A solid brick foundation

Students of Brownhills Local History will be aware of an elusive, long lost site by local chap Robert Webster. This great resource ceased to exist a few years ago, when Freeserve, the service provider in whose hosting space the website was based, shut down and merged with Orange.

Robert Webster’s homepage and site, which disappeared around 2008. A sad loss, although the colour schemes could be rather vibrant. Not a site to face when hung over…

One often finds broken links to Rob’s site around the net, and I asked Rob a couple of years ago if I could republish his material. At the time, he agreed, but he also talked about getting the site back up, so I thought I’d leave it for a while, in case he had a change of heart.

Since then, I’ve been unable to contact Rob, so if you’re reading this, please shout up if you object and I’ll take this stuff down. However, along with David Hodgkinson’s wonderful Brownhills site, this labour of love was formative for me. The writing was good, and very, very diverse, and covers lots of material I’ve not seen before.

Today, I’m dredging Rob’s site to bring up something we’ve never touched on here on the Brownhills Blog: Clayhanger Brickworks and The Gentleshaw Sand Company. What I’ve done is combined two of the author’s original pages: one about the brickworks itself, and another that appears to be a 1967 project donated to Rob by Sheila Norris (nee Jones), a member of the Jones Family. I’m unclear where the boundary is between Robert and Sheila’s work, but it’s all good stuff.

I have more to come on this, but I’d like to see what readers remember.

Without criticising Robert, but mindful of the sources question that so troubles me, there are few cited here, so I’m interested in reader’s interpretations. Note the recurrence of the amazing sinking houses myth. The mapping record appears to give a differing view.

Note that I’ve recycled this from a saved version from the Wayback Machine from three years ago, it fades in and out, so I’ll only make general links here. The archive also mangles the character values that Robert used for pounds, so the prices are incomplete.

Remember folks, comment is invited and welcomed. Either on this post, or by email to BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers. I want to get as much of this stuff back up and online as possible.

The following work is exclusively from Robert and Sheila’s original work, and they retain full rights.

Clayhanger Brickworks

Clayhanger Brickworks was one of two brickworks in the area, the other one being close to the Walsall Wood Colliery where Maybrook road runs now.

Ordnance Survey 1884 1:10,000 plot of Clayhanger showing the brickworks. This is from my archives. Note there was a tramway or cart track from the marl-hole up to the brickworks on the canal bank. it’s the amazing sinking building myth again… Click for a larger version.

The brickworks was most probably established in the 1790’s to provide bricks for the building of the Wyrley and Essington canal. It was built next to the canal by Clayhanger bridge on Clayhanger road. It was a working brickyard in 1887 and was clearly shown on the OS maps of that time. When it was established it was on the same level as the canal but the house that stands on the site today has sunk well below the canal level due to subsidence.

The house next to the brickyard was called, ‘Clayhanger Court’, and in 1881 was occupied by Thomas Clark (excavator) and his wife Mary. There were 3 labourers employed at the yard in 1881, ‘James James’, who had moved to the area from Norfolk. ‘John Anslow’ a local man who lived with his wife and 4 children in Clayhanger Road in a row of houses called, ‘Snapes Buildings’. There was also, ‘Josiah Ward’, and his wife Emma, they lived in the village in Bridge Street.

The brick works eventually closed as the pit filled with water and became unworkable, this became known as Clayhanger Pool. The brick works were converted into 2 houses, Nos. 17 & 19 Clayhanger Road, (now Nos. 3 & 5 Bridge Street). Mr Ernest Jones moved into no.17 in 1923 and ran his haulage business from there , taking bricks from Aldridge Brickworks to Birmingham. Later, with his three sons, Dennis, Edward and Leonard, he expanded the business into sand and gravel & established the Gentleshaw Sand Company. They built a thriving business and operated a fleet of Bedford & Leyland Comet lorries which were a common sight travelling the roads in the area.. The Company built a new workshop over the canal bridge which was later taken over by Bourne Tools Ltd who manufacture injection moulding tools, they are due to vacate the premises in October 2003 as the Company stops the manufacture of tools.

Clayhanger Brickworks History

By Sheila Norris (nee Jones)

The pair of houses converted from the old engine sheds at the brickworks. Originally numbered 17 and 19 Clayhanger Road, now 3 and 5 Bridge Street. Picture taken about 1923. Picture from Webster’s Genealogy site.

Information given to Sheila Jones by Ernest Jones in about 1967/8 for a School Local Studies project.

Ernest Jones bought the site in 1923 (the value was then [?]).

About 30 years earlier it had been a brickworks. Clayhanger Pool had been the clay pit. The clay was of good quality for brick making but occasionally bits of lime in the clay caused trouble. Another problem was the strong springs in the bottom of the pit. A donkey engine had been installed to pump water day and night. The spring water was so pure that a Brownhills doctor used to come to collect it for his dispensing.

One day a new spring was struck. The following morning the donkey engine, the workmen’s hut and all the tools were under water and they have never been recovered. A great deal of money was spent trying to pump the water out so that the brickworks might start working again but the springs were too strong for the sort of pump they had in those days.

In the 60s divers (my uncles) went down but they could find no trace of any machinery. This could be accounted for by the steep sides of the pit caving in or the fact that the council once used the pool for tipping refuse. The pit was originally 45 feet deep.

When all hope was abandoned of restoring the brickworks, the engine sheds where the bricks had been made were converted into two cottages, now numbers 3 and 5 Bridge Street.

This building will be familiar to many. Demolished in 2004, it was for many years RKG pressings, but before, had been the workshops of the Gentleshaw Sand Company. It stood on the Walsall Wood side of Clayhanger Bridge, where Bridgeside Close is today. Picture from Webster’s Genealogy site.

