It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Alex Coles.

Employment opportunities in any given place will be determined by the natural landscape to a certain extent, particularly when looking at early or traditional opportunities. My place, Wing in Buckinghamshire, happens to be situated right on the edge of a bed of blue marl brickearth, and the hamlet of Littleworth had beds with enough clay in them (an “almost inexhaustible bed of fine blue and white clay” if you believe the advertising) to warrant setting up a brickworks.

map of the border of Buckinghamshire and Wing showing clay bed location
Wing is tucked into the "curl" of the blue marl beds in the north of Buckinghamshire

In 1850 Great Britain abolished its brick tax, a tax per brick used in construction that had been established in 1784 to pay for the American Revolutionary War. That sounds like a great time to invest in brick production, and in 1859 Richard Harris, a Wing-born miller, did just that, establishing a brickworks over six acres in Littleworth. It had two kilns with 12 furnaces plus numerous sheds and buildings, and produced bricks, tiles and pipes.

The brickmaking year involved being outside digging up the clay in autumn, spading it in winter, tempering it in spring, and finally moulding and firing. As far as I can tell from the census the Wing Brick Kilns didn’t employ great swathes of people – as well as boss Richard there was a foreman, George Trueman, plus three labourers at the time of the 1861 census, however it’s possible there were more workers either just describing themselves as plain labourers on the census or only employed at certain times of the year. In subsequent census records there were again no more than 5 brickmakers/brickworkers recorded. Still, that means there were at least 5 families supported by this local business.

You can learn more about brickmaking generally and brickmaking in Wing specifically on my website.


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