Brickmaking in 19th century York: a preliminary survey

By S. Garside-Neville

Acknowledgements

My thanks go to Philip Johnson (Deputy Archivist) and staff at the York City Archives for patiently retrieving documents for me, and bringing valuable items to my attention. Thanks also to the staff on the Reference Desk of York Library who disappeared into the depths of their library for me.

 

1.0 METHODOLOGY

The subject of brickworks in York during the 19th century was chosen without any knowledge of what might, if anything, be found. In York there are three main places in which local history documents may be viewed. York City Library holds trade directories for the city and the county, microfilmed newspapers, census microfilms, maps and some plans (Appendix I). It has a name index that incorporates references to people and organisations who have appeared in the York Newspapers, and sometimes census references. York City Archives (run by York City Council) hold maps, plans, documents, and photographs (Appendix II and III). Its indexes include name, place, the City Engineer's Index (which refers to plans) and the Town Clerk's "3" index (which lists legal documents connected with the City). There is an overlap between these two organisations, in particular with maps and plans. It is difficult to see why the York City Library holds the same sort of plans that the Archives does. Certainly, it would be more convenient to have the two groups of sources in the same place, though fortunately the two buildings are not physically far apart. The Borthwick Institute holds mainly parish records, which were not consulted during this project. Brickmaking has several facets to explore: people, business, buildings, and products. With this in mind, it was obvious that sources such as trade directories, maps, plans, photographs and newspapers should be consulted.

 

1.1 Primary Sources

Trade directories

These were chosen as the place to start, in the hope that finding the names of local brickmakers might lead to other sources. The directories are not comprehensive in their listings as brickmakers could choose whether to advertise under the trade listings, and some names only appear periodically, particularly in the later listings. Also, the area of coverage was of some concern, with areas being added to York during the 19th century, so that some brickmakers may not have been included until a later date. The earliest listings, in the late 18th century, were in alphabetical name order, with the trade at the end of the entry, which made searching very laborious. By the 19th century, there were listings under the trade, name and street. It was found that name listings often added to the amount of information already gathered, with the brickmaker's residence and any other trade activities often being included. A listing of brickmakers during the chosen period can be found in Appendix IV. This gave an idea of how many brickmakers were operational during the 19th century. In particular, the areas in which they worked were made plain.

 

Maps

Ordnance Survey (OS) maps are crucial in showing the position of the brickworks, and where the brickmakers lived. The earliest OS available was that of 1852, with a large scale of five feet to one mile. Apart from being beautifully hand coloured, this shows the layout of the city in great detail, including the position of the various brickworks in or near the city. Later maps available were at a more manageable scale of six inches to one mile, so that it is easier to see the changes of name and position over time. However, another large-scale map of 1892 is very revealing as to the position of brickwork buildings in the major brickwork area off Lawrence St. There are also other maps, such as Bacon's of c1912, which fill in the intervening years between OS map updates.

 

Plans and documents

The searching of the Archives' indexes, armed with the names of brickmakers from the trade directories, produced references to plans and documents. The Town Clerk's "3" Index was arranged in alphabetical order, with the earliest documents being listed in rough date order, and the more recent documents being added on as they accumulated. The documents listed included details of conveyancing, contracts for works, specifications, plans and mortgage details. However, it was quite random as to the amount of detail included within the package that was accessioned. Some items included full details of the transaction that took place, with supporting documents, while others consisted of just one item. It was necessary to view as many seemingly relevant documents as possible to access the nature of the information included. It was found that some documents were not actually at the Archives (the Town Clerk's files being copies of those held at the York City Offices), which involved requesting them directly from the Council.

 

Plans of houses were useful in pinpointing when, and by whom, the house had been built. However, it was found that this type of plan could be found in either the City Library or the City Archives. These plans were not as detailed as hoped, as they were merely to show the ground plan of the building that was to be built, and usually nothing much more.

 

Photographs

Pursuit of photographs of 19th century York brickworks proved to be the most frustrating avenues taken. The York City Archives holds a large collection, which has been indexed on computer. Now that the main areas of brickmaking were in the city were known it was easy to search on road and area names. However, this did not bring up any photos showing the brickwork or brickmakers. Of some use was the photographic record made of buildings prior to the 'slum' clearances during the 1930s - 1960s. These showed some of the houses built and lived in by the brickmakers of Hallfield Road.

 

An aerial photographic survey of York was carried out in 1936-1937 by Aerofilms Ltd. Unfortunately, they did not seem cover the relevant areas, some of which would have buildings still standing in that period, and most of which would still have had evidence of clay pits. As some buildings built, or lived in, by brickmakers are still standing today it was possible to go and take photographs.

 

Newspapers

The newspapers held by the City Library are accessible by a name index, and are on microfilm. This is a very valuable source for finding information on ownership of brickworks, prices, advertisements and people. It was vital that there was some sort of index, as having to scan a hundred years-worth of the York Herald, the York Gazette and the York Courant would have taken a very long time. However, this meant that the user had to rely on someone else to select information for the index. Sometimes the page number for the reference was given, but if not, the whole paper needed to be scanned. The print (on the microfilm) was sometimes difficult to read, particularly when having to scan the whole paper. Other problems encountered were missing reels, and the fact that there was a need to book one of the three machines in advance. However, it was very useful to have microfilm readers that were able to photocopy articles.

