Brick Making History

The popularity of the material can be traced to the revival of brick making in eastern England in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. This was a direct result of lack of local stone, an increasing shortage of good timber, and the influence of Europe where brick work was used extensively. By the Tudor period the brick makers and brick layers had emerged as separate craftsmen well able to rival the masons. From unsophisticated early work, brick building entered its heyday, rivalling stone in its popularity as a structural material.

Bricks were generally made on site in wood, heather or turf fired clamps by itinerant workers. Not only were standard bricks produced but also many in extravagant and elaborate shapes, epitomised by those that formed the spiral twisted chimney stacks for which the period is renown. The Tudors further patterned their brick work by inserting headers over burnt or vitrified bricks into the walling. These dark surfaces ranging from deep purple to slate in colour were laid carefully in quarter brick offsets in mainly English Bond or English Cross-Bond, to form a diaper or chequered pattern within the predominantly red brick work.

The Georgian Period 1714-1830

The late 17th and early 18th centuries were a high point in the use of brick. Their manufacture was much improved, with blended clay, better moulding and even more firing which lead to greater consistency in shape and size.

The colours of bricks changed in popularity from red, purple or grey bricks fashionable in the late 17th century until 1730, when brownish or pinkish grey stocks replaced the hot colours. These were followed in the mid 18th century by grey stocks, and by 1800, the production of yellow marl or malm London stocks, which were closer to the stone colour desired for a classical facade. Brick work was generally of a very high standard, in mainly Flemish bond although header bond was also popular in the early 18th century.

Victorian Brick Work 1837 - 1901

This was a period of revivalism in domestic architecture and industrial building. The former seeking a return to "medievalism" and other exotic building forms as a relief from the spirituality of the machine age. The latter, for the infrastructure of factories, warehouses, railway bridges and so on all largely met through the cheap use of bricks. During this period, a greater number of bricks were made and laid than during all the previous periods. Brick manufacturing methods had improved in all respects including quality accuracy, regularity and in range of colours available. From the mid 18th century onwards the manufacturing process, like many others, was becoming mechanised. This enabled deeper clays to be used for pressing into dense bricks for use on civil engineering works. And with improvements in travel and communications, bricks could be transported over wide areas which removed the traditional local variations.

Materials for Bricks

Clays for bricks should be composed of well-blended materials which will produce a good quality product. When lime, is sometimes added, and is not finely ground it will cause "lime blows". This occurs when particles of burnt lime (quicklime) near the surface of the brick expand in contact with rainwater, blowing small and unsightly conical holes in the face of the wall.

Until 1800, Most Bricks Were Red from the Iron in the Clay used.

The colour of bricks depended on the type of clay used. Before the coming of the railways in Victorian times, bricks were mostly made of local clay.

Other colours included: bricks

Whitish brick were Gault clay south-east of England Brown bricks were from Thames valley. Silver-grey bricks - south Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. Dark brown - Yorkshire

Colour variation in old bricks also depended on the firing process and where the bricks were placed in the kiln. The bricks nearest the heat turned the darkest in colour and were selected to form patterns (diapers); those furthest from the heat were lighter in colour.


Why is the Top of a Brick Called a Frog?

In the 1930s the bricks were made by hand in slop moulds and the indent required a wooden former in the bottom of the mould box. This looked like a crouching frog and the name stuck despite its reference to the indent.

Why is Brick Red?

The fired colour of clay bricks is influenced by the chemical and mineral content of the raw materials, the firing temperature, and the atmosphere in the kiln. For example, pink coloured bricks are the result of high iron content, white or yellow bricks have higher lime content.

What is a Brick Made Of?

Brick is made from clay and shale - some of the most abundant materials on earth - and then fired in a kiln at up to 2,000° F. By going through a chemical-transforming, verification process in the kiln, the minerals in the clay/shale unit fuse together and become a material that looks great, lasts an incredibly long

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