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Tyne and Wear HER(4279): Byker, St. Anthony's Brick Works - Details

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Byker, St. Anthony's Brick Works




Brick and Tilemaking Site


Early Modern


Physical Evidence

The first edition Ordnance Survey map shows a brick field and a cluster of large clay extraction pits but no buildings. The natural boulder clay would have been opencast mined by hand until the steam shovel was introduced in 1879. At that time bricks were probably being made by tempering (kneading) and pugging the clay, then moulding and hacking the bricks in the open, and fired in single burn clamps (bricks are fired in a temporary stack which is dismantled after firing). A brick floor with integral channels contained the fuel, usually crucsked coke, wood or charcoal. This method of hand-moulded brick manufacture did not require a permanent kiln or ancillary structures. The second edition map of 1898 shows a building annotated as St. Anthony's Brick Works. The brickfield is no longer marked, presumably abandoned for the permanent facility. Two large water-filled clay pits remain to the west. An extensive clay pit lies to the north and east of the building. The brickworks was probably established by 1880. The brickworks is still present on the 1907 1:500 map and the 1919 map but the works seem to have been rebuilt, with a chimney attached to the south-west wing of the building. Clay quarrying had expanded. A tramway ran from the south-east corner to the south east in a cutting, crossed at one point by a footbridge. This was probably used for transporting finished bricks but possibly also for importing raw materials. There were two separate buildings on the north side of the main building, possibly external furnaces used to fire the kilns in the main building. The brickworks appear largely unchanged on the 1940 map. The works do not appear on the 1951 edition, indicating that production had ceased and the buildings had been demolished. The Lightfoot Centre was built in 1965 and the site of the brickworks became sports pitches and an athletics track. In March 2011 Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd excavated five evaluation trenches within the sports fields in advance of a new school being built. Trenches 1, 3 and 5 found the site was disturbed, probably by clay extraction. Trench 4 found brick walls and floors of St. Anthony's Brickworks. The trench was expanded into an open area excavation 1300m square in size between March and May 2011. The earliest deposits provided evidence of early C19 brickmaking probably using brick clamps - a linear spread of compact ash with brick impressions. The north-west portion of the mid C19 brickworks building survived, constructed of wire-cut bricks. The western external wall and a series of probable coal chutes survived. A rectangular room 15m x 9m was filled with parallel north-south aligned walls forming flue channels beneath the floor of what was probably a heated drying chamber, employing waste heat from a kiln or boiler to dry the unfired bricks prior to firing. There was an external brick yard and road surface. The mechanisation of brickmaking in the mid C19 coincided with the abolition of the tax on bricks, which had been in place since 1784. This resulted in a vast increase in production aided by new machinery which allowed harder clays to be used. The bricks were presumably used to build local housing. Brickworks comprised of a processing area for tempering and removing stones, a pug mill (horse-driven, later steam powered) for adding water to achieve the correct consistency, an area for brick-forming machinery, a large shed for drying the unfired 'green' bricks and kilns for firing. Evidence of the rebuilt brickworks constructed between 1898 and 1907 survived in the eastern portion of the excavation area - external walls, a row of brick piers, an internal concrete floor. This building might have been used for brick moulding, but no sign of the machinery survived.




<< HER 4279 >> 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map, 1899, 6 inch scale, Northumberland, 98, NW; Tyne and Wear Museums, 2008, Heart of Walker Archaeological Desk Based Assessment; Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd, 2011, Archaeological Investigations at the Lightfoot Centre, Wharrier Street, Walker, Newcastle; RW Brunskill, 1990, Brick Building in Britain; PJ Davison, 1986, Brickworks of the North East; E Dobson, 1850, A Rudimentary Treatise on the Manufacture of Bricks and Tiles; W Jones, 1996, Dictionary of Industrial Archaeology; Jennifer Proctor, 2013, Waggonways and brickworks: insights into the industrial heritage of Walker, Archaeologia Aeliana, Fifth Series, Volume 42, pp 269-304

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