 

Paintings

Two examples of paintings are included in this project, although they do not illustrate York brickmaking. In the absence of photographs, these paintings are useful for providing pictorial evidence of brickmaking. There is the possibility of the work of the brickmaker being romanticised in such pictures (with the workers being portrayed as healthy, well-fed, etc. which may not have been the case), but the paintings are still useful for showing the actual process of brickmaking.

 

Other sources

There are other sources which have not been covered due to the time constraints of the project. Censuses can provide statistical details of occupations, as well as details of the brickmakers themselves - references made to census details within this project are taken from the name index of the York Library. Probate wills of brickmakers could have been a fruitful source. A listing of the person's possessions was made, which may have included any bricks in stock, machinery and buildings. Company records would have provided a great deal of information. The difficulties here were tracing the documents. The City Archives did not have any relating to the brickworks, relying on local businesses to deposit the records if they wanted to. There are no brickworks in the city now (which might have taken over any of the 19th century companies and had their records), so trying to trace these records, if they still exist would be an uphill battle.

 

Another avenue of research could be a call for people who remember brickmaking in York. This could be done through the local newspaper, or possibly through making contracts via local or family history societies. Obviously, they would not remember the 19th century brickworks, however, they may provide insight as to how the businesses were run and production methods in their time.

 

1.2 Secondary sources

Written works relevant to the project fell into approximately four categories:

 

Also, during the writing of this project, there was a series of lectures on local history themes (Appendix V). This provided the opportunity of gathering an overview of the history of the area. Unfortunately, it was not possible to attend any of these lectures due to the fact that they were sold out. There were also a series of guided tours of York Cemetery, one of which concentrated on the trades and professions (Appendix VI).

 

1.3 Project management

The aim of the project was to gain an overview of brickmaking in 19th century York, and the sources available. As there were no published sources about the industry (or indeed, any private papers written) the subject was an unknown quantity. As broad range of material as possible was covered, in an attempt to discover whether brickmaking would be mentioned or referred to. To keep track of the information, 5 x 3 inch cards were used. As the trade directories were used as a starting point, the cards were headed with the brickmaker's name or, later on, the name of the brickworks. As the various sources were consulted the information was gradually added on to the card. When writing the project it was very useful to have these cards, and sort them into brickmaking areas and then date order. Another option would have been to create a computerised database, which would have facilitated easier sorting. However, as this project was an initial exploration of appropriate sources, it would have been difficult to create the required fields before starting. Adding or subdividing, fields after starting would have proved complicated, and error prone. Fortunately, as the city of York is quite small, the amount of data accumulated was just about manageable manually. There was not time to follow up all of the names in the directories. Where the names occurred frequently over the years, it was deemed useful to try and trace any details about them as they were obviously connected with a prosperous business which might therefore have more records available (in newspapers advertisements, etc.). Due to time constraints it has not been possible to research each brickmaking area to the same level. Some information gathered has also been omitted to ensure that the project is not too long.

 

2.0 BRICKYARDS AND BRICKMAKERS

2.1 Before the 19th century

Brickmaking in York began in Roman times, in the first century AD, along with the rest of most of what is now England. Brickmaking centres are always located close to suitable brick clays. In York, the brick clays are situated in the Heworth, Layerthorpe, Dringhouses and Acomb areas. The Roman brick kilns so far identified are associated with the Roman legions are located outside the fortress in the Peasholme Green area (Betts, 1985), which leads straight to Layerthorpe. Production continued to at least the 3rd century, and possibly longer due to the amount of rebuilding that took place during the 4th century in the city. The Roman administration collapsed during the 5th century, and with it the economic infrastructure that would have supported a brickmaking industry. There is some doubt as to when brickmaking started again in Britain, but it was certainly in full swing again by the 14th century (Smith, 1985).

 

Kiln sites in York are known in Layerthorpe, Hob Moor and Clifton at this time. Brick was gradually adopted for use in house-building, but mostly for constructing chimneys and fireplaces. Most houses were timber framed and a fire risk, however, it was during the 18th century that substantial building activity using brick took place. During this period, brick kilns are known in Heworth, Hob Moor, Clifton and also a site close to Bull Lane, off Lawrence St.

