top of page

Brick Making

The 1885 O/S map shows a Brick Yard marked A and a Brick Yard marked B on Lower Brand, Griffydam. However, a later 1901 O/S map shows both Brick Yards as being disused by that date. It is thought that the Brick Yard designate B was significantly older than A and this utilised a round kiln. Brick making in this area could well have started during the Tudor period.

Even though the locality was well served with Turnpike roads, the difficulties and expense involved in transporting bricks generally limited supplies to what could be produced locally. Consequently, it was necessary to locate brickworks as close as possible to the source of demand rather than bring the finished products from any great distance.


We can safely assume that Griffydam’s brick works only supplied bricks centred on the localities of Griffydam, Pegg’s Green, Worthington, Osgathorpe etc. Sir George Beaumont had a thriving brickyard on Workhouse Lane in Coleorton and he supplied large volumes of bricks to his own coal mines in the area as well as for house building in Coleorton, Swannington and Pegg’s Green, so there would have been significant competition. The Earls Ferrers had several brick making facilities on his estate also, which service his coal mining requirements.

The structure of the traditional brick making industry developed in response to these factors. It was made up of a large number of relatively small works dispersed throughout the country with concentrations around urban areas. Studies of regional brick making industries show that small enterprises rather than large-scale works were predominant until the end of the nineteenth century. Expansion of the industry when necessary was accomplished by an increase in the number of small works rather than a fundamental change in the size of individual firms. For example, one study of brick making in the South-East Midlands reported that in 1831 an average of 5.9 brick makers only were employed by 103 brickworks. An examination of trade directories in Oxfordshire for 1861 indicated that the 69 brickfields operating in that county employed fewer than five labourers each. This is borne out by the Griffydam, Gelsmoor, Pegg’s Green, Coleorton and Worthington censuses information, where the number of people employed at the brickyards was minimal really.


The system adopted for the organization of work in the traditional brick making industry was particularly suited to small-scale, temporary enterprises with low capital investment. In most areas the brickfield owner hired a brick master at a price per thousand bricks to superintend the site and take full responsibility for the output of the operations. He in turn contracted with moulders to temper, mould and hack the bricks. Each moulder then hired his own "gang" of subsidiary labourers and acted as their employer.


The above process of making bricks was becoming obsolete by the beginning of the 19th century and these methods, it is suggested, could have been used in what is believed to be the older of the two brickworks B. The two fields between the brickworks have had no clay extraction and clay was only taken from the actual brickwork sites.


Evidence has recently come to light to demonstrate that both brickworks A & B were adopting improved brick making methods by the end of the 19th century. Moulding machines were used to form the “Griffidam” brick examples shown later, and similarly with the tiles which also had impressed frogs. The quality of the named Griffidam bricks was far superior to its predecessors, being pressure formed, which required the use of puddling mills, with brick and tile making machinery. The layout of the site at A in particular shown on the OS maps indicates a well planned operation. The rectangular kiln, shown in the photograph, is sited at a lower level than a manufacturing/drying building, so that the flue gases would warm the floor before being extracted through the chimney at the rear. This site would have been capable of continuous production throughout the year.



In the Leicester Chronicle 3rd October 1832, Samuel Bakewell was advertising brick making machines. One of the best known pressing machines was that patented in 1830 by Samuel Roscoe Bakewell, a brick manufacturer then residing in in Whiskin Street, St. James, Clerkenwell. His patent included an improved method for grinding and mixing clay using grinding stones in a pit. (British Patent No. 5985, 1830).

There is very little evidence left on the brick works sites now to base any research work on without a serious archaeological investigation. In fact, the brick works B is now a flat field. However, we are fortunate that there is some evidence of one of the brick kilns left on site A. It is believed that both the 2¾ inch and the older 2 inch thick bricks in the photographs would have been made on the sites but we can’t be sure which this particular kiln was used for.



At the time of the 1806 inclosure Act, John Haywood acquired the house on Elder Lane, Griffydam and field and other inclosures and property in the village, indicating that they were relatively affluent. The house and out-buildings were demolished in 1996 and a new house built on the site. Being an old property, the cottage contained evidence of various old bricks, tiles and building methods used in its construction and these have been used as an example to show the evolution of brick making particularly in relation to the Griffydam brickworks on the Lower Brand.


Old bricks in their many forms using various manufacturing methods is an extremely specialised subject. The following is a factual attempt to record what we have been able to find out about bricks used in buildings at Griffydam only, which were probably of a poor quality, hence all of the old houses here being rendered now. We have come to the conclusion that another brick works possibly existed in earlier times somewhere else in Griffydam, but have not been able to find any evidence to prove this.


