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Brickworks

A brickworks is an industrial site where bricks and/or wall tiles were produced and fired; the scale of operation varied from small-scale temporary works to permanent or semi-permanent municipal works. Brickworks are identified from the presence of earthworks indicative of clay digging, magnetic anomalies from kilns recorded during geophysical survey, or from the abundant presence of bricks and brick wasters. The majority of sites are known from documentary references and place- or field-names. The main components are a kiln or clamp, associated structures or workshops, clay pits, fuel dumps, ditches, and boundary walls.

 

Medieval brickworks can be distinguished from earlier and later production sites on the basis of the products which vary in shape and size, and by using documentary sources. Archaeological and documentary evidence suggests that brickworks were in occasional use from the 8th century onwards, although Roman brick was frequently reused. There was a small increase in production from the mid-twelfth century, mostly for churches in the east of the country. Some bricks were probably imported. It was not until the end of the fourteenth century that the use of brick became more substantial, and was a prestige material used by the crown, nobles, church etc., only reaching the level of vernacular building in the seventeenth century. From the seventeenth century onwards brick-making becomes more intensive, with larger factories and clay extraction sites being established.

 

Individual sites tend to be located according to demand, either near a particular building such as a castle, palace, country house (as at Salden House) or in towns; in the latter case this would be outside the town walls in order to keep fire and fumes at a distance. Sites tend to be located near brickearth deposits and ideally, near a fuel supply. The more permanent brickworks producing for a wider market were also often close to a navigable river both for delivery of fuel and for transport of the finished bricks. Later brickworks relied on canals and railways for transportation. Brickworks occur mainly as isolated examples, since they either supplied bricks for a particular building project or, in the case of the permanent brickworks, supplied bricks over a wide area.

 

Possible medieval brickworks have been identified at several places in Buckinghamshire, notably at Brill, where fourteenth to eighteenth century kilns on Temple Street may have made pottery, tile and brick, and references from the sixteenth century suggest one existed in Stoke Poges. There are many post-medieval brickworks, such as at Lacey Green.