The Brick Directory Blog. Articles mentioning 'bricks' - brick making, Articles and Words taken from news agencies and newspapers, magazines and books about brick and other building materials including reference ('how to') and sometimes amusing 'brick related' stories. The blog is linked with helping you get in contact with every brick, paver, tile and stone manufacturer in the UK and Ireland.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Celebrating England's chimneypots

A new book marks the diversity of England's chimneypots. Gaze up at their beauty.
Chimney at Hampton Court Palace; Mary Poppins, Bert, the Sweep, and her charges admire London's rooftops - Celebrating England's chimneypots. Article in the Daily Telegraph 27th October 2011

Clive Aslet

If asked to name some of the things that are unique about this country, I would have said Gentleman’s Relish, red telephone boxes and the House of Lords. Expanding in a cultural direction, I might have added the change ringing of church bells, Prime Minister’s Question Time, ancient oak trees, fan-vaulting and potted shrimps. Chimneypots would not have featured on the list.

It has taken the genius of Dr John Goodall, writing his mammoth, The English Castle, a work whose scholarship will last as long as the castles themselves, to notice that we have a way with a chimney which is unlike that of other lands. To our forebears (the super-rich variety), these conduits for the discharge of domestic smoke became an opportunity to show off inventive fantasy and wealth. On the Continent, their counterparts showed off in lots of other ways, but not this one.

“Look,” says Dr Goodall excitedly, “at Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire.” I look and see works of infinite elaboration, which combine fleurs-de-lys, fancy bricklaying, extruding turrets and even little brick masks. “The tops seem to be modelled on the shape of the oriel windows below them. They are houses in miniature.”

Blow me down, he’s right. The rim of the stacks is even carved with arrow loops (this is a castle, after all). We know the date is 1514 because it is there on a little scroll.

It may have been the early 12th-century Bishop Roger who started the fashion at Old Sarum, outside Salisbury in Wiltshire. He was remembered as “a prelate of great mind,” who “erected extensive edifices at vast cost and with surpassing beauty.” His stone chimneys were carved with complex geometrical patterns. He may be forgiven, perhaps.

Chimneys were a new thing, a development of the wall fireplace that would have belonged only to the most princely of dwellings. Naturally, those who had them wanted to advertise the fact. Most people had to splutter on with an open hearth, the smoke from which found its way out through a louvre in the ceiling, kippering the inhabitants in the process, until the Elizabethan period.

“Full sooty was her bower and eke her hall,” says Chaucer of the poor widow in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale. Writing The Description of England, 1587, William Harrison, the rector of Radwinter in Essex, a prime example of the Folk-Don’t-Know-How-Lucky-They-Are school of history, noted, as an unwelcome innovation, that chimneys had become commonplace. To Harrison, they seemed morally degenerate and bad for health.

Harrison’s response, though, may not have been typical. In a climate famous for damp and mist, others suffered from chimney envy. Any bloodthirsty baron might have a castle, but only one whose outwardly macho power base was also a dwelling of luxury could boast chimneys.

Colour was one means of drawing attention to them. This must have been particularly evident at the now-demolished Richmond Palace, predominantly a grey edifice, built of stone, above which the chimneys shone like beacons. They were red brick.

Brick was the supreme Tudor building material. It ticked all the important boxes:

Novelty – there had been little of it around before Henry VI decided to use the material for Eton College.

Expense – only fat cats, such as Cardinal Wolsey at Hampton Court, could afford to employ the Flemish brickmakers, making brick the diamond-encrusted Chanel handbag of its day.

Fantasy – unlike stone, which was hard to work with the chisel, brick could be moulded or shaped as raw clay, or carved and rubbed when it was baked; it came in different colours, depending on the earth from which it was made, and the surface could even be glazed. Brick opened the way to ever more florid effects.

Counties such as Norfolk, not blessed with good building stone, rejoiced in them. At East Barsham Manor, Norfolk, Sir Henry Fermor not only had a brick gatehouse, ribbed, turreted and emblazoned with his coat of arms, but a grand exuberance of chimneys, clustered together in double banks of five, each individual stack to a different design.

Chimneys of this kind were a medium for virtuoso display, a rival to the pinnacle, whose decorative value overwhelmed their function, causing some owners to erect chimneys that were manifestly false: sticking up over a window like a middle finger raised in the face of poorer neighbours.

Other nations had chimneys, too: look at Carpaccio’s views of Venice, in which they are shaped like inverted sink plungers. But the more fantastical of the French châteaux, like those on the Loire, made a greater play of the roof. English houses had lead flats, on which the family would walk, admire views and retire, at the end of meals, to eat sweetmeats in rooftop banqueting houses. They would have strolled amid the chimneystacks. The flat roof gave the English chimney a prominence foreign equivalents didn’t have.

The joy that the Tudors took in caprice and magnificence was not shared by the Georgians, who were more anxious to conceal chimneys, than have them soaring above façades chastely modelled on Greek temples.

But if I climb out on to the parapet of our own house, in a Victorian area of London, I am not sure that this peculiarly English obsession quite went away.

