Bring me the bricks of Alfredo Garcia

Brick siteBriggs Shipley

Some readers may be interested in the type of detective work involved in identifying a source for bricks found on waste ground. As an example I should like to use a block of derelict land close to the University of Bradford. The block is bounded by Longside Lane, Hey Street, Blyth Street and Richmond Road. Before being chased away by a man with a stick I found three types of marked brick on this site: Briggs of Shipley, Bradford Brick & Tile Company, and Archibald Neill. In addition there were two unmarked brick types one with square frogs and another with a figure of eight frog.

The use of Bradford street and trade directories enables the history of the site to be established with some precision. The Ibbetson directory of 1850 makes no note of it whatever. In the Lunds 1856 directory Longside Lane exists but the entries are arranged alphabetically and not by street so I cannot identify my target block; it probably hasn’t yet been built since it is not drawn on the 1861 Bradford Corporation map. By 1866 Hey Street, Listerhills exists but no individuals or businesses use the street in an address. Blythe Street does not exist. More entries are placed in Longside Lane but these seem mainly to be around Westbrook Place at the opposite side and end from Hey Street. The following year Kelly’s published a directory of the West Riding of Yorkshire. This does indicate the presence of Albert Mill (Wm. Wright, shuttle maker & Wm. Milnes & Co, Stuff Mfs) and also an Albert Shed (Wm. Riley & Co, Stuff Mfs). ‘Stuff’ is the technical term for worsted cloth. I am quite confident that the target block. Albert Mill, was built by 1871 and then remained unchanged until 1938. Naturally the names of individual businesses altered during this period. For example in 1883 the block contained the premises of S. England & Co, shuttle makers and Charles Gall, shopkeeper.

Does this fit with the bricks discovered? The Bradford Brick and Tile Company was an important producer in the last nineteenth and early twentieth century. Bricks from this company marked [BB&T Co Lim] are extremely common in the Bradford area. At various times it owned four brick works in different parts of the city. The earliest attested date I have for its existence is a 1868 newspaper advert for a Hoffman kiln worker. A Scotsman, Archibald Neill, was one of Bradford’s largest contractors. His works and saw mill were nearby in Listerhills. He must have owned or leased quarries, and also a brickworks since we have bricks marked with his name. Exactly where this was I don’t yet know but I assume that since he died young in 1874 bricks carrying his name would have disappeared within a few years of the construction of Albert Mill. The Briggs of Shipley bricks, despite their dramatic appearance, are something of a mystery.

There were four generations of the Briggs family who were active in Thornton, Clayton, Allerton and Shipley. In the first generation there was Joseph Briggs who married Hannah Schofield in 1819. They had at least two sons: William Briggs (born 1824, who grew up to be a coal proprietor in Queensbury by 1881) and John Schofield Briggs (born 1822, of Crossley Hall, Allerton) who was a coal merchant of Thornton. The son of John Schofield Briggs was Joseph Briggs (1851-1931) also a coal merchant of Thornton. Joseph married Arabella Fairbank, thus uniting two Bradford coal mining and brick-making families. John Schofield Briggs, William Briggs and a Joseph Briggs (perhaps another brother) seem to have been partners in several enterprises. In 1860 they leased land from the Earl of Rosse at Shipley Moor and Sandy Lane Bottom for coal extraction. They must surely have been responsible for the ‘Briggs bricks’ found in the Shipley area. In an 1869 list of coal mines Briggs & Co are given as colliery owners of Shipley Moor. This pit, and the surrounding land, became the property of Arabella Briggs, and then her executors after she died in 1910. It is described as such in the Rosse sale plan of 1911. By 1881 (and probably a year or two earlier) JS Briggs were brick-makers at Crossley Hall, Allerton. The third generation consisted of several sons of whom the most noteworthy was Arthur Briggs (1885-1980). Arthur kept the Briggs, Fairweather Green brick works going into the second half of the twentieth century, dying a millionaire. John Schofield Briggs and Joseph Briggs seem likely to be the makers of the bricks in question but the site of their Shipley kiln is unknown. On this occasion the date of the Albert Mill development helps to date the bricks, rather than the other way round.

It seems certain that the block in question was being constructed in the late 1860s and if the Trade Directory evidence is accurate probably between 1866-67. The bricks suggest a date between 1868 and 1874 which is in good agreement.

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