Stewartby Brickworks – Bedfordshire

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.

Outside

All of the doors and window frames are painted blue.

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9978-600
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9943-600
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks

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.

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9894-600

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+!

  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks

One chimney has STEWARTBY written on it. Just in case you forget where you are.

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9909-600

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!

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9941-600

Inside

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.

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9776-600
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9829-600

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.

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9834-600
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9838-600
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks

Some things to read…

  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks

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.

  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks
  • Mini photo of Stewartby Brickworks

And finally, no trip to a brickworks would be complete without an obligatory brick photo. Here are some half-dyed bricks…

Image 088-stewartby/derelicte-9950-600
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8 Responses to Stewartby Brickworks – Bedfordshire

  1. SubVee says:

    Awesome report!
    I love how you give us a little history lesson about the places you visit.

  2. james hartnett says:

    Hi there,
    I really like your post regarding the brickworks in Stewartby
    Im an architectural student hoping to use the brick works for my next studio project. I am interested in gaining access to the site. Could you tell me how you went about this please? I really need to build up a strong picture of the site.
    Regards
    J.H

  3. PB says:

    Hi really good photos i worked in the truck garage at stewartby do you have any photos?
    Regards
    Paul

  4. john ellis says:

    Live in Australia for 39 years, and prior to that 15 years in Germany after doing my natio.I know the brickworks well as I came to Stewartby at the age of 1 (1935).How well I remember hearing the presses pounding away all night. My bedroom at number 86 faced the brickworks, and the pungent smell of Sulpher was always in the air. As ayoung boy I had the opportunity to go around the works on a couple of occasions, but after looking at the pictures on this website it really makes me sad to see such a one time proud factory in such a state.Reminds me of my own life(nothing is forever) Greetings from Oz. John

  5. Gregory O'Callaghan says:

    My grandfather Dave Stratton, and his friend Reginald Howse built these chimneys. The company was based in Croydon. My mother has a magazine which has photos of my grandfather and Mr Howse at this site. I would be very grateful of any other information that you have about the people that built these chimney if you have any. I will speak to my Great Uncle who may know some more.

  6. Gerry Ephgrave says:

    As an ex-railway employee based at Bedford depot in the capacity of Guard one of our turns was the “Brickliner” train this was always double-headed by two class 25 locomotives owing to the length & weight of the train and the long climb at Sharnbrook summit, It was very memorable.

  7. terry says:

    i was a steeplejack working on the tops of theses chimneys during 1970s up to 2005/6.ive seen the chimneys in thick fog with just the tops showing through that was a site cheers nice photos

  8. Lee says:

    Brilliant piece of history. I work with a couple of chaps who worked there, and I used to live in Cople; when the wind was in ‘right’ direction we’d smell the place.
    I visited there when I was in the 6th Form (John Bunyan Upper School) on a field trip and found it vewry interesting.

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