Greet and Tyseley
The First Edition Ordnance Survey shows three brick works at Greet and one at Tyseley. We have used the directories to assign brick makers to the other three works, hopefully not in error.
The one that seemed to last the shortest time was at Albion Road in Greet. Charles Williams is listed there in 1881, and John Bullock in 1882. There is no listing from 1883.
The other works are the Greet, Burbury and Tyseley brickworks.
The Greet Brickworks
In 1878 and 1879 John Denston is listed at Greet, and in 1880 and 1882 Herbert Leamon is listed at the Greet Brickworks. By 1883 William Evans is listed at the Warwick Road in Greet. The house nearby (Greet House) appears to be owned by Leamon. Albert Stephenson has amusing things to say about both Leamon and Evans:
Of Herbert Leamon, he said that he "seemed to make bricks by riding about on horseback all day long!" Of William Evans, he wrote: "this yard was run by a friend of mine named William Evans, who was just about as well fitted to make bricks as to fill the position of Prime Minister! But then there is a popular superstition that any fool can make bricks!" (page 99).
By 1890 Mrs Hannah Evans is listed at the works, and she continues to be listed until 1896. In 1897 Arthur Lewis is listed at Warwick Road as well as at the Burbury Brickworks, so he must have absorbed the Greet works into his own at that time.
The Burbury Brickworks
The first Edition O.S. map shows a small brickworks to the west of the Greet works, not accessed from the Warwick Road, but from Bridge Road, off Percy Road. In 1878 and 1879 James Lewis is listed at Burbury Street Aston/Nechells) and Greet. Lewis, in the form of Arthur Lewis, is not listed until 1896, with the name Burbury imported: perhaps the works was dormant while the Greet Brickworks was in business. In 1897 Lewis has both sites.
Albert Stephenson has a couple of pages on the Burbury Brickworks, including characteristically amusing turns of phrase. He wrote that after the plant stopped working in 1917, the pit filled up with water, and overflowed into the Cole. The owner, Arthur Lewis was, according to him:
a brickmaker of the old school, who believed in making a big quantity of bricks, and in 'getting rid' of them somehow! He was also a great lover of horses, and kept a stable of twenty or thirty of them for the purpose of delivering his bricks. When the writer once remonstrated with him for selling his bricks at such absurdly low prices, his reply was : 'Well, I must sell the damned things at some price or another, or I should not be able to keep my horses at work'! (page 91)
In 1917, Stephenson bought the works, and in 1919 he, C.H. Barrows and Ernest Swain formed a new company. His description of the manufacturing process at that time (1930s) is interesting:
The clay is well ground and pugged (ground, mixed with water and tempered) and delivered to the machine by a travelling belt. The bricks are cut off by a Bennett and Sayer cutter, which delivers them straight into zinc-covered and rubber-tyred barrows, to the floors of the drying sheds, which are heated solely by the exhaust steam from the engines. From thence they are conveyed, after some forty-eight hours, to the kiln - one of sixteen chambers of 25,000 each. The whole plant - clay hole included - is now lighted by electricity, and shelters are provided for the clay "getters" in case of bad weather, thus ensuring the same quantity of bricks being produced, summer and winter alike. The motive power is steam, provided by a range of three large boilers. the grinding mill and machinery are by Messrs. Brookes, Ltd., Oldbury. (page 92)
The Burbury brickworks closed during the 1950s, when the clay ran out, according to one of the Stanley family, who worked there. The site was taken over by Langleys the builders, who closed down in the 1960s. Tipping rights were sold, and anything and everything ended up in the huge claypit. Local people were already using part of the site as a short cut, but when the city was asked to include the former brickworks in the Millstream Way walk along the River Cole, they discovered that they needed to protect the public from toxins in the waste, and capped part of the site with clay. About one-third of it is used for a small industrial estate, and there are methane vents. Wildlife thrives on the remainder of the site (thanks to Peter Bennett and Peter Osborne for this information).
The Tyseley Brickworks
In 1878 and 1879 Doody & Co. are listed at Warwick Road, Tyseley. In 1880 the Tyseley Brick Company is there, in 1883 Lees and Trueman are at the Warwick Road, Tyseley, and in 1888 Jesse Smith, brick maker, is listed at Tyseley. He is joined in 1890 by Mrs. Caroline Smith, who used to be at Stockfield Road, Acocks Green. The last entry is in 1900, and the 1904 map shows the brickworks as disused.