In 1897, B.J. Forder and Son opened a Fletton brickworks at Wootton Pillinge (later to be called Stewartby). The company later merged with several other companies, the main one being the London Brick Company (which had been founded in 1889). By 1936 the London Brick Company and was recognised as the largest brickworks in the world employing 2,000 and manufactured over 500 million bricks per year. In 1984, the London Brick Company was taken over by Hanson. In 2005 there were just 230 people employed at the Stewartby brickworks, and only 2 kilns and 3 chimneys in use, producing a total of 135 millions bricks a year.
More than £1 million was spent on Stewartby Brickworks in 2005-7 in an attempt to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. This attempt was unsuccessful and the brickworks finally closed in February 2008.
If you want to find out more, a very comprehensive website about the brickworks can be found here.
Six months after closure, the site remains in fabulous condition. The yard is full of new bricks awaiting shipment.
All of the doors and window frames are painted blue.
Kilns & Chimneys
In it’s heyday, the Marston Vale brickfield had well over 130 chimneys. Four now remain. On closure, the chimneys at Stewartby were to be demolished, but they have been listed for preservation along with the two remaining kilns.
The four chimneys stand as a proud reminder of the area’s great industrial history. Seeing the four was impressive. I can’t begin to imagine what the area was like when there were 100+!
One chimney has STEWARTBY written on it. Just in case you forget where you are.
At least one of the chimneys was built by the rather aptly named Chimneys Limited of London. This small plaque intrigued me – I can find no reference to the company on the internet. If anyone has any further details, please contact me!
The scale of everything at Stewartby is immense. Huge sheds, as long as several football pitches are full of machinery. Everything is covered in a thick layer of clay dust. The working conditions at the factory must’ve been unbearable.
Underneath the mass of conveyors and machinery lies some undeground areas. Everything was covered in a thick damp clay dust – so not much time was spent down there.
Some things to read…
Naturally workers at the brickworks needed somewhere to rest. You may remember that the doors and windows outside were painted blue – the theme continues inside with all rest areas painted a similar colour.
And finally, no trip to a brickworks would be complete without an obligatory brick photo. Here are some half-dyed bricks…