 

2.2 York in the 19th century

In the early part of the 19th century, York was a city of small-scale handicraft businesses (Pugh, 1961). As the century progressed some large ventures grew, such as the railways arriving in 1839 and Rowntrees starting in 1862. In 1801 there were 2479 houses in the city and by 1841 there were 5958. The directories show that the building trades were expanding. The population grew from 16,846 in 1801, to 36,000 in 1851, and in 1891 it numbered 67,004 (Willmot, 1959). The city acquired extra areas, after being more or less confined to the area encompassed by the city walls up to the 18th century. All of the brickyards in York in the 19th century were outside the city walls. It is likely that most of the areas were producing bricks before the 19th century, but not on such a large scale as the preceding centuries

 

2.3 Hall Field, Layerthorpe

The earliest 19th century record of brickmaking in this area was that of John Morley, who took the Hall Field brickfield in 1802. Prior to this Morley had set up as a bricklayer at his father's residence in Blake St in 1780, and then became a builder by 1799. In 1809 he tried to sell the yard, but included the proviso that if he did not sell it within three weeks, he would need four staff. He did not sell it, and advertised in 1812 stating that he would have to put up the price of his stock due to 'the unfavourable commencement of the Season, which inundated his yard'. By 1830, John had died, but an Elizabeth Morley was running the yard and advertised in the directory as 'E Morley & Sisters'. In 1832, Robert Hudson, the foreman of the yard, died. He is reported as having worked for 'Morley & Co'. Elizabeth chose to dispose of the yard in 1836, and sold it to the Kidd family.

 

There were four Kidd brothers, but only two, George and Henry, were involved in the brickyard. Their father, William, was also a partner for a short time. George had been apprenticed to Isaac Martin, a joiner and carpenter. He became a freeman in 1830. Henry was apprenticed to a stone mason and was made free in 1835 (Malden, 1989). When the business first appeared in the directory, George was in partnership with his father. George's address in 1843 is given as Kidd's Lane, however, by 1846 when Henry was also mentioned, he had moved to Hallfield Road. The 1851 directory gives the address of George and Henry as 12 Hallfield Road, with William living at number 10 in the same road. This was also the last time that William was listed as a brickmaker. George died in 1852 aged 42, leaving Henry to carry on the business, which he did until at least 1872. Henry definitely built several houses in Hall Field. In 1857 he applied to build a house and submitted the plan to York Corporation (Appendix XIII). It was built and became 1 Kidd's Terrace. He also built two more houses on the terrace in 1881 (Appendix XIV). The Census of 1881 lists him as aged 69 and a retired brickmaker. The brickmaking connection of the Kidd family seemed to stop with Henry. However, George's third daughter, Maria Mary, married William Hepper, an architectural draughtsman in 1870 who is listed as owning the St Nicholas Brickyard (off Lawrence Street) in 1893.

 

John Webster initially had a pot and tile kiln in the Heworth area, however, in 1848 he put it up for sale. In 1849 he formally removed his business to the newly erected pottery at Hall Fields. The 1851 directory lists him as a brickmaker, but one who also made tunnel piping. The alphabetical listing in the directory expands on this stating that he also made chimney and garden pots. His address is given as 12 Hallfield Road. The 1851 Census states that he was a pot maker and employed six men.12 Hallfield Road must have been getting rather crowded, as George and Henry Kidd (doubtless with their families) were living there too. It was perhaps with this in mind that John Webster applied to build a house in 1852, the plans for which were not initially approved due to drainage problems (Appendix XV). By the 1871 Census, Webster was called a master pipemaker (presumably tunnel pipes?) employed three men and two boys, and lived at 7 Hallfield Road. He died in 1881, aged 80.

 

Other brickmakers associated with the Hall Field brickyards are Leeman and Thomas, P Rymer (who was also a coal merchant and owned a sloop), Andrew Bulmer (who is also listed as a merchant) and George Thomas. The 1852 five feet to one mile OS map shows the Hall Field area in great detail, pinpointing kilns and associated drying sheds. The 1853 OS map shows at least five kilns in the area. By 1893 the OS map shows no kilns, although there is a brickfield in this area, which may mean that clamp (temporary) kilns were erected there. As a brickmaking area, Hall Field appears to have developed more rapidly than the nearby Lawrence Street yards, but was probably disused by the 1880s, due in part to the railway lines running through it.

 

2.4 Heworth

Brickmakers in Heworth appear in the earliest directories of the 19th century, and continue throughout. The overall impression of the area is of a gentler pace of industry than that of Hall Field or Lawrence Street. This may be because brickmaking appears to be more of a sideline, with most of the people mentioned in the directories also making pottery or draining pipes. Robert Bewley (or Bewlay) appears from 1823 to 1838, and besides bricks he also manufactured earthenware. His address is given as Heworth Moor, or Heworth Grange, but these names are interchangeable. Robert Gibson, who appears twice in the directories (in 1830 & 1838) also advertised that he made draining pipes (Appendix XI). Henry Moiser, appearing from 1848 until 1876, made earthenware, and was also a land agent. Amongst others, John Freeman and Benjamin J Walker and Son also made pottery as well as brick.

