Stewartby Brickworks 2016 - 22

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BikinGlynn

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Stewartby Brickworks


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Stewartby village was effectively the creation of the London Brick Company and its inhabitants worked almost exclusively for that firm. Stewartby was, in many ways, a Bedfordshire version of Bournville in Birmingham, a model community established by a large manufacturing company for its workforce.

The brickworks site, dating to the latter part of the 19th century has developed organically over past 110 years and with this development the site has expanded considerably. This site, one of only several major brickworks working within the Vale was once considered to the largest in World, employing over 4,000 people and producing 18 million brick each week in 1970. The technology used at Stewartby Brickworks formed part of the Fletton brick-making process that was initially developed by brickworks near Peterborough in 1881. The Fletton process came to Marston Vale soon after and dominated the brick industry over the next 50 years.

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Following World War I the brick makers within the Oxford clay belt had amalgamated or had been taken over to form four major companies including Forders, the London Brick Company and the United and Northern Brick. By doing this the big four managed to control and stabilise costs. From 1923 most of the big four had merged forming the London Brick Company and Forders Ltd. and Percy Malcolm Stewart (Halley's son) had become Chairman. In 1927 the new company had gained a controlling interest in the Itter's Brick Company and in 1936 the merged companies simply became the London Brick Company Ltd. The merging of Marston Vale's big four greatly expanded the Stewartby site which included the construction of Stewartby's first Hoffmann kiln complexes. At the height of brick making production within the Vale there were 167 brick chimneys in the Marston Vale.

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By 1936 Stewartby brickworks was employing over 2,000 people and had become the largest brickworks in the world, producing over 500 million bricks per annum; and was certainly Bedfordshire's largest employer. By this time the Vale had become the world centre for brick making and innovation and similar to the communities in other industrial areas of Britain, the people of the vale had forged an identity with brick and clay.

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This identity was further forged by Stewartby's ethos of employing people from different ethnic groups such as Sikhs, Italians and Poles. From 1936 until the late 1970s the Stewartby site expanded with the construction of more Hoffmann kiln complexes and associated chimneys. Between these years Bedfordshire other two brickworks at Ridgmont and Kempston had declined and ceased production. By 1975 production at Stewartby had reached an all-time high with 18 million bricks being produced per week.

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The works closed in February 2008 primarily because of the difficulty in reducing Sulphur Dioxide emissions to an acceptable level.
This is one of them local places for me that Iv visited more times than I care to remember, but Iv still managed to lose pics of a lot of it (the rater cool newer warehouse with overhead crane etc) but never mind, there are still more pics than you will prob want to look at!
Had these in flickr for a month, but only just finding the time to write it up :lol

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wolfism

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Great stuff, even now there's a lot to see. Third photo down in your second lot of photos sums it up for me perfectly. Well done.

Stewartby is a long drive for me, but went to see it in 2008 just as it was closing, at that point it was easy to get on top of the kilns and onto the steel platforms low down on the chimneys. I thought all the stacks were listed, but am I right in thinking I heard they were going to demolish some of them...?
 

Hayman

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Having handled many Fletton bricks in my time, I have now looked online to find the origin of the name: an area of Peterborough.

The Hoffman kilns - with the fire to cure the bricks being on an endless grate passing through the stacks of bricks, rather than moving the bricks - sounds like a piece of lateral thinking. Although cleaning the ashes from the moving grate and feeding fresh coal or coke would have been quite labour intensive.

Seeing the name Hanson in one photo did not come as a surprise.

Looking today at the surviving brick railway viaducts is just one way to realise how many bricks went into making Victorian and Edwardian Britain.
 

BikinGlynn

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Great stuff, even now there's a lot to see. Third photo down in your second lot of photos sums it up for me perfectly. Well done.

Stewartby is a long drive for me, but went to see it in 2008 just as it was closing, at that point it was easy to get on top of the kilns and onto the steel platforms low down on the chimneys. I thought all the stacks were listed, but am I right in thinking I heard they were going to demolish some of them...?
the one stack with stewartby on was listed I believe but they plan to rebuild it somewhere else on teh site which is just crazy!
 

BikinGlynn

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The last 4 remaining chimneys were all demolished last year.

Yeah, as above I believe they are supposed to be rebuilding the one with name on eventually
 

BikinGlynn

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Rats, that's a pity. Unlike Battersea, can't imagine they'll have a massive budget to rebuild them, regardless of what any Planning conditions say.

they will prob be 6ft high from LEGO
 

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