|Clifford White's Brickworks were in Lower Kingsland Road.
The works had been started by developers about 1905 but they were caught up in the the bankruptcies in 1914 and the works were acquired by Clifford White.
The brickyard was in an area which had been dug out by hand from the cliff part which extended up towards Rainbow Road. A large low roofed shed had been built which had removable shutters and louvered sides to allow
air entry for a drying process to circulate. It housed a large open crank oil engine with a flywheel of some 5 feet diameter which powered the Pugmill next to the building, but on the outside. This mill was a brick lined
pit of some 10 to 12 feet in diameter and had a system of timber troughs that led away from it. These were
controlled by 'gates' which would allow the mixed pug to be run off into a settling lagoon. A large overhead
powerhead was central with a shaft into the pit which terminated with 4 harrows which when turned, stirred and
harrowed the pug as water was added and the agitators went round and round. A large bevel-gear system ended
with a long shaft that went through into the shed and ended with fast and loose pulleys to the engine main
drive. The oil engine ran on paraffin and had a 'hotspot' start. A blowlamp was fired up and placed with the
flame playing on the metal hotspot at the compression end of the cylinder, Once red hot, the flywheel would be
forced over by hand with the exhaust lift in the half compression setting. On firing a couple of times, full
compression would be engaged and working power obtained.
I can remember that at sometime the drive and flywheel shaft had been bent in someway and although this was only about a ½ inch out of true, the flywheel had a wobble that would frighten the life out of anyone watching it for the first time. However, this worked for many many years without mishap so no harm would appear to have come to it, The clay was dug with spades and loaded onto barrows and wheeled to the mill and tipped in as the agitators were powered round and water added to make a slurry. Some sand was added in proportion and the build up went on until the mill was full. The gates were now opened and the mixture run off into the settling pans until the mill was empty. The process was started all over again and repeated until the settling pans were full and there was enough pug in hand for several weeks of brickmaking in hand.
This part of the operation completed, the action now went into the shed. The pug was now in a stiff state and
was dug and wheeled into the working area and dumped onto a pallet board, metal moulds. the correct size were
filled with the stiff clay and forced into the mould and screeded off level with a round piece of wood. The
mould contained a 'frog' with the initials C.M.W. cast in and when the mould was taken apart by simple clips,
the bricks were carefully placed a boards a few inches apart and wheeled out to be stacked in long rows for air
drying. When piled some 3 feet high, special roofing covers were put over them to shoot off any rain. When many
hundreds of bricks had been made the next stage would be put into action. This was the wheeling and stacking of
the green bricks into the kiln. Carefully placed row upon row and tier after tier until the kiln was full.
Corrugated iron roofing sheets covered all and the fires in the several holes around the kiln lighted and kept
going day and night for as long as it took to bake the bricks. I can well remember the glowing in the night sky when every one knew the process was taking place. The furthest from the fire became 'light reds'. Mid ones became medium reds and those nearest the fire, the dark reds. The ones which were nearest of all to the fires on which the flames impinged were 'burrs' which had partly clinkered and were used in making some ornamental brick walls which graced many of the larger houses.
A similar but larger brick works was owned and operated by C.M. White at Weeley and here there was a railway
siding to take the products to other parts of the country. This was closed down in the early part of the war and
did not open again afterwards.
I have only given a rough idea of the pug composition, but I noted that there was much straw in evidence around
the works and I think that some was chopped up by a cutter and used in the pug mixing. Some also must have been
used to protect the green bricks from frost in the winter months. Of course no baling was available in those
days and carts were piled up with straw after threshing and a tarpaulin used to stop blowing around until the
destination was reached. Also by the same method as the bricks, land drain pipes were made in the works but not
in the same quantity. The same pug was used to make 2 inch, 3 inch and 4 inch pipes, and a small machine was
used for the purpose; the pug being forced by rollers to form a cylinder and cut to length and discharged to be
placed on a board like the bricks and wheeled out to dry in the air ready for firing in the kiln. This all went
on for a considerable number of years and employed several men in it's heyday. However the clay source became
used up and the works was closed down. The site was let to the W.M.U.D.C. for some years as a dump for the
dustbin collection which gradually filled the workings and the area was used as a landfill site to level it all
off. Now some light industry has been put there, but it will be a number of years yet before anything more
substantial can be erected.
West Mersea Brickworks by Ron Green
The Clifford White Empire