 

2.5 Hob Moor, Dringhouses and Dringhouses Moor

These three areas are south of the city and are examined together because of their proximity and the probability that Hob Moor is often referred to, or included with, Dringhouses (see Appendix VIII). There are two brickmakers named for this area in the first, 1823, directory. James Dolby worked at Hob Moor and lived in Dringhouses. Dutton and Chapman also worked at Hob Moor at that time. Elizabeth Dutton is listed as a brickmaker in 1843 and resided at 34 Micklegate, although her yard is not specified. She may be the 'Dutton' of Dutton and Chapman, or a relative. In 1851 Eleanor Dutton, also living at 34 Micklegate, is listed as a brickmaker at Dringhouses. These two women were different people as the death of 'Mrs Dutton is announced in 1857' and the house in Micklegate and the yard is sold and an 'E Dutton' died in 1860. Perhaps they are mother and daughter, or sisters. Carrying on the female theme, a Mrs M Carr is mentioned only once in an 1857 directory, and had a yard in Dringhouses.The Simpson brothers (John, Edward, and George), according to the directories of 1857 and 1858, had a yard at Dringhouses Moor (perhaps on Moor Lane). By 1861 George was advertising alone.  James Wright advertised in 1857, and again in 1887 and also worked out at Dringhouses.

 

John and Thomas Biscomb lived in the centre of York at 9 Peckitt Street, but had brickworks out at Dringhouses Moor in 1887. They were also builders and it was Thomas in 1905, along with his & John's sons who won the contract for the building work at Poppleton Road Council School (Appendices XIX and XX).

 

John Nelson, apart from having brickworks in Dringhouses and Dringhouses Moor in 1887, and up to 1901, was also a coal merchant and a railway contractor. It is interesting to note that the brickyards in Dringhouses are close to the railway (Appendix XXI). It is very likely that the bricks were removed from the yard this way, and being a coal merchant, fuelling the circular kiln on the site would have been very easy. Unfortunately, he went bankrupt in 1902, and the brickyard at Dringhouses was put up for sale by auction. Nelson died in 1904.

 

Henry John Monson bought the Hob Moor Brickworks (clearly identifiable on the OS map in 1887. He appears in the directory of 1889 with an advertisement, but went bankrupt in 1890.The OS maps for 1909 and 1931 show the progressive expansion of the railway lines which eventually cover the area. By 1909, it is clear that both the brickworks in Dringhouses and Hob Moor had been demolished. The Dringhouses Moor brick industry appears on the OS map for 1853 and has clay pits and a brick and tile kiln. However, on the 1923 OS maps the area is shown as having disused brick and tile works. By 1959, the works have disappeared from the OS map altogether.

 

2.6 Lawrence Street

Lawrence Street appears in the directory in 1830. Christopher Hartley was working or living near a plantation. He may also be the man who is listed as a gardener (Malden, 1989) who was made a freeman in 1814. Thomas Kirby lived at 15 Lawrence Street in 1830, and was also a horse dealer. In 1841 he advertised to let his brickyard. He died in 1858.

 

South and Gray had a yard off Lawrence Street in 1848 and it could be that the South referred to in the directories is the Henry South who offered the lease of St Nicholas Brick and Tile Yard in 1854. On the 1853 OS map there are two kilns in the area. It is not clear which could be the St Nicholas yard, although the 1893 map may give a clue. However, the 1910 map gives the name of St Nicholas to the most easterly yard.

 

John Shaftoe first appears in the directories in 1851. He had a yard off Brickyard Lane, which may be that on Heywood's map of the 1860s. Originally, a stonemason, he was made a freeman in 1839. He practised his trade but also became a builder. Several of his buildings are known in York. 62-66 Monkgate (RCHME, 1975, xx; Appendix XXVI) was built in the 1840s, and was the Shaftoe family home until the 1920s. 70A and 72 Holgate Road was probably built by Shaftoe in 1850 (RCHME, 1972; Appendix XXVII). 1856 saw the building of the Priory Street Wesleyan Chapel (Shafto, 1992, xx; Appendix XXVIII). John died in 1877, and the brickyard was taken over by his wife Ann. The brickyard became identified as the St Lawrence Brickworks (see OS map 1910) in the directory towards the end of the century. In 1896 Ann brought her youngest daughter Emily in as a partner. Emily died soon after, but the firm was known as 'A & E C Shaftoe' until its demise, just before the Second World War, despite being sold in 1927. The 1920 OS map shows the St Lawrence brickworks, as does the 1937 map. St Lawrence is referred to again in 1944 when permission is sought to build new workshops and office for the manufacture of copper goods (Appendix XXXI). The yard is referred to as disused. The plan itself is useful to gauge exactly what area was considered to be part of the brickworks. By 1950 only the St Nicholas brickworks survives. Ann died in 1902, and the yard was taken over by two other Shaftoe daughters. It is possible that the Hull Road Brickworks shown on the 1910 OS maps were part of the Shaftoe's business, as the directory of 1920 gives the Shaftoe business address as Hull Road.

