Don’t skim past the bricks!

Those of you who are unmoved by the romance of ceramic building materials will be surprised to learn that there is something of a freemasonry among brick enthusiasts. A recent email informed me that there was a readily available source of William Marshall’s, Eccleshill produced, white glazed bricks. This sent me off to the derelict site of the former Barkerend textile mill. Anyone who simply mutters ‘sad loser’ and looks away now will miss quite an interesting exploration of a facet of local history.

The site in question underwent several reinventions during the nineteenth century. As the century opened it was an estate surrounding Eastbrook House, the gardens of which can still be seen at the bottom left of the detail from the 1852 OS map. By the time of this map survey extensive collieries (Bunker’s Hill) had been developed north-east of the garden. The road-way named Garnett Street has retained its name up to the present and may have represented the boundary of the Eastbrook House estate. The area marked ‘Barker End’ is now the position of a large roundabout with New Otley Road, created since this map, leaving to the north west. ‘High Street’ is now known as Barkerend Road. The current situation can be seen in this Google Earth capture.

Barkerend Capture

In the latter half of the nineteenth century the collieries vanished and Barkerend Mills were constructed. The demolition of these mills created the brown-field site south-east of the roundabout. Please notice the thoroughfare called Airedale Road. For much of its existence it was simply known as Pit Lane, and led to Pit Lane Mills. Just at the ‘Rd’ of Airedale Rd is the origin of the long shadow cast by the chimney of the old Leeds Road Dye Works. The works have gone, to be replaced by sub-industrial units, but the magnificent Lancashire style brick chimney survives.

The brick interest in all of this is the wall that now extends roughly along the white line placed by Google Earth to mark the course of Airedale Road. It seems originally to have been stone, the dry-stone boundary wall of an eighteenth century field perhaps, but it has been repeatedly patched and repaired with any material that has come to hand.

2015-05-15 10.19.41

As you can see one patch is with Victorian machine-pressed bricks. One has a dramatic white glaze and is probably an example of the Marshall Eccleshill bricks, like the one I liberated and which is now awaiting conservation on my desk.

2015-05-15 10.20.42

The second patch is with older, and thinner, hand-made bricks. Many of these have been over-fired and are starting to vitrify. They may have formed part of a robbed brick kiln, or have been placed in the hottest part of a brick clamp.

2015-05-15 10.20.02

In a third patch we are back to machine-pressed bricks laid on their long sides or stretchers. This is poor brick-laying but it does reveal that the bricks are of non-standard size, being much wider than normal. The left-hand example shows the impression of two of the heads of the four screws than once secured the metal fitting in the brick mould that created the ‘frog’, or depression for mortar.

I cannot say from where the bricks came but 100-200m to the south-east of the site were the brick fields where the Hudson family burned bricks in clamps in the mid-nineteenth century. A generation later the modern works of the Bradford Brick & Tile Company had been built in nearby Upper Seymour Street. Their products can be seen all around this area and they could easily be responsible for the machine-pressed bricks in the wall.

Now, be honest, isn’t that more interesting than you thought it would be?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s