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Wanborough Brickworks

Much of early brick production was carried out in small batches usually near to where the bricks were to be used. There are several sites within Normandy parish where names of fields indicate where the clay for the bricks was obtained or where the bricks were made, an example being Brickfield Copse in the south of the parish.

Wanborough Brickworks, so called probably because it was near Wanborough Station, was actually within the parish of Normandy. It was situated a quarter of a mile east of the station just north of the railway line.

Wanborough Brickworks 1916

Wanborough Brickworks 1916

It was of comparatively late date as it was first established by Philip Shuttleworth Darnell soon after he bought the land in 1897. The land previously belonged to Cleygate Farm which was part of the Normandy Manor Estate sold off in lots from 1895.

The clay for the bricks was dug by hand from a pit within the grounds in the summer months and the bricks were air-dried before being fired in the five kilns which were draughted by the tall chimney which still stands. Four terrace cottages for the workers and a separate house for the Manager were built on the site. The brickworks was served by a siding running off the main railway line to the north.

In 1917 the brickworks was purchased by W T Lamb and Sons, a London firm of brick merchants. Although it was bought as a going concern there is some suggestion that it had suffered a decline and was possibly closed down during the first world war due to lack of manpower.

Workmen at Wanborough Brickworks
A group of 15 Workmen at Wanborough Brickworks, possibly in the 1920s
Stephen Moore is seated on the right and the man sitting on the left may be George Turner, grandfather of Ethel and Tom Turner. Note the decorative bricks in the barrow.

Workmen at the Wanborough Brickworks

Two workmen at the Wanborough Brickworks c1920s

The new owners adopted a different system of brick production. The clay was mixed with clinker, the process of firing depending on a proportion of combustible material in the brick, (Fletton bricks made in Bedfordshire contain an amount of naturally occurring oil shale in their makeup), and one of the kilns was used to pass hot air beneath clinker beds in the drying room on which the new bricks were laid. This system enabled production to be carried on throughout the year and was less dependent on the weather than previously. About a million bricks were produced annually and the firm specialised in high quality items for decorative purposes.

The brickworks closed in 1937 as it was becoming uneconomic mainly because the only access by road was under a low and narrow railway arch which the rail company would not alter. This limited the size of loads that could be exported from the site. Another factor may have been the international situation at the time leading to lack of orders.

There is a story that when the men employed at the brickworks were told that they were being laid off they went to the Anchor public house to drown their sorrows and whilst they were away the pump draining the water from the clay pit stopped . The pit rapidly filled with water but this was not the reason why the brickworks closed. It is more likely that the decision to close was taken and then the pump was shut down.

The kilns soon became derelict but the cottages, still owned by W T Lamb, continued to be lived in and the chimney was saved as a landmark for the Army and as an air navigation aid. The railway sidings were removed in the mid 1960s. The former Manager's house, known as "Ivy Cottage" was pulled down but in 1977 the property was sold to Mr and Mrs John Fenner. They renovated the cottages and converted them into a single dwelling with an annexe and they cleared the ground for equestrian events.

The Fenners sold the property in 1988 to Mr and Mrs David Crook who kindly gave Normandy Historians permission to organise two parties of visitors to view the site of the former brickworks in 1993.

Chimney viewed from South West
Chimney viewed from South West"

Today, the only evidence of the works is the chimney standing in splendid isolation and the former clay pit now filled with water and forming a picturesque pond.

I am indebted to an account by Brian Marshall and the researches of Pat Ashworth and Judy Turner for material to write this article.

Jack Kinder

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