A study of the construction of John Haywood’s cottage and outbuildings together with the materials used was fortunately carried out prior to demolition. It has enabled us to make a much more educated judgement on the evolution of the brickworks on the Lower Brand. Old 2” deep bricks were found in the outbuildings with a sheep and calf foot print in them (see A & B). These would probably have been made in the 17th & 18th century respectively and could have been made on the Lower Brand or at a different site. We cannot be sure without further research work. These bricks were judged to have been of a Tudor type and much more highly fired than later bricks which were soft and weathered badly, hence the reason for the old houses in Griffydam being rendered. 2” bricks were salvaged and used in the fireplace. The reason for the sheep and calf footprints in the bricks would have been because batches of soft wet hand made green bricks would have been left outside or under open roofs to dry prior to firing in the kiln and cattle and sheep would have walked over them.


Brick C is a later 19th century machine made brick (9” x 4 ¼” x  2 ¾“  deep) and thought to have been made at the brickworks A on the Lower Brand.



Joseph Smart was first listed in the 1851 census as a brick maker and he appears to be living next to the Waggon & Horses inn with his family. He is also recorded as still being a brick maker in the 1861/71 census records. Joseph was born in Ticknall in 1824, and his wife Elizabeth was born in Kimberly, Notts. His son James, also living in Griffydam, was born in 1847 in Ridings, Derbyshire and he married Selina. They had a daughter Elizabeth, who was born in 1870.  We have no evidence to confirm whether Joseph Smart operated one or both the the brickwork sites on the Lower Brand.


The landlord of the “Waggon & Horses” from 1845 to 1864 was John Nicklinson who was also listed in 1851 as a brick maker, presumably working for Joseph Smart. John must have been a busy man, landlord of a pub, farmer and brick maker.


In the 1851 census for Pegg’s Green, Henry Smart (25) and his wife Fanny (22), both born in Ticknall, are both listed as brick makers. Also listed as a brick maker in the Pegg’s Green 1881 census was George Smart, aged 44, again born in Ticknall, and living with his wife Amy, aged 45, born in Breedon.

An announcement in the Leicester Chronicle 9 Aug 1879 confirms that at some point, Joseph Smart and his son James had formed a partnership with a Wilham Wildblood and Sydney Haywood related to the Brickworks. The advert states they were trading as “Brick and Tile Merchants and Builders’. The advertisement confirms that this partnership was dissolved 26th July 1879. The only other connection we can find between the parties is on an indenture dated 24th May 1879 involving the purchase / sale of what is now 31, Top Road, Griffydam in 1879.


In the 1881 Griffydam census, Joseph Smart was recorded as still living in Griffydam, aged 57, and still as a brick maker, although we cannot take that as he was still operating the brickworks.  His wife Elizabeth was 57, and they had four grandchildren living with them, Elizabeth aged 11, Annie aged 9, Charles aged 7 and Sarah R aged 5 who were all born in Griffydam. His son, James Smart isn’t listed in the 1881 census, but Selina, had died in 1879, which would explain why the children are with their grandparents.


It is not unreasonable to assume that the entire Smarts’ mentioned are related, and sufficient information has been provided to enable those interested to research their backgrounds further.


It is recorded in a genealogy research document published by a descendant in New Zealand it confirms that Joseph Smart left Ticknall and moved to Ashby-De-La-Zouch before coming to Griffydam and setting up his brickworks. By 1885, Joseph had actually moved to New Zealand where he apparently set up another brickworks.



The information regarding ownership of the brickyards on the bottom Brand gets very sketchy at this juncture. A newspaper article from the Leicestershire Chronicle dated 3 July 1880 clearly states that William Hoult owns or is running one of the brickworks in 1880, but the 1881 census shows Joseph Smart as still living in Griffydam and a brick maker.


The only conclusion the author can come to is that he had sold the business to William Hoult as the result of the partnership with Wildblood and Haywood being dissolved and then carried on working for William Hoult for a short time.




The copies of receipts are for bricks brought by Samuel Eagle Esq. from the Henry Toon brick works on the Lower Brand. They were purchased for The Cottage on Elder Lane, Griffydam.


These receipts are important in that they are the only record discovered for the price of bricks (commons) from Griffydam brick works, which is shown as being 25 shillings a thousand in 1881.

Further information about Griffydam Brickworks can be found in Samuel T Stewart's publication click here >

Brick Yard map.jpg
Brick Kiln.jpg

The kiln would have originally had a brick domed top and possibly a flue would have been taken to a drying shed from it with a chimney to draw the hot air through to aid the drying process. There is no evidence left of the drying shed or chimney.

Brick Works Clay Pit.jpg

The clay pit dug out in an area adjacent to the above kiln.

Toon Brick.jpg
Griffydam Brick.jpg
John Haywood's house.jpg

This photograph of John Haywood’s former house was taken in 1996 prior to the property being demolished

Brick examples.jpg
Machine Paver brick.jpg

This is a rare ‘machine made paver’, and the only other one found like this is at “The Hare & Hounds” (known as Mary’s House) at Whitwick. Although we cannot prove it, this paver was most likely made at the brickworks A on the Lower Brand.

Tile Brick 3.jpg

Another example of a machine made roof tile used at the cottage suggesting again that these were made at the brick works A.

Joseph Smart Announcement.jpg
Toon Brick 3.jpg
Toon Bricks Receipt 2.jpg
Toon Bricks Receipt 1.jpg
bottom of page