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The Brickworks of Wales - Monmouthshire
The Western or Ebbw Valley
From Pontymister and Risca to Beaufort and Brynmawr
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The Round the World Brick Trip

I've tripped over dozens of bricks from the UK, India, New Zealand and elsewhere, have a look at them all
along with a good group on Facebook for brick and brickworks enthusiasts here :-

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Rogerstone and Risca

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Ty'n-y-Cwm, Pontymister - ST 2550 8985

Ty'n-y-Cwm brickworks appears on the 1917 OS map but houses are being built on the site by 1938, also the site of Terry Howells sawmills. It is probably the site known as Rogerstone brickworks. The 'Rogerstone Brick and Stone Co Ltd' had an agreement with the GWR for sidings near Risca Station agreed between July 1906 and Nov 1918 and there was a notable legal case regarding a mortgage in 1919 when the company may have gone bankrupt.

Danygraig, Risca - ST 2355 9070

The Union Copper Co opened the Danygraig copper works in 1807 on the site of Roman lead mines, becoming a chemical works run by David Morris in 1816. A further change of use occurred after 1892 and saw it become Edwin Southwood Jones' brickworks. Southwood Jones also owned Graig-ddu brickworks in Cwmnantddu, Eastern Valley. The works is still in operation in 2018 for pre-cast concrete products but will be closing imminently for more housing.

Waunfawr, Risca - ST 2305 9105

Waunfawr Brickworks was part of the Risca Blackvein Collieryso likely to have opened after 1836 when John Russell took over. His bricks appear to be imprinted 'I Russell' as 'J' and 'John' in Welsh are 'I' and 'Ioan'. Russell created the 'Risca Coal and Iron Co' in 1847 but went bankrupt in 1862 after the disastrous explosion at the colliery. The company became the 'London and South Wales Colliery Co' in 1872, the later 'United National Collieries Ltd' . By the 1930s the brickworks had became part of the Star Brick Co empire. I've not come across a 'Star Risca' brick though 'National Star' bricks exist with the letters 'RC' for Risca. The brickworks seems to have closed in the 1960s.

The Darren Valley (or the Darran Valley)

At one time or another, there were five separate sets of brick kilns in the Darren Valley, one each for the 'Cwmbyr' brickworks, 'Risca' brickworks' and the upper brickyard and two for the 'Darran Brickworks' which was also known as the 'Twyn Brickworks'. The Ordnance Survey always refer to the valley as 'Darren' but 'Darran' is used just as often.

The upper brickyard - ST 2345 9205

Abraham Brain and Job Price are shown on the 1843 Tithe map as occupying a 'Brick Yard and Waste' on field No 152, owned by Mary George. This was further up the Darren Valley and later the site of coal and clay levels

Risca Brickworks - ST 2339 9164

Risca Brickworks was above the canal and linked to Darran Colliery and a number of clay levels. The site is now a cafe and caravan park but there are many things to see around here if you ask nicely. This was the longest-lasting of the Darren area brickworks, opening around 1830 and possibly closing as late as 1942. Originally it was leased by Joseph Nicholas with Jervis Johnson joining him by 1846. It was managed by G Nicholas in 1878 and by A Johnson in 1884. Nicholas and Johnson also owned Rudry Brickworks and Colliery. Jane and James Jones of the Darran brickworks took over in 1893 but went bankrupt when 'Jones Darren Fire Brick Works Ltd' was dissolved in 1908. The 'Star Brick & Tile Co' take over lease of the works but concentrated their business on the Waunfawr Brickworks and the two brickworks production was wound down.

Darren Brickworks - ST 2342 9153

Below the canal bridge was Darren Brickworks, with one set of kilns beside the canal from before 1843 which were gradually replaced by another set next to the railway by 1917. It was probably disused by the early 1920s though the kilns are still shown on the 1938 map. The site is mainly buried underneath the new Darren Road and a new industrial unit so hard to see anything now. The earliest recorded owners, Abraham Brain and Job Price are listed on the c1843 Tithe map along with the upper brickyard. Abraham Brain moved to Randolph, New York State in 1857 where he established a brickyard. Sadly his wife Hannah Bryant died shortly after landing in New York. His successor in c1849, was William Brain, Abraham's grandson. William was a grocer, brewer and general dealer from Machen. He had been declared bankrupt in 1842 and went bankrupt again in 1861 when the brickworks was auctioned. It came into possesion of the Jones family until the 'Jones Darren Fire Brick Works Ltd' was dissolved in 1908. The lease was taken over by the 'Star Brick & Tile Co' who concentrated their business on the Waunfawr Brickworks and production at the two Darren brickworks was wound down.

A rough time line of ownership :-
1843 - Abraham Brain and Job Price
1849 - William Brain and Fergus Best
1861 - J Jones and Co (also quoted as 1858)
1868 - Francis Jones, Darran Fire Brick Works, Risca
1884 - Mrs Jane Jones, Darran Works, Risca, Newport
1893 - Jane and James Jones acquires Risca brickworks from Nicholas and Johnson
1908 - Jones Darren Fire Brick Works Ltd dissolved and the 'Star Brick & Tile Co' take over lease of the works

There's a good range of different imprints used by the Risca and Darran brickworks under the Jones ownership.

