Brick and Tile Works in Devon

Rumleigh Brickworks, Bere Alston

Operated by Thomas Westlake & Co. between 1879 and c.1914, this small works took clay from two small pits immediately adjoining the river. The buildings included a circular Hoffman kiln with a tall central stack, which survives, though badly damaged by a lightning strike several years ago. An adjoining arsenic refinery was developed by the same company in the mid-1880s. The site is swampy and heavily overgrown, making it difficult to interpret.
See Ore Processing page for 1885 plan.

Manna Butts Brickworks, Tavistock

This short-lived brickworks was developed by the Bedford Estate in the 1840s-50s in order to provide bricks for the Estate's cottage building programme. Although two groups of cottages at Manna Butts (1842) and Dolvin Road, Tavistock (1842-45) were built, the clay (and the subsequent bricks) were of poor quality, and the works was abandoned after a relatively short life. Nothing survives on the site today and the pit has been filled in.

Morwellham Clay Pit, Gulworthy

A medium sized pit, possibly for clay extraction survives in pasture fields between Morwellham and Impham Quays. No historical evidence for its date or who it was worked by exist, although it may have been worked in conjunction with the nearby Impham Brickworks.

Impham Brickworks, Gulworthy

This small brickworks was set up by a London entrepreneur, Thomas Wagstaffe in about 1860, but was apparently abandoned by 1867, when he was the subject of a bankruptcy suit. It was apparently associated with his speculative working of the Frementor Granite Quarry, 3km upstream, which was linked to Impham Quay by a short-lived standard gauge railway.

The site is interesting as it is the only brickworks in West Devon known to have used mining techniques to extract the clay. Like Manna Butts, the clay was poor, containing many killas (clay-slate) fragments, which tended to soften up during firing, making a friable and weak brick. Bricks found on site have WAGSTAFFE stamped into the frog and are of standard size with an orange-red colour. One example was found during the 2008 excavations at Morwellham Quay and probably derives from an 1860s context.

The site survives relatively well in a pasture field and scrub woodland alongside the Tamar, just upstream from the site of Impham Quay. The brickfield is represented by two large rectangular depressions in the pasture field, which may result from the controlled collapse of underground extraction galleries, rather than opencast works. A possible drainage adit towards the lower edge of the field emerges in a patch of scrub and flows freely in winter, while a shaft marked on the 1867 Bedford Estate Map survives as a partly collapsed hole 150m to the east, with a linear depression alongside marking the position of a water wheel. This was supplied with water from the Bedford United Leat (drawn from the Tavistock Canal) and may have been used for pumping and/or winding; it is marked on a surface plan of Wheal Russell, dated 1872.

The manager's house and offices survive as a roofless and ivyclad ruin in the centre of the field. The primary two-storey house with brick details had a single storey office and stable added later to its east side. Many poor quality Wagstaffe bricks are to be found in and around the buildings.

The brick kiln survives in poor condition at the southern end of the site, and may have been blown up at some point after abandonment, as it largely consists of an enormous heap of rubble in a small fir plantation. Its appearance on the c.1860 Wheal Russell plan and the 1867 Bedford Estate Map suggests a rectangular structure of at least three bays, possibly representing three separate tunnel kilns with a shared exit flue, opening onto the Frementor Railway on its south-west side.

Despite its poor condition, this remains an important kiln, being one of only two surviving brick kilns on the Devon bank of the Tamar. Another feature of particular importance is its earlier history, as it appears to have been converted from a tin smelting furnace, marked on a Bedford Estate woodlands map in 1743 and possibly referred to by Henric Kalmeter in 1724. (Brooke 2001, 13)