Bricks from sites in the Morwellham Area


A red fabric with a rectangular frog, bearing the legend

This type is represented by a single broken brick, found dumped into the Morwellham sawpit in the late C19.

Bealswood Brickworks from Hatch Wood, c1890
This is one of two well-known postcard views of the works, looking south and showing it in relation to the Weir Head bypass canal of the Tamar Manure Navigation - the straight line cutting off the curve in the river. Owing to the over-exposure of the photograph, the weir itself is not visible, but is sited just the viewer's side of the little wooded island in midstream. Much of the production area is visible in this view, though the clay pit is off-view to the right. Image 2 is a detail of this photograph.

Much of the production area is visible in this view, though the clay pit is off-view to the right. Many warehouses and other buildings visible in the background were associated with the Tamar Manure Navigation, though the brickworks may have used the nearest warehouse.

Again much of the production area is visible in this view, though the managers house and excavated clay dumps are off-view to the right. The original hand-manufacturing area may have been in the far corner of the site where there is a long low shed, but by this date it had probably been superseded by steam-powered bric-moulding machines. Much of the site is occupied by stacks of 'green' or unfired bricks, air-drying in rows. The kilns are interspersed among the stacking areas with warehouses for storing the finished bricks adjoining the canal at either end of the site. Those at this end are on a different alignment and may have been built as warehousing for the Tamar Manure Navigation in the late 18th or early 19th century. Tunnel kilns dominate the works, with more than period of construction/development. The far group of three have arched corrugated iron sheds between them, almost certainly prefabricated structures by Bolton & Paul or a similar agricultural/industrial buildings manufacturer. The double stacks imply a furnace sited half-way along each kiln, possiby under the floor.

Despite the pitched slate roofs, the kilns would have had solid brick tunnel vaults. The kiln in the immediate foreground may be an older version of this, with a stepped flat roof and extensive butressing. That beyond may be a drying shed, with Roman-style underfloor hypocaust and wall flues to jacket the interior with heat. The little wall-flue terminal stacks can be seen emerging at intervals along either side. Two sailing ships can be seen in the canal, presumably loading fired bricks for transport down to Plymouth and beyond.

Immediately in the foreground of the works manager's house to the right is a yard where dug clay was heaped, awaiting tramming or barrowing to the manuacturing areas. A steam-powered mill is sited in the centre of the image, partially hidden behind its chimney stack. The huge building with the curved roof appears to have been a drying house, the row of 12 chimneys at its near end draughting an internal flue system. Parts of this building survive in the scrub woodland which now blankets the site. The air-drying brick stacks are very evident in this view.

Brickworkers at Bealswood, c1880 or 90
This remarkable view, looking towards the north-east was principally taken as a record of the workers at Bealswood Brickworks, but incidentally shows the rotative beam engine which probably drove a clay mixing mill and brick-moulding machinery. The buildings partially survive in dense scrub woodland alongside Gunnislake football pitch. The small water tower in the right foreground survives well. The angled line immediately to the left of the engine house is the top of a railway incline from the clay pit, presumably also powered by the engine. Two air-drying brick stacks behind the men on the right have overhanging roofs - perhaps of boards. Chimney Rock can be seen in the steeply wooded valley side behind.

Rotative beam engine, rear L of 5
The engine house may have started life as a winding house with a fully internal engine, as a blocked arched opening is visible in the gable above the bob plat. The chimney stack has a stone body and brick upper as was normal on mine stacks, but its square form is more typical of non-mining industries such as brickworks where extreme strength was not necessary. The function of the building with the louvered roof is not certain, though it looks like a smithy. The boiler was in the half-leanto immediately adjoining the engine house.

Beehive kiln and drying shed
This detail shows the south end of the large drying shed seen in image 4, which partially survives, with its central arched doorway clearly containing one of a pair of timber doors. The window and door to the left may imply an internal division. The odd hood-like roof beyond is not associated with the water tower in the foreground (though it looks as if it is), but is in fact one of three probable louvers on the roof of the drying shed, seen in image 4.

None of these men have been positively identified, though as it is a posed group, it is likely that other copies have survived. I would be interested to hear from anyone who thinks they may be able to identify their names and a possible date for this photograph.