Cwm-byr Brickworks - ST 2322 9162

The last of the string of brickworks was Cwm-byr Brickworks, working from before 1882 but disused by 1917. I can find little about it and there's nothing to see there now as the area has been re-used. Some low foundations may be part of the brickworks. It is always labelled separately on the OS maps but it may actually have been another set of kilns for the Darren brickworks as its tramways are connected. I've never seen a brick stamped 'Cwm-byr' either.


Crumlin to Cwmtillery

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Crumlin - ST 2036 9883

Davies Bros were the owners of Kendon Colliery and owned the brickworks by 1916 presumably to use a clay seam. It was shown on the 1938 OS map but it had closed by 1948.

Abertillery - SO 2196 0362

Tillery Brickworks was opened around 1891 shortly after the adjacent Vivian Colliery, owned by 'Powells Tillery', 'Ebbw Vale Co' and 'Partridge, Jones and Paton'. It appears on the 1899 map but not marked as a brickworks on the 1948 edition.

Cwmtillery - SO 2202 0573

Woodland brickworks was owned by Joseph Wallace to 1892, then Arthur Tilney who had retired by 1910. It isn't shown on the 1915 OS map. The photos of 'Cwmtylery' may be the reverse of Wallace and Tilney bricks.
Bricks for 'E G Smith Co Abertillery' and 'Weaver Abertillery', if not owners or partners, are likely to have been made here on a contract basis.


Blaina and Brynmawr

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Blaina

The earliest kilns (1) in Blaina were at SO 1980 0860 in 1880. They had gone by 1901 when two sets of kilns were in operation. The smaller set of kilns (2) were at SO 2000 0860 and a larger set (3) at SO 1970 0885. By 1938 only the smaller set (2) were shown on the OS map and that too had gone by 1948.
Who owned what is unclear but they seem to be connected with North Blaina Colliery. This was opened in 1860 by the Nantyglo & Blaina Company Ltd, being known as The Rising Sun Pit. By 1877 the colliery was owned by Morgan & Williams, and later acquired by the brothers, J and W Stone being known as Stones Pit from 1883. J Lancaster & Co had taken over by 1913 and the colliery closed around 1923.

Brynmawr - SO 1945 1190

Shown on the 1877 and 1899 OS maps but not labelled as brickworks by 1904. The site was cleared by 1920. It seems to have been owned by 'Vaughan & Morris' but I can't find anything further on them..


Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Ebbw Vale

Ebbw Vale is the home of the giant Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co. (later Richard Thomas & Baldwins Ltd) who ran three brickworks in Ebbw vale and one in Sirhowy. Total production reached 20 million bricks a year in 1955.

Furnace Brickworks - SO 1715 0980

Furnace Brickworks was known as the old brickyard, producing firebricks for the furnaces. It may have been established with the first furnace in c1790 and is mentioned in the auction details of 1844. The clay came from a level behind the General Offices and it had closed by 1923

Brynhelig (Willowtown) Brickworks - SO 1625 0990

The New Brickyard at Brynhelig (or Willowtown was in production in 1880 but had been greatly expanded by 1901. It closed in 1962

Gantre Brickworks - SO 1655 1020

The Gantre brickworks was built in 1907 with a Hoffman continuous kiln to meet the demand for building bricks. Much of the material used at the works came from shale tips to the North and later to the East. It closed in 1960

Victoria Brickworks - SO 1720 0765

A brickworks was owned by the Monmouthshire Iron and Coal Co at the Victoria ironworks in 1841, being described in a sale notice as having 'two kilns and two drying stoves makng 40,000 bricks a month. The works became part of the Ebbw Vale Co. Nothing else is known about the brickworks.

'Ebbw Vale' bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'Ebbw Vale' in a single line

'Ebbw Vale' bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'Ebbw Vale' in a double line

'E V' and other bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'E V' and other marks

Beaufort

Beaufort Brick Co Ltd, original site - SO 1700 1156

Beaufort brickworks original site is shown on the 1878 OS map with a tramway linking it to Beaufort ironworks which had closed in 1874. It is shown on the 1899 map but not labeled and had gone completely by 1915.

Beaufort Brick Co Ltd, later site - SO 1650 1195

Beaufort brickworks second site opened c1908 and first appears on the 1915 OS map labelled 'Brick & Pipe Works'. The works produced a great many bricks, found all over South Wales, until closing in the 1970s. Many of the Beaufort imprints used raised lettering rather than incised lettering.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

A great many people have supplied information and photos of Monmouthshire's brickworks and their bricks, so many thanks to (alphabetically) Graham Bennett, Ian Cooke, Steve Davies, Ebbw Vale Museum, Andrew Harvard, Tracey Hucker, Mike Kilner, Ivor Lapham, Jamie Larke, Norman Lowe, Richard Paterson, Ian Pickford, Howard Robinson, Dave Sallery, Charlene Saunders, Lawrence Skuse, Mike Stokes, Gareth Thomas, www.tredegar.co.uk, 'Risca - its Industrial and Social Development' by Alan Victor Jones, Jeffrey Williams and the Beaufort Community Hall group.

The Brocross/Penmorfa website is the best source of info on bricks and brickworks in the UK :- Old Bricks - history at your feet

For very good coverage of Scottish bricks and quite a bit about other places too :- Scottishbrickhistory.co.uk

There is a specialist society for brick history :- britishbricksoc.co.uk

There's also a 'Facebook' group for bricks and brickworks :- 'Bricks and Brickworks Past'


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