 

The Carey family first appear in 1858, where John Carey is also listed as being a victualler and a builder. He was also living a public house, the Spotted Dog on Walmgate. The brickworks that they owned were evidently called St Nicholas Brickyards, and were off Bull Lane. Building ventures included a house, shop and cottages in Swinegate and Grape Lane, the plans for which were submitted to the York Corporation in 1856 (Plans: Carey, 1856). The relationships of this family are hard to work out. The Misses Jane and Caroline Carey were listed as brickmakers in 1878, although the yards clearly return to the male side by 1887. A John Carey (possibly the son of the 1858 John) is last associated with brickmaking in 1889.The St Nicholas Brickyards were taken up by William Hepper by 1893. Hepper had married the daughter of George Kidd of Hall Field, and perhaps it was this connection that made him take on the yard. He was also an architect, based at 4 Spurriergate, and perhaps it made sense to be able to supply bricks to his clients as well. Charles H Hepper is listed as the manager of the yard from 1896 to at least 1909. In 1923 the yard was amalgamated with the Gale Lane, Acomb Brickyards to form the York and Acomb Brickworks. This company survived until 1962 when a winding-up notice appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Press.  The brickmaking area in Lawrence Street today is a waste land, but is being cleared up by the City Council (Appendix XXXIII).

 

Besides the large yards of St Nicholas and St Lawrence, the smaller James Street brick and tile works (Appendix XXXIV) was in production under W R Rumfitt in 1887. As was normal, Rumfitt also had other business interests and owned a tobacconist at 30 Parliament Street. He continued in brickmaking until at least 1904-6.

 

2.7 Other brickmaking areas

Acomb

The Acomb area was not subsumed into the city until 1937, however, it had a brickmaking industry, which was eventually joined with the St Nicholas Brickyards off Lawrence St. Most of the records accessed concentrated on the 20th century, although it was clear that bricks were made prior to this.

 

Huntington Road

Huntington Road is adjacent to Heworth. Wray and Moss in 1893 were builders based at 96 Lowther Street and 60 Clarence Street. They also had a brickyard at Hilda Street, off Lawrence Street. However, by 1897 Thomas Wray, who was no longer in partnership with Moss, had set up business with his sons. He set up the yard at Huntington Road, and by 1909 the yard was advertised as a 'Steam and Machine Brickworks'. Thomas died in 1906 at the age of 75 and his obituary stated that his firm were builders, bricklayers and contractors. The firm continued until at least 1967 (Yorkshire Evening Press) when it was called 'Wray and Sons York Facing Bricks Ltd' and won the contract to supply bricks to build the new Music Department at the University of York. A pamphlet, part advertising, part article can be seen in Appendix XXXV i & ii.

 

Clifton

Records for Clifton brickmaking were not forthcoming. Some brick kilns were present on the OS maps, but it is possible that any associated records will be lodged in West Yorkshire, as Clifton would have been included in the West Riding during the 19th century. Despite this, there are a few entries for Clifton brickmakers in the York directories.

 

2.8 20th century brickworks

At the beginning of the century there were about nine brickmakers scattered around the outskirts of the city - Dringhouses, Lawrence Street and Heworth were all represented. During the 1920s the number of advertisers go down to an average of three. In 1930 two brick companies appear that bear the names of towns well outside the city - Hemingbrough and Claxton. Their addresses are clearly office premises, as they are in the centre of the city. The local firms present still continue to advertise. The big change comes during and after the Second World War. Blackout regulations during the war would have entailed the closing of all the works where firing took place in clamps or open top kilns where the glow would have attracted enemy airplanes (Beswick, 1993). This seems to have put pay to most of the local brickmakers - when the directories reappear in 1949 only three companies are listed under brickmaking. Hemingbrough Brick and Tile firm still exists, but Claxton has gone and has been replaced by Alne Brick Company (another town outside the city). Wray & Sons still survives in Heworth at this period. It is possible that Hemingbrough had taken over some of the existing local brick kilns. York and Acomb Brickwork reappears in the 1953 directories, and finally finishes production in 1962. Today, Alne Brick Company still exists but has withdrawn back to Alne, and specialises in handmade bricks. However, today there is no local brick industry in York.

 

3.0 THE BRICKMAKING INDUSTRY IN THE 19TH CENTURY

3.1 Brick production

In the 19th century, and the previous centuries, brickmaking was a seasonal occupation, due to the clay needing to be weathered. The clay was dug out during the autumn and left to weather in the frosts of winter. This was done so that the clay was broken down into lumps (Dobson, 1850). In April the clay was turned over, or put into a pug mill (a grinding machine which was driven by a horse, or later on by an engine). At this point, the stones and pebbles were removed. This had to be done because if left in the stones and pebbles would cause the brick to crack when fired. After further milling and processing the clay was ready to be made into bricks. The second half of the century saw increasing mechanisation, however bricks were made by hand in many brickyards.  A gang was needed to cover the various processes of brickmaking. The clay was carried to the work area from the pug mill, often by children carrying a block of clay on their heads. A person, often a boy or woman, cut the clay to size and passed it on to the moulder, who was normally in charge of the gang (Twist, 1984).

