on the button Issue 58 - Page 10

Archive Group ARLESEY BRICKWORKS - A SHORT HISTORY The abundance of clay in the soil around Arlesey made it the ideal location for a brickworks and at one time there were many brick yards in the village: Bearts, the Great Northern Brick Company, BJH Forders, Arlesey Cement and Lime Company Brickworks, the London Brick Company and Eastwoods at Arlesey Lakes. The largest, Arlesey Brickworks changed owners or merged many times. It was founded in 1852 by Mr Beart who used Gault clay from the Cretaceous period to make its well known Arlesey White bricks. They were also the only brick company to make patented hollow bricks (from around 1929 when London Brick took over) which were used in floors, ceilings and partition walls. During brick making, clay was dug out of the pits and fed into sheds on conveyor belts. Before London Brick took over, this was carried out in a haphazard fashion but later, specific areas were targeted for their clay deposits. 10 on the button issue 58 June 2017 | 01462 834265 | Two hundred and eight tons of clay were used a day and the whole process from digging up the clay to the finished brick took three weeks. The clay is dried using hot wires and turned into a powder. London Brick had a secret method of making the dry powder pliable and were able to mould it into the required shapes using dies in a custom-designed machine known as an accumulator. The Hoffman kiln had been invented to fire bricks evenly across the whole of the kiln in large numbers. There were three kilns at Arlesey, each measuring 48 feet by 24 feet by nine feet. Each kiln had many chambers and bricks would be first dried in the kilns and then fired which took around 20 days. The famous Arlesey brickworks chimneys were 230 feet high and the base of the square chimneys was 15 feet. They were connected to the kilns to provide the enormous draught needed for combustion and cooling. A year after taking over Arlesey Brickworks, in 1930 the London Brick Company introduced one week’s holiday with pay. They built a bowling green and bought a social club with snooker and billiards facilities for their employees. They also provided homes for the manager and foreman. The demand for labour in the brick yards following the war was a factor that was to have a great effect on the population of the surrounding towns and villages. During the war the London Brick Company made weapons to help the war effort. The company employed more than 3,000 onthebutton.online@gmail.com | www.on-the-button.co.uk