When Ernest Jones bought the property in 1923 the old drying sheds were still intact, but these were later demolished and the very strong timber used to construct garages. The foundations of the kilns were also intact but these were dug up, dressed and sold. Several houses in Brownhills, still standing in 1967, were built with bricks from the brickworks.

The cottages made their gardens come right down to the edge of the pool but as the springs were still active they were quickly covered with water. Ernest Jones raised the level of his lawn 3 times before giving in.

I also had access to the deeds to the land for my project. The earliest deed was dated June 24th 1856. It read as follows: –

June 24th 1856. By Indenture of this date made between the most honourable James Andrew, Marquis of Dalhousie and the Right Honourable Edward James, Earl of Powis of the first part, the Right Honourable George Augustus Frederick Henry, Earl of Bradford of the second part, William Hodgkins of Muckley Corner, near Lichfield in the county of Stafford farmer, of the third part, George Hasloch of Kentish Town in the County of Middlesex, gentleman, of the fourth part and Edmund Arblaster of Walsall Wood, in the Parish of Walsall in the County of Stafford, of the fifth part.

Reciting that by an indenture of Statutory Release settlement dated April 29th, 1844 and made between the said Earl of Bradford of the first part, the Honourable Orlando Charles George Bridgeman commonly called Vicount Newport (Eldest son and heir apparent of the said Earl of Bradford) of the second part; the Vicountess Newport, then the Honourable Selina Louisa Forrester of the third part, the marquis of Dalhousie (then Earl of Dalhousie) and the said Earl of Powis then commonly called Vicount Clive of the fourth part. The Honourable George Anson, Lieutenant Colonel in Her Majesty’s army and Edward George Childs Esq. Of the fifth part , the Right Honourable John George Weld, Lord Forrester, Baron Forrester and the Rev. William Bridgeman Sunspoon (clerk) of the sixth part and the said Earl of Powis (then Vicount Clive) Robert Clive Esq. and Edward Bailey Gentleman, of the seventh part (being the settlement made previously to and in contemplation of the marriage then intended and shortly after was duly solemnised between the said Vicount Newport and the said Selina Louisa Forrester) and in which indenture it was related that the said Earl of Bradford was seized in the fee simple of the hereafter mentioned or described in the first schedule thereto free from incombrances and that he had determined to settle the same hereditary to the uses and upon the trusts thereinafter  expressed concerning the same. The said Earl of Bradford did convey and assure unto the Marquis of Dalhousie and the Earl of Powis etc.

The conditions for the sale of land were found in the deed dated April 16th 1874. William Hodgkins, licensed Victualler paid to the Inclosure commissioners for England and Wales the sum of [?]-14s-6d. The Lord of the Manor of Walsall was entitled to all minerals under the land thereby conveyed and should have full power to get them (fire clay and brick clay excepted) either from the surface or under the same from any of his adjoining land subject to the payment of surface damage as afterwards provided. The Lord of the Manor and his heirs and assigns should have the right to sink shafts and make and erect brickworks for the purpose of getting minerals for which they should pay an annual surface rent of [?] per acre per annum so long as such land should be occupied for any of the purposes aforesaid. If any damage ensued by the working of mines through pits or shafts on any of the lands of the Lord of the Manor, compensation should be paid by the Lord of the Manor to William Hodgkins in respect of the same not exceeding per acre per annum while the damage continued.

In order to buy the property William Hodgkins had to borrow money as follows: he requested Alfred Coles of Clapham in the county of Surrey to lend him the sum of [?]. He agreed. Also on October 20th 1859 he requested Peter, John and George Potter of Walsall to advance and lend him the sum of £60 which they had agreed to do out of money belonging to them on a joint account of having the repayment of the same in the meantime at 4% per annum secured by a mortgage.

On 27th March 1877 the sum of £60 had been paid off.

On 9th April 1877 only [?] remained to be paid off.

A cracking old lorry, as owned by Ernest Jones. Picture from Webster’s Genealogy site.

The property itself consisted of “3 acres, 3 roods and 7 perches situated at Clayhanger near Walsall Wood in the township of the foreign of Walsall in the parish of Walsall in the County of Stafford fronting the new road called the Clayhanger Road leading out of the Walsall Wood and Catshill Road bounded on the north east by the said new road called the Clayhanger Road, on the south east by the Catshill branch of the Birmingham Canal company, on the South West by land belonging to John Smith Charles Esq. And on the north west by other land  belonging to the said William Hodgkins.”

During a subsequent sale of the property the following items were mentioned:

The brick kiln, a claymill, a drying shed, 6 navvy wheelbarrows and 3 brick barrows, 2 sets of brick moulds, 2 sets of brickmaking tables, a handing table and a lot of planks.


First recorded sale of land 24th June 1856 – the Earl of Bradford to William Hodgkins.

Further land added in 1874 for the sum of  [?]-14s -6d.

Following the death of William Hodgkin’s it was sold by his 4 sons to Francis Harry Gordon – price [?]-10s-0d dated 21st August 1877.

The pair of houses converted from the old engine sheds at the brickworks. Originally numbered 17 and 19 Clayhanger Road, now 3 and 5 Bridge Street. Picture taken about 1923.

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3 Responses to A solid brick foundation

  1. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    many thanks for finding and presenting this article….your map may actually show the elusive “Cape”… near (upper ) Commonside!
    kind regards

  2. Clive says:

    Robert Websters website was a cracker. Thanks Bob and Robert.

  3. Pingback: Anyone for tennis? | BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

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