Mary Poppins, floating down beneath her umbrella, must have been struck by the extraordinary variety of the metropolis’s roofscape, with, as The Spectator put it in 1842, “red chimney-pots, tall and short, straight and crooked, iron pipes bent in every possible way, and cowls of all shapes and sizes, are stuck up on chimney-stacks as if some daemon of deformity had amused himself with making the habitations of men ludicrous with hideous and unmeaning devices”.

And doesn’t a memory of atavistic chimney love still lurk somewhere in our DNA? Modern houses don’t have open fires and so don’t, strictly speaking, need chimneys; and yet a chimneyless house simply looks wrong. Among savvy architects, the false chimney has made a reappearance. Our Elizabethan ancestors would have quite understood.

Dr John Goodall’s 'The English Castle’ is available from Telegraph Books for £35 plus £1.25p p&p, to order your copy please call 0844 871 1515 or go to Clive Aslet is Editor at Large of 'Country Life’.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Lime blows etc in Bricks. What are they, what to do?

The presence of expansive particles such as Gypsum, Siderite and Lime containing compounds in clay deposits, is quite common in the brick industry.
Occurrence is usually controlled during factory processes as the particles are either ground too finely during clay preparation to cause problems,eliminated during firing, or are situated well beneath the surface of the brick where they are quite harmless.
Occasionally, due to a combination of factors, small particles can be deposited on or
near the surface of the brick face. After firing, when the brick absorbs moisture,
a chemical reaction takes place. The particles swell which may cause portions of the brick face to "pop" off. The results are small pits in the surface of the brick with a white (lime) or purple (siderite) spot in the centre. This is not uncommon. It is strictly an aesthetic issue and will not affect the structural integrity of the brick. It is only the loss of a small portion of the surface of the brick and the exposure of the differing body colour underneath which causes concern. ‘Surface blows’ usually occur during construction due to hydration, or in the first few months of the life of the brick once it has come into contact with moisture, whether in the form of rain or general atmospheric damp conditions. It is unlikely to continue to develop for much longer after the occurrence
has been noticed. The appearance of brickwork is not covered in BS EN 771-1 since it is not performance related. However, BSI have published PAS 70, A Publicly Available Specification which is intended to cover aspects of aesthetics.
The PAS includes the recommendations that all brickwork should be viewed from approximately 3 metres away, and deliveries of bricks should be compared to a reference panel agreed by all parties at the start of work, thought to be representative of current production and quality. Appearance of brickwork will vary significantly with the type of clay brick chosen. NHBC guidelines suggest 10m as a viewing distance and also suggest the size of expansive particles or chips is limited to 15mm in diameter.
To overcome the aesthetic issue, the following remedial treatment can be performed.
The expanded particle is drilled out to provide a more substantial key for a filling material.The depression is then filled with a suitable material, such as a compound of a cementitious/resin nature, which is coloured to closely match the original brick colour and additions of various sands etc are used to provide a similar texture. The filler is then cured and if any further work is required to more closely resemble the brick surface,(wire brushing, usually on rusticated bricks) this is then done. The whole surface of the brick including the filled area is then tinted and, in many cases even from a distance of a few inches, the repair is not noticeable.
For further help and advice contact the Ibstock Brick Design & Technical Helpline on 0844 800 4576.
Issue 4, Jan 2010
Expanded lime particles – noticeable on a colour
sprayed surface

Monday, 5 September 2011

Handmade bricks only 3% of a buildings cost yet 70% of the look

York Handmade Bricks represent approximately 4% of the cost of a new building, yet they can account for 70% of the look. The slight extra cost of using York Handmade Brick is marginal, yet the resulting brickwork will give a building unique character

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Minature Brick Kits

Tims a brick
By Emily Pearce - Friday, April 29, 2011
TIM Bristow is a man with a passion for bricks.
One of the founders of the York Handmade Brick Company and owner of Bembridge shop Clay Clay, which sells brick and terracotta items ranging from flower pots to kitchenware, Tim has now launched his own range of miniature clay brick building kits.Believed to be the only such kits manufactured in the UK, designs include a small Georgian house, a castle and a replica of the Albert Barracks - a miniature fort built at Osborne House by Queen Victoria’s children. "Up to the early 1960s one of the most popular toys were building assembly kits, using little bricks, mortar and a bit of patience but the introduction of plastic bricks saw their popularity diminish," said Tim, 51, of Nettlestone."The Clay Clay kits are all made here in the shop and the reaction so far has been very positive," he added."I think parents are sick of their children playing on the computer instead of doing something creative and thats part of their appeal." Every kit has been lovingly put together by Tim, and includes miniature bricks sourced from reclaimed IW bricks and terracotta made by the York Handmade Brick Company, mortar, plans and laminated windows and doors. They range from 50 bricks, for the more simple designs, to 350 bricks for those looking for more of a challenge. The Island is well known for bricks and pottery making and there were more than 80 brickworks on the IW until the 1970s. "I was inspired to make the kits because I spotted a gap in the market but also because I have an absolute passion for bricks," said Tim. "The history of brick making on the Island is very rich and I can’t believe no-one does it any more."
Tim’s kits will be on display at this years Grand Designs Show, in London, from April 30 to May 8.
Reporter: Isle of Wight County Press 29/4/2011

