Posted February 1st, 2012
by Richard Savage
Sunrise over Lower Lakes is a lovely scene. Every morning is different, as you can see from these photos, but each marks the beginning of a new day.
Sunrise over Lodge Lake
Sunrise over Lower Lakes on 1st Feb 2012
This morning, after my visit to the Brick and Tile Museum yesterday, I mused about the beginning and the end of that industrial era in Bridgwater. Probably local people had fired their own bricks from clay for centuries, but records show that from 1683 bricks and tiles were ordered to build and repair public property such as the almshouses, and in 1699 two thousand tiles were ordered for building work at Hestercombe, and probably came from Hamp. In the 18th century Bridgwater supplied thousands of bricks to South Wales. In 1769, Samuel Glover’s brickyard at Hamp supplied bricks at 16 shillings per 1000 and pantiles at 40 shillings. He had his own ships, which not only exported the bricks but also imported anthracite coal dust fromWales to fire the kilns.
The industry flourished during the 19th century. Typical Bridgwater bricks became standardized at 8½ inches by 4 inches by 2 and 5/8 inches thick with 20 holes in 3 rows of 7-6-7 holes, which made them lighter and easier to handle, and also provided a key for the mortar. During the 20th century there were 18 works and factories alongside the River Parrett from Dunwear to Chilton Trinity
There is an account of the end of the end of the Brick and Tile industry in the excellent “History of Bridgwater” compiled by J.F. Lawrence, and completed by his son Dr. Chris Lawrence, which makes very interesting reading. Much of what I write now is taken from this book.
Chilton Trinity brickworks in the 19th century (by kind permission of the Somerset Brick and Tile Museum)
Chilton Brickworks in 2011
In the 1920s the London Brick Company who owned enormous sources of clay in Bedfordshire and had mass production methods giving a uniformity of product that Bridgwater did not have, started to get the monopoly over brick production. Bath Brick manufacture was also declining, being superseded by more gentle abrasive powders. Bridgwater could also not meet the challenge of cheap machine-made tiles imported from France for use in council housing schemes in 1929, although hand-made pantiles were still in demand, being more attractive and no more expensive. However, after the Second World War the introduction of concrete tiles and cheaper concrete blocks led to the eventual demise of the Bridgwater Brick and Tile Industry, plus the fact that much of the best clay was exhausted. One by one the last operating companies closed down, until the last one, Barham Bros., stopped production in 1964, a sad day for the local economy.
The remnants of the wharf at East Quay, where Barham Bros. used to be
As the sun sets over Lower Lakes, and the flooded clay pits conceal what was once a flourishing source of income for the town, we must look forward to a new day and see what the hard-working people of Bridgwater can do next for the welfare and prosperity of our ancient town and community. May what we can learn from the past help to inspire the young people who are our future.It would be very interesting to receive further information from Bridgwater residents who were once involved with the industry, to share their memories of what it was like to work in the Brick and Tile Industry.
Sunset over Lower Lakes
Sunset in the west - with the hope of a new sunrise
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- Lower Lakes - Straight Drove- Chilton Trinity TA5 2BQ - Somerset - England- Telephone: 01278 - 433066- Mobile: 0752 666 84 92 - Email: click here