 

The moulder would sand his wooden mould, and throw the lump of clay into the mould, so that it filled every corner (Hammond, 1981). The excess clay would be cut away from the top with a wire bow. The mould could then be lifted up and the newly formed 'green' (unfired) brick lifted and turned out onto a hack barrow. This was a barrow on which bricks could be stacked and then wheeled to the drying area. The bricks were stacked up, sometimes under cover, and left until thoroughly dry and there were enough to fire.  Ralph Hedley's paintings (Appendix XXXVI) illustrate most of these processes except that a pug-mill is not used. Hedley, who lived from 1851 to 1913 and was born in Richmond in North Yorkshire, was a Newcastle genre painter, whose favourite subjects were working people (Wood, 1978). There were two main ways of firing bricks. A clamp kiln was essentially a temporary structure which was made by piling up the green bricks and interspersing the heap with combustible material to help the bricks burn (Avoncroft Museum of Buildings, 1978). This is illustrated in Appendix XXXVII, along with the other processes described. The clamp kiln is on the far right of the painting, and is being encased in already fired bricks. This form of firing was very uneven - the bricks towards the outside being underburnt, with others being overfired. The bricks were sorted, and sold at different prices, depending on their quality. Permanent kilns could take different forms, with updraft kilns channelling hot air upwards, and downdraft kilns pushing the air up and around the kiln. Towards the end of the century the firing process became more mechanised with the use of continuously firing kilns, and the bricks being pressed and shaped by machine. However, clamp kilns were still being used in Sussex as late as 1897 (Beswick, 1993). This way of firing is the most simple form, and when 'brickfield' is seen on a map it may indicate that clamps were still being used. Regarding kilns in York, it is difficult to tell what type of kilns were being used, although it is like that square kilns shown on the large scale OS maps are probably Scotch updraft kilns. There is an example of a circular kiln at Hob Moor which was possibly a downdraft kiln.

 

3.2 The workers

Although there was some work in the brickfields that continued throughout the year (Twist, 1984), the majority of the work was taken on by casual labour in the summer or 'making season'. This proved a problem for Victorian brickmakers, as, of course, the money ran out. Henry Mayhew writing in that era (quoted in Thompson, 1963) was told that:

 

'... the little daughter of a working brickmaker used to order chops and other choice dainties of a butcher saying, 'Please, sir, father don't care for the price just a-now; but he must have his chops good; line-chops, sir, and tender please - 'cause he's a brickmaker.' In the winter, it was, 'O please, sir, here's a fourpenny bit, and you must send father something cheap. He don't care what it is, so long as it's cheap. It's winter, and he hasn't no work, sir - 'cause he's a brickmaker' (Thompson, 1963, 349.)

 

Brickmakers were notorious for being '... troublesome and rollicking' (Woodforde, 1976). Twist (1984) reports that brickmakers often had a break from work during the hottest part of the day and were supposed to restart at 4pm, however, they were often too drunk by that time to go back. Even the children got drunk, which was reported in the 'Graphic' of June 1871 (Woodforde, 1976.)  Children often worked in the brickyards. There were many tasks they could manage - from carrying the clay to the moulding table (the clay could weigh up to 24lbs), to wheeling the hack barrow, and stoking the kiln).

 

The children often worked up to a ten-hour day, six days per week (Hammett (ed.), 1988). They often managed to go to school during the winter and were supposed to attend Sunday school during the making season. In reality, the children needed to thoroughly revise the previous winter lessons as they had forgotten everything over the summer. The conditions and lack of education became a matter of great concern for George Smith who published 'The Cry of the Children from the Brickyards of England' in 1871. This bought about the Factories Act (Brick and Tile Yards) which regulated child and female labour. Many more children appeared in school during the spring and summer. However, children were still cheap labour, and it was not until the 1880s that legislation really enforced education rather than employment.

 

Working hours for brickmakers were very long - often from 3am to 8pm, but there were breaks. The brickmakers would work in a gang, with the foreman being paid for the work, and the gang members taking a share. Often the members of the gang were the foreman's family. The York brickmakers in this project are clearly mostly the owners of the yards, rather than people actually making the bricks. It may be that the names that appear only once or twice in the directories are actually workers, particularly when their address is clearly not in a brickmaking area. One such person is William Brown, living at 24 Barbican Road (mentioned in 1901 and 1904-6). He was also a carter, which may mean that he used this for employment to get round the problem of seasonal work.

 

Many of the brickmakers in the directories have alternative businesses, such as being a builder or tobacconist. John Shaftoe was a Methodist, which entailed buying a quarterly class ticket (Shafto, 1992). Employers often looked for employees who had a Methodist ticket (available only if the person regularly attended fellowship classes) as they were likely to be conscientious workers. Perhaps John Shaftoe insisted his workers had Methodist tickets.

 

3.3 External influences

In the 1840s, the growth of the railways, canals and bridges opened the way for a building boom, of which bricks were an important part. There was also the abolition of the Brick Tax in 1850 (which was levied initially to raise money for the American War of Independence in the 1780s) which is reflected in York by an increase brickmakers. The press to produce more bricks rapidly bought about increasing mechanisation.