Recipe 'Chicken cooked under a brick' by Jamie Oliver

Chicken cooked under a brick
Serves 4
1 Chicken, boned
Extra virgin olive oil
4 stalks of rosemary
2 garlic cloves
1 red dutch or other long chilli, halved
6 red cherry tomatoes, quartered
6 yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
200g tinned tomatoes
1 tbsp capers
A large handful of kalamata olives

1 Wrap two (York Handmade) bricks in foil. Get a grill pan nice and hot. Place the chickens on a board and oil and season both sides. Divide the chicken into two pieces. With a meat hammer or rolling pin, pummel the rosemary into the flesh to release its oils. Place the chicken halves skin side down on to the char grill and place the bricks on top of the chicken to weigh it down. Grill for 10 minutes each side or until golden and then put in an oven preheated to 200C/ gas 6 for 15 minutes. When the chicken is crips skinned, golden brown and cooked through, place it on a metal try in a warm place and allow to rest.
2 Meanwhile, heat ½ tbsp olive oil in a hot frying pan, then add the garlic and chilli and cook until golden. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes, capers and kalamata olives. Cook for another 2 minutes, then season to taste and freshly ground pepper. /remove the chilli halves.
3 To serve, put the tomato sauce on a platter. Cut up the chicken halves and place on tomatoes, pour over the resting juices, scatter over some rosemary sprigs or chooped leaves, and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Pottery and Clay plus Brickmaking on the Isle of Wight

Pottery makers in the Isle of Wight have been producing ‘burnt earth’ for at least 5,000 years. The Isle of Wight is often referred to as the ‘Garden Isle’ presenting an embodiemt in miniature of almost every variety of English Landscape and scenery. In 1920 John S Flett, director of the Geological Survey Office, London stated that ‘no district of England of equal size is more interesting to the geologist than the Isle of Wight, alike from the variety of its formations, the excellence of the exposures and the abundance of fossls’.

‘Pottery is a unique and exciting craft; it ranges from the purely aesthetic to the purely functional; in scope from the architectural wall covering to the small and exquisite cup and saucer or statuette. Coarse or fine, large or small, glazed or unglazed, pottery fulfils many functions and reveals at every turn a new beauty, while remaining of the earth, earthy.’ Dora M Billington 1972 IW potter.’ By pottery or ceramics - all objects made of clay with or without the addition of earthy materials must be shaped, dried and then made hard and permanent by the action of heat in a kiln. It is that application of heat that changes clay shapes into pottery or bricks’.

The principal clays of the Island were folded into their present position about 30 million years ago. Clay being the decomposition of igneous feldspathic rock over thousands of years or more technically Silica and Alumina and chemically combined water.

The Oldest clays are the Wealden Clays (Military Rd and Sandown areas); the Atherfield Clay (Atherfield area only); the Gault Clay (line from Yaverland to Brighstone and around the extreme south of Island) and the Tertiary Clays comprising mostly the London Clay (a thin line from Yaverland to Totland) and Hamstead Clay (Top half of Island). The South Of Island being Chalk, downland and Lower Greensand
Not all Island clays are suitable for the making of pottery. ’Blue Slipper’ (so called because the Gault clay in its unfired state is blue in colour - stained by contact with organic matter - the clay type causes land to slip) has been found generally to be unsuitable not because of its impurities bur because labour and time taken to remove impurities is excessive - needing to be weathered, washed, sieved and dried for a suitable period of time. It burns a deep red in colour. Because of the amount of clay preparation required generally Island potters use major suppliers of ready-to-use clays. Nonetheless there is a rich history of brick making from many of the Island ‘common’ or ‘surface’ clays (also known as brick earth). Up to 1975 when the last one closed there were over 81 brickworks dating from the late 18th century - from Northwood in the North to Ryde and St Helens, Newchurch to Rookley to Shalfleet and Freshwater.

Pritchett Pottery
The Pritchett Family has a long historical association with the making of bricks: from the first arrival in the 18th Century (1770 ricks for Parkhurst Barracks) until the last company operating at Rookley (latterly known as Island Bricks Ltd was wound up o in October 1975. Early in the 20th century various’ artistic pottery’ and decorative terracotta wares were produced. During the late 19th Century and early 20th century goods made amd dried at Island brickyards were dependent entirely upon seasonal conditions; brick making generally being difficult during the winter months. This quiet period was used productively by digging and weathering clay .

The Isle of Wight Handcraft Pottery

A Samuel Saundes bought the Gunville and Afton Brick works of Pritchetts. In the 1920s. In 1926 he changed the name tof the Gunville brickyard to the Carisbrooke Brick,Tile and pottery Works. The Isle of Wight Handcraft Pottery was an offshoot from these works.