Posts Tagged ‘Bricks’

300 years of brick-making: the Chailey kiln

17/02/2012

In a world of mass-production and building products whose inherent sustainability is lost in the amount of air, sea or road-miles it takes to get them to site, it is (at the risk of sounding a little bit Luddite) comforting to know that some products have been made in the same way, in the same place, for centuries.

In 2011, the Chailey brick factory in the middle of the Sussex Weald (owned by Ibstock since 1996) celebrated 300 years of continuous, traditional brick-making.

The Chailey clamp in operation at night

Bricks from the Chailey kiln are still produced to an original recipe, which includes a blend of local Wealden clays from Ibstock’s own quarry. The stock bricks are fired in a traditional clamp (one of only three still in use in the UK), giving them distinctive textures and warm colours. All Chailey bricks are then sorted and packed by hand – although the craftsmen and stackers do not, presumably, wear this traditional garb every day:

Ibstock stackers at the Chailey site

Clay pipes, tiles, pottery and bricks have been made in and around South Chailey since 1711. Since 1792, successive generations of the Norman family owned and operated the factory until it was finally sold to Redland in 1959.

The Chailey factory has the capacity to manufacture approximately 14 million bricks per year using a soft mud moulding process. It also manufactures pavers and brick specials. This video on Ibstock’s website details the history of the Chailey site and shows the traditional, clamp-fired production process.

The fire hole at Chailey

The Bulmer Brick & Tile Co – specialists in purpose-made bricks for restoration and conservation projects – also make their bricks in accordance with time-honoured methods. Fired in a coal-burning down-draught kiln, their facings, rubbers and specials are made from London clays that have been dug from these Suffolk seams in a near-continuous line since Tudor times.

The Minter family: skills handed down through generations

Another building product largely unchanged through time is the traditional plain roofing tile, which has been made to a standard size since 1666 (when the Great Fire of London gave rise to product standards and building regulations). Historically – and for obvious reasons – factories for making bricks and tiles were sited right where the clay source occurred, and that’s where they remain.

Image by Hotblack on MorgueFile

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