Porth Wen Brick Works, Anglesey, North Wales, July 2020

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HughieD

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1. The History
Porth Wen Brickworks is located on the western side of Porth Wen (meaning White Bay), in the North of Anglesey, North Wales. Dating back from Victorian times, it produced fire or silica bricks, made from quartzite whose main use was to line steel-making furnaces. The works included quarries, an incline tramroad to the works, a crushing house, moulding shed, drying sheds, and three circular kilns. The brickmaking operation included storage hoppers, an engine house, boiler house, chimneys, warehouse, and a quay for shipping the bricks out of the works.

Mining of the ore and brickmaking started circa 1850, although the buildings that remain today are later and only date back to the early 1900s. The works were supplied by two quarries to the north-west, connected via a tramroad from one of the quarries leading to a winding house and a two-track gravity-powered incline. The winding house housed three wheels, each with eight spokes: one wheel of 7 feet in diameter and two of 5 feet. The larger wheel was a banding-break and the other two driving wheels for lowering and raising trucks on the incline. The incline terminated at a crushing house where the quartzite was broken up with a knapping machine. The pieces were then passed down chutes to the lower levels for processing down into a fine powder by workers using a hammer and wearing iron covered gloves. The powder was then mixed with lime and water in a pan mill. The resulting paste was moulded into bricks (initially using a wire cutter then later by a press) and after they had dried out, fired in one of the three circular “down-draught” kilns. These brick-made kilns reinforced with iron braces where referred to as ‘beehive’ or ‘Newcastle’ kilns. The finished bricks were then stored in the imposing two-storey main building before being loaded onto ships, using a crane, moored at the loading quay. Power and heat for the brickworks came from five-drum Stirling boiler and a small engine house for a steam engine.

Manual mining prevailed from 1850 up until World War One. Ironically, a German by the name of Herr Steibel bought the works in 1906 and ran them for two years until selling out to Chris Tidy who replaced the mould and cut technique with pressing the bricks. While production of bricks increased, quality decreased and the works closed in 1914, just before the war. They remained closed until they were reopened in 1924 and struggled on until their final closure in 1949. This is loosely corroborated by an OS map from 1938 showing the tramway still in situ. However, a revised OS map dated 1949 shows the tramway no longer there. Since closure, most of the buildings and some of the equipment remain on site. The brickworks were designated as a scheduled monument by CADW in 1986.

The only archive picture I could find of the works. This is most likely taken at the end of the 1800s given the lack of the beehive kilns in the picture:

Porth Wen old pic by HughieDW, on Flickr

2. The Explore
A nice relaxed explore this one, with reasonable weather too. It might not be the most hardcore of explores but the location and the history of the site make it well worth the hike down the steep track to the works.

3. The Pictures

The knapping or ‘crusher’ machine and chute:

img7904 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Porth 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

The workshops and accommodation area:

img7905 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Porth 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Round the back, the remains of a steam engine manufactured by Thomas C Fawcett Ltd of Leeds:

img7882 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Three boilers in situ in the boiler house, along with the gas retort charging holes, gentility rusting away:

img7927 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7895 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Inside one of the three kilns:

img7892 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7901 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7906 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7912 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Not sure how this Lancashire/Galloway type boiler got here:

img7918 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7916 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Porth 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Overview of the whole works:

Porth 05 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7911 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7926 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And going back up the path:

img7931 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7929 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7928 by HughieDW, on Flickr

img7933 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Porth 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 

Tbolt

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Nicely shot sir.
It's nice here on a nice day isn't it?
 

FunkyMuffin

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Oh this is a lovely place! Nicely captured. It was raining and horrid when I went so my photos didn't turn out.
 

night crawler

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Pretty awesome explore that, sort of place I could wander around no problem. You have to wonder how long it will remain standing with the storms that hit the coast there, the large workshop building looks like it is suffering with erosion. Very nice work
 

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