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Report - Swillington Brickworks, Jan '11

KooK

Tall & Flexible
28DL Full Member
#1
So first proper outing for team Herp & Derp for a while. I'd only been out once since jST got all his gear nicked, so after a quick warm up night of fails we were out bright and breezy to tackle this beast.

History

History is a bit hard to find, so may be slightly inaccurate as I've had to cobble it together from various sources.

Surveyours started at the Swillington site in 1958, and it seems building of the plant started in 1962 finishing sometime in late 1965 with production starting in 1966. It was built and operated by George Armitage and Sons PLC, who had been making quality bricks since 1824. The Swillington Works was built after the clay at the George Armitage and Sons site in Woodlesford was exhausted.

The clay pit was red burning so they had to import clay from other quarries, including their main works at Wakefield, to obtain the variety of colour they required. The site was originally built to produce around 30,000 bricks a day, but by 1982 was capable of 100,000. It seems average brick production in its final years was around 450,000 a week, with sales around 350,000 (they would transfer some to other sites) until the housing slump in 2007 when sales dropped down to around 250,000 bricks a week.

The current kiln was built in 1972 and is a German LINGI, it has the capacity to fit in 46 cars. They manufactured a wide range of bricks including facings, paviors, engineering and acid resistant. They provided all 1,000,000 bricks to build Barton Square, the second phase of the Trafford Centre, Manchester.

In 1988 it was taken over by Marshall's and the change from a family run business seemed to upset a lot of the work force. They seemed happier when the brickworks was accquired by Hanson Aggregates (not sure when), I'm sure we're all familiar with them, but there's some history here, but after a drop of 40% in sales after the deterioration of the building industry they closed the works with a loss of 45 jobs in October 2008.

The closure seems like a real shame as it was quite evident from walking around that they were a tight knit bunch with lots of in jokes, and their newsletter 'The Jungle Telegraph' is a testament to that, as well as some of the work force being there 40+ years.

The Visit


We set off at the crack of dawn and were slightly worried when we got there at the presence of a security looking Defendor parked up. However, we cracked on and wandered around the outside buildings, quarry and yards before trying to find away into the main production facility. Thankfully we did because it's an awesome place, one of those where it seems like they shut up shop at the end of the shift and never returned. Bricks are still mid-production and there are a couple of fork-lifts and a pick-up truck knocking about. Had a bit of a scare when we came upon a stuffed dog, but other than that it was quite chilled once we were in. There may be onsite secca as there was a light on in the offices at the front so we didn't risk going in that area.

Pictures

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Thanks for looking :thumb
 

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