According to Raphael Samuel, the growth of brickmaking in the first six decades of the nineteenth century “came about primarily through a multiplication of small producers” (25) after the government reduced taxes on bricks, which encouraged people to start small operations. Samuel explains that “a proprietor needed little in the way of capital to start a brickworks, and he was often a man with other interests besides — a farmer (or clergyman) wanting to profit from the claybeds on his land, a builder (or a grocer) with a sideline in bricks.” In Birmingham, for example, most brickmakers worked only in the summer, concentrating on brewing beer in winter, but in Manchester (which produced 130,000,000 in 1855 alone) they farm “if they find that they are not allowed to employ children in the brickyards they set them to work on their farms,”

Not all brickmasters or owners of brickworks supervised them personally but instead “often sub-contract[ed] them, either to a middleman, who undertook responsibility for the season’s operations (and perhaps contracted out the work himself), or to a moulder, or by a series of separate agreements to cover the different components of the work — clay getting, tempering, wheeling off, moulding, kiln-burning, and cartage.” Apparently, no single managerial arrangement or style dominated the industry: “sometimes the moulder contracted for the whole job and then sub-contracted in turn to the temperer, sometimes he employed him, and sometimes both moulder and temperer were contractors on equal terms. Usually it seems to have been the moulder who was the dominant figure on the brickfield, with the kiln-burners as a little sect on their own” (26).

Related material


Clark, G. Kitson. The Making of Victorian England Being the Ford Lectures Delivered before the University of Oxford. New York: Atheneum, 1971.

Samuel, Raphael. Miners, Quarrymen and Saltworkers. History Workshop Series. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977.

Last modified 26 May 2018