 

There was another building boom in the 1890s which led to inevitable cut-backs in the early 1900s. John Nelson's Dringhouses brickworks were probably a victim of this, as he went bankrupt in 1902. Henry John Monson was unfortunate in becoming bankrupt in 1890, which must have been due to other reasons. At the end of the Victorian period, as with other industries, there was a move from small family owned businesses, to large scale companies. This is best shown by the St Nicholas Brickworks, which eventually became amalgamated with the Acomb Brickworks in 1923.

 

4.0 CONCLUSION

This project is very much a preliminary survey and it has gaps and omissions. It has, however, proved that there was a flourishing brickmaking industry in 19th century York. Further work could be carried out by completing the documentation survey as far as possible for all the brickmaking areas. Other aspects, such as the industry further outside York, could be assessed. This could be done on a county basis (or old Riding boundaries would be more appropriate) to see if York's brickmaking might have been affected by outside influences. Certainly, by the early 20th century, the city had a couple of firms in business which clearly came from some way outside York. Perhaps York brick was exported to towns outside the area. The industry in York could be compared to more highly industrialised cities (such as Leeds) to see whether York was typical of the region. It may be that York had only a small scale industry due to the size of the city and the clay sources.

 

Most people will not be aware that brickmaking was ever a part of the city's economy and life. As ever, the more glamourous and attractive aspects of material culture gain more attention - such as Viking helmets or churches. It is clear that the brickmaking industry was a lively and mostly thriving enterprise, which doubtless provided employment for many people. The industry is now seemingly invisible, but you only have to look at the typical York terraced house to find the brickmaking industry of the city.

 

REFERENCES

 

Primary Sources

MAPS

(York City Archives)

Bacon's Plan of York, c1912. Scale: 6 inches to 1 mile

Ordnance Survey, 1891. Scale: 1:500, sheet 174/10/17 & 174/10/1021

Ordnance Survey, 1892. Scale: 1:2500, sheet 174/1

Ordnance Survey, 1909. Scale: 1:2500, sheet 174/10

Ordnance Survey, 1931. Scale: 1:2500, sheet 174/10

 

MAPS (York Library)

Heywood Abel, 186?. Plan of York

Ordnance Survey, 1852. Scale: 1:1056, sheet 10

Ordnance Survey, 1853. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1893. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1910. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1929. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1937. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1950. Scale: 1:10560, sheet 174

Ordnance Survey, 1973. Scale 1:50,000. Geological map, sheet 71

 

NEWSPAPERS

York Courant, 30.10.1809. John Morley, sale of Hall Fields brick and tile yard

York Courant 5.10.1812. John Morley, advertisement for Hall Fields brick and tile yard, including prices of stock

York Gazette 26.2.1836. i) G & H Kidd, takeover of Morley's Hall Fields brick and tile yard ii) Gibson, advertisement for draining tiles

York Gazette 1.7.1854. St Nicholas brick and tile yard, lessee Henry South selling lease

York Herald, 23.10.1841. Kirby, brick and tile yard to let, near the River Foss

 

PAMPHLETS (York Library)

Wray & Sons, n.d. Photocopy of advertising literature. Y691.4

 

PHOTOGRAPHS (York City Archives)

Aerial photograph survey, Aerofilms Ltd, 1936-37

City of York, 1960. Layerthorpe No. 2. Clearance order 1960. Ref No 1-92, July 1960

 

PLANS (York Library)

Carey J, 1856. Builder. Plan of house, shop and cottages to be built in Swinegate & Grape Lane. Y942.74118GRA

Kidd H, 1881. Plan of two houses [Kidd's Terrace]. Y942.74118LAY

St Lawrence Brickyards, 1944-46. Thomas St. Plans of proposed workshop & offices. Y942.74118THOS

Webster J, 1852. Plan of house in Hall Field Road. Y942.74118HALL

 

PLANS (from Engineer's Index, York City Archives)

Kidd H, 1857. Plan of proposed building on new road [Kidd's Terrace] off Hall Field Road. AC191/PH69/1221

 

TOWN CLERK'S "3" INDEX (York City Archives)

Biscomb J & T & Sons, 1905. Specification and contract for work at Poppleton Road Council School. 541/3

 

TRADE DIRECTORIES (York Library)

1823 - HISTORY, DIRECTORY AND GAZETEER OF THE COUNTY OF YORK by Edward Baines, Vol II East & North Ridings, reprinted 1969, Augustus M Kelly Publications

1830 - DIRECTORY OF THE BOROUGH OF LEEDS AND THE CITY OF YORK AND THE CLOTHING DISTRICT OF YORKSHIRE by W Parson & W WHite, Baines & Son

1838 - HISTORY, GAZETEER & DIRECTORY OF THE WEST-RIDING OF YORKSHIRE, WITH THE CITY OF YORK AND THE PORT OF HULL, VOL II, by W White, Baines & Newsome

1843 - CITY OF YORK DIRECTORY, W H Smith, Hull

1846 - GENERAL DIRECTORY OF KINGSTON-UPON-HULL & THE CITY OF YORK, F White, Sheffield

1851 - GENERAL DIRECTORY AND TOPOGRAPHY OF KINGSTON-UPON-HULL & CITY OF YORK by F White & Co.

