colliery revolutionised brick making and was capable of producing some 35,000 bricks each week for use at the colliery. Incidentally up until the early 1980's most local collieries employed a team of bricklayers to work underground.
Every colliery needed thousands of bricks for roadway support and shaft lining and because of the movement towards larger collieries and larger workforces housing for colliery workers was embarked upon. Most of the newer collieries of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries built colliery housing using their own made bricks. The Bolsover colliery company building the 'Model Village' project at New Bolsover using bricks made at Bolsover colliery and the Byron or Bathurst Main brickworks producing further materials for the building of Carr Vale an overspill for local industrial workers dwellings. The Barlow collieries built a row of terraced houses (Rutland Terrace) in the late nineteenth century to house its workforce. The Barrow Hill, Speedwell, Calow Green, Bole Hill, Arkwright and Poolsbrook villages were set up along with many others to house the Staveley company workforce.
The local railway companies purchased millions of locally made bricks for housing and bridge building projects, many of these were the waterproof blue-glazed engineering bricks which were put to use supporting enbankments and bridges and then capped off with a dressed stone block.
The brick making clay was extracted from surface clay holes, a type of opencast mining, by boring and firing of explosives. The clay thus extracted would be ground and mixed with water. The clay would then be pressed and formed into moulds, dried and then fired in ovens. Several types of bricks were manufactured from the clays of the mudstones, silty mudstones and siltstones which were found above the coal seams. The finished bricks would then be stacked or loaded into railway waggons ready for transporting.
The following is typical of a local late nineteenth century brick manufacturer.
From The Derbyshire Times.
After the death of the owner a Charles Baker in 1890 the Bathurst Firestone and Brick Company, held under lease from Earl Bathurst and his Trustees under a lease taken out on the 31st. December 1895 for forty years at £100 per annum rent, since reduced to £50 was put up for auction. The Auction was held at the Angel Hotel Chesterfield on Saturday April 5th. 1890 the works were sold as a going concern and included a mine.
In 1893 the works were again put up for auction again by Messrs. Byron and Rangley on October 28th 1893 at 3:00 pm. Again at the Angel Hotel Chesterfield. Property includes a Newcastle kiln with production capabilities of 100,000 bricks per week with a new chimney. Two Galloway boilers and a well for water for the works which was thirty feet deep. An engine house, drying shed, tramway to footril and winding engine. Along with other portable plant. The works is capable of producing 120,000 bricks per week in total. The works is connected to the Doe Lea Branch line of the Midland Railway by sidings and access is made by a good road.
Once again the works is put up for auction as a going concern and is again to be sold by auction at the Angel Hotel Chesterfield on February 1st. 1896. By agreement with Pearson and Sons contractors which runs out at the end of June next. Property includes kilns, drying sheds, two eight foot clay pans and fifteen inch rollers, pug mill, brick press, stone crusher, two Galloway boilers, two cottages and the works. The supply of clay is almost unlimited and is thick and of excellent quality. There is a high demand for bricks locally for workers cottages works and underground use with the extensive coal field building programmes at Bolsover, Creswell, Shirebrook and Warsop.
New Byron Brick Company. Palterton.
Blue engineering bricks used by the railway companies. 1895.