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Brickwork kilns

Background
There were once dozens of coal mines and brick works around Kingswinford, Staffordshire in the English Midlands.

Between the end of the Stourbridge Extension Canal and the Kingswinford branch of the Great Western Railway, Oak Farm Brickworks was started by John Walker in 1849 to make firebricks from local clay.

It was then taken over by the Mobberleys, and has been run by four generations of that family until the present day.

The works has changed little since it opened. An early grinding pan, tempering tub and pugmill feeds clay to a manual wire-cut machine. This produces finished bricks or "clods" of clay which are taken by barrow to be moulded in an old hand lever press, or by hand in wooden moulds. The long tradition of women hand-moulders still continues. Tunnel dryers are manually loaded with racks running on narrow-gauge rails.

Dusting pressed bricks
Brick maker Some "beehive" down-draught kilns are still in use, but are now fired by oil, rather than coal. Clay is imported from Amblecote, Dawley and Scotland, and mixed with burnt fireclay to improve the refractory properties. Oak Farm is able to produce specialist firebricks in small or medium quantities, for example welding tables and "spanner" bricks for the fireboxes of steam locomotives of the Severn Valley Railway.
The video production Hand Made Bricks, scripted and narrated by former brick maker John Cooksey shows Oak Farm at work, following the process from raw clay to finished bricks. It was recorded in 1982, and was I.A.Recordings second industrial archaeology project. The recording includes bricks being hand-moulded by women, one of whom, still working at the age of 68 had started as a girl loading railway wagons. NGR: SO 897 905 Setting a kiln

The images on this page are taken from the video.