1855 - MELVILLE & COS DIRECTORY & GAZETEER OF THE CITY OF YORK

1857 - POST OFFICE DIRECTORY OF YORKSHIRE: NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS

1858 - YORK DIRECTORY (General directory & topography of Kingston-upon-Hull & the City of York) by Francis White & Co.

1861 - POST OFFICE DIRECTORY CITY OF YORK1867 - DIRECTORY OF NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS by Wm White

1872 - POST OFFICE DIRECTORY OF NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS by E R Kelly

1872 - DIRECTORY OF THE CITY OF YORK & NEIGHBOURHOOD, Johnson & Tesseyman

1876 - DIRECTORY OF THE CITY OF YORK AND NEIGHBOURHOOD, Johnson & Tesseyman

1879 - POST OFFICE DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE AND THE CITY OF YORK by E R Kelly, Kelly & Co.

1881-82 - DIRECTORY FOR 1881-1882 OF THE CITY OF YORK AND NEIGHBOURING VILLAGES by G Stevens

1887 - SLATER'S ROYAL NATIONAL COMMERICAL DIRECTORY OF YORKSHIRE (10TH EDITION), Slater

1889 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITY OF YORK, Kelly & Co

1893 - COOK'S DIRECTORIES: YORK & DISTRICT DIRECTORY Wing & Broughton, Boston

1893 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITY OF YORK, Kelly & Co.

1895 - WHITE'S DIRECTORY OF YORK & NEIGHBOURHOOD, 7TH EDITION W White

1896-7 - COOKS DIRECTORIES: YORK & DISTRICT DIRECTORY 2ND EDITION, Cook & Co

1897 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITY OF YORK, Kelly & Co.

1898-99 - YORK AND DISTRICT DIRECTORY, 3RD EDITION, W J Cook & Co.

1900 - YORK & DISTRICT DIRECTORY, 4TH EDITION, W J Cook

1901 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES OF YORK AND HULL, Kelly & Co

1902 - YORK AND DISTRICT DIRECTORY, 5TH EDITION W J Cook

1904-6 - ROBINSON'S YORKSHIRE BUSINESS DIRECTORY

1905 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1909 DIRECTORY OF CITY OF YORK, Arthur & Co

1909 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1913 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1920 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL I, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1921 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES OF YORK AND HULL

1921 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL II, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1922 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL III, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1923 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL IV, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1924 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL V, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1925 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1925 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL VI, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1926 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL VII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1927 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL VIII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1928 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL IX, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1929 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1929 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL X, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1930 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XI, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1931 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1932 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XIII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1935 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XVI, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1936 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XVII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1937 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE NORTH AND EAST RIDINGS OF YORKSHIRE WITH THE CITIES YORK AND HULL

1937 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XVIII, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1938 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XIX, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1939 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XX, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1949-50 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, VOL XXI, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1951 - YORK CITY YEARBOOK & BUSINESS DIRECTORY, The Yorkshire Gazette Newspaper

1953 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE CITY OF YORK & NEIGHBOURHOOD

1955 - KELLY'S DIRECTORY OF THE CITY OF YORK & NEIGHBOURHOOD

 

Secondary Sources

Avoncroft Museum of Buildings, 1978. Bricks and Brickmaking. Avoncroft Museum

Betts I M, 1985. A Scientific Investigation of the Brick and Tile Industry of York to the mid-Eighteenth Century. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Bradford

Dobson E, 1850. A rudimentary treatise on the manufacture of brick and tile. Reprint edited by F Celoria, 1971. George St Press

Hammett M (ed.), 1988. British Brick Society Information, Compilation volume I, 1973-1981. British Brick Society

Hammond M, 1981. Bricks and Brickmaking. Shire Publications

Hobhouse H & Saunders A (eds.), 1989. Good and Proper Materials: the fabric of London since the Great Fire. RCHME/The London Topographical Society

Malden J, 1989. Register of York Freemen 1680-1986

North Yorkshire County Council, 1991. Researching Family History in the York Reference Library. 3rd edition

Ordnance Survey, 1979. Landranger 1:50,000 map. Sheet 105

Pugh R B (ed), 1961. The Victoria History of the Counties of York. The University of London Institute of Historical Research

Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, 1975. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Vol III, HMSO

Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, 1972. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Vol IV, outside the city walls, east of the Ouse, HMSO

Shafto R, 1992. Shaftoes of York. Walkerscroft Publishing

Smith T P, 1985. The medieval Brickmaking Industry in England 1400-1450. British Archaeological Reports British Series 138

Thompson E P, 1980. The Making of the English Working Class, Penguin

Twist S J, 1984. Stock Bricks of Swale. The Sittingbourne Society

Willmot G F (et al), 1959. York: a survey, 1959. Herald

Wood, C (ed.), 1978. The Dictionary of Victorian Painters. 2nd edition. Antique Collector's Club

Woodforde J, 1976. Bricks to Build a House. Routledge & Kegan Paul

 

Link to Appendix IV – List of brickmakers derived from the York Directories


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25/05/2015