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Report - - Bryn Brickworks, Maesteg Sep 2018 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Bryn Brickworks, Maesteg Sep 2018



LittleOwl

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
#1
An old report I've been sitting on for some time now. Wasn't entirely certain what to post this under but given it's a traditional site for making bricks, industrial seems as appropriate as can be.

Living relatively close to Maesteg, I adore the area and regularly go hiking. One day I came across this little place purely by chance whilst mitching off work and I had to look up its history post visit.

History

The Bryn Brickworks is llisted as a very rare example of a 19th Century kiln brickworks, and it's listing entry on the Cadw database reads as follows.

Bryn Brickworks was constructed after 1894 and continued production into the 1920s. The kiln block stood at the SE end of the works adjacent to a siding of the Port Talbot Railway. The clay preparation and drying sheds do not survive. The kilns are typical of a small brickworks of the late C19 or early C20 as they are intermittent, i.e. they were allowed to cool after firing, in contrast to continuous kilns, which had numerous chambers and where the heat was maintained. The kilns were linked with a pair of round chimney stacks, neither of which have survived, which demonstrates that they were of the downdraught type.

Brick making was brought to Britain by the Romans, but fell into decline after their departure and it was not unusual for bricks to be reused from rundown buildings or excavations. The earliest known post-Roman bricks date from the early-thirteenth century, when Flemish bricks were imported. The quality of British brick making rose to an adequate level and the numbers of imported bricks declined. However, it was not until the early-fifteenth century when a large number of Flemish and Dutch craftsmen came to settle in England that the quality of English bricks increased. During this period, all brickmakers travelled to the construction site to make bricks from the local clays.

Although the sizes of bricks altered across areas and through the centuries, by the early-nineteenth century bricks were manufactured to a statute which required that they should be twice as long as they were broad, normally being 8 by 4.5 inches or 9 x 4.5 inches.

Brick Making Techniques

Brick clay, having been dug from the selected ground and tested for suitability, is picked clear of unwanted matter and then mixed to the right consistency for brick making. Historically, the clay would be tempered by the weather and water under foot in open pits for two to three days. The clay is then thrown into wooden moulds to form the shape of the brick. When moulding a brick, it is vital that no air is trapped inside the clay. Excess clay is removed by running over the mould with a wire.

The moulds are then turned out onto barrows and taken to a flat, south-facing field and laid out to dry for two days and two nights, being turned during that time to assist initial drying, then turned again on edge and stacked in rows, one on top of the other, to dry for a period usually extending between one and three months depending on the weather and time of year.

When the bricks are deemed dry enough, they are fettled (trimmed of “flash” and stacked to form a kiln in order to bake them. Flues are set into the kiln and fuel is then prepared (usually timber) or in Ireland turf (peat) is used. The fires are lit and the bricks are “burnt” in kilns containing between 800 and 1,000 pieces. The firing usually takes two to three days (including the nights continuous firing and reach a temperature of around 1,040 degrees Centigrade. The kilns are then allowed to cool naturally and after two days cooling can be dismantled and the bricks sorted and stacked ready for use.

The colour of the brick is determined by the chemical composition of the clay, the fuel used to fire the bricks, and the levels of oxygen available during the firing process. Iron oxide give the brick a red colour, very high levels of iron oxide give a blue colour, limestone and chalk added to iron gives a buff/yellow colour, magnesium oxide gives a yellow colour, and no iron or other oxides gives a white colour.

Onto the Report

Surrounded by harsh thorns, dense brush and home to more than a few local sheep, the exterior looks pretty unremarkable. Unfortunately I wasn't carrying my Canon at the time and so had to settle for the ol' mobile phone, which given the lighting, did a surprisingly good job.

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I just loved the fact that nature had started to reclaim the place and is in a state of symbiosis.

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I had to tread fairly carefully whilst inside as the site as used almost entirely by sheep, rabbits and rats so inside there was shit galore and unfortunately, a dead sheep.

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Inside, the arching in the stoke holes (where the air was let in to stoke the fire of the kiln) gives a small clue to what a marvellous building this must have been and is all too satisfying to look at. Below is the one image I fancied editing.
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The various outlets in the brickwork for the kiln did help to provide some essential light.
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Considering I wasn't looking to find an urbex that day, it was a great little find and I certainly hope to come across more traditional buildings like this in the future. Gives me a nice excuse to call in sick for work more often if nothing else. ;)

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