Fired up


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

Last week, we looked at early evidence of local brick making on an industrial scale, after a remarkable passage describing a local brickworks was spotted in an 1850 book by the wonderful Simon Briercliffe.

I have to say, this prompted much more debate than I expected, and I’m surprised how much interest there is in pre deep mining industrial history amongst the readership.

As ever, I’ve had some lovely contributions in response – but writer of regular rail articles for the blog and expert industrial historian Ian Pell has again surpassed himself with an analysis of early local brick making and its connection with the great local rail construction projects.

Thanks to Ian for another thought provoking and fascinating contribution – if you have anything to add, please do – either comment here of mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

Hi Bob

I thought you might like the following to use as a follow-up to your recent The Kiln Fields article. I believe that the brickworks the gentleman is referring to is possibly the blue brickworks of Brawn and Arrowsmith which later became Jobern’s Ltd, which at the time (c.1851) was quoted as ‘off the Walsall Wood Road’.

The Daw End bracn of the Wryley and Essington was in part completed in 1800 and used extensively for the transportation of bricks from the area. The area was known for its Utopia bricks which were and still are exceedingly hard and well-wearing.

The various brickworks – Atlas, Empire, Aldridge Colliery and Tile Co, E.H.Barnett, J. Beddows, Vigo, Joberns, Walsall Wood Colliery were all at some time severed either by the Midland Railway via the Walsall Wood Branch or by the L&NWR via the Leighswood Branch. I do not think that the works at Walsall Wood Colliery ever exported via the colliery line to Norton Junction?


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

The brickworks were used extensively by the Railway Companies due to the superb engineering qualities of the bricks. Virtually the whole of the South Staffs Railway was constructed of blue brick which was a considerable benefit to the railway in having local sources.

Prior to the railway there were other sites such as Sandhills, Shire Oak which extracted marl – I am assured that the material is marl rather than clay. [Correct – Bob]

The Leighswood Branch was opened to traffic in November 1878 and although single track had a very extensive freight service, with up to three Trip locomotives working the branch at various dates. It was also restricted as to the types of locomotive able to use the branch, with only one recorded sighting of a Super ‘D’ in the 1940s. The work was usually shared by Johnson’s 0-6-0’s. The climb up from the Stubber’s Green end to Leighswood Sidings was extensive and hard.


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

Often the shunt loco Came to rest under the Lichfield Road bridge. This was convenient for the local pubs! This area was also prone to flooding and in the early 1960s I clearly remember at least five feet of water accumilating under the bridge. The line ‘officially’ closed on the 31st December 1960 but like many of the lines in the area remained in-situ for several years. At one stage the trackbed was being considered as part of an orbital road to relieve North Walsall!

Anyway, enough of my ramblings, on to the pictures. Hope you enjoy.

Kind regards


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.


Image kindly supplied by Ian Pell.

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13 Responses to Fired up

  1. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Many thanks, Ian.
    kind regards

  2. Very interesting indeed. Thank you, both.

  3. Pedro says:

    August 1864….All shafts of the Doveholes tunnel are down to their proper depth, and 1143 yards of the tunnel have been completed out of a total length of 2860 yards….Feb 1865, 1,760 yards completed.

    • Pedro says:

      The picture of the Doveholes tunnel is interesting. Many sources, including Graces Guide, say that the tunnel collapsed in 1872. In fact it was the embankment at the mouth of the tunnel that fell and a train ran into the debris. Thankfully there were only two injured and they could complete their journey.

  4. Pedro says:

    The Daw End Branch Canal was built to serve the limestone workings around Rushall, such as Moss Close, Daw End and Linley, and also Hay Head. There was great demand for limestone, and both Harrison and Strongitharm had lime wharves in Birmingham.

  5. aerreg says:

    on the subject of brick making one brick comes to my mind the blue utopia it was renouned for its quaulity and srtength and played an important part in constructions one humourous comment the old back yards were lined with blue bricks and the last task on was day monday was to swill down the bricks with the wash day water another famous brick was the cannock chase colliery brick its location now keys park the resovior at hednesford was lined by their bricks the brick yard was the source of great employment and the bungalows at its hills street entrance were some of the earliest users of electricty 110 volt system the supply came via the brickyard from the cannock chase colliery supply onother first was smoheless less fuel the days of ovides and coal brick made from coal dust yes our local industrial past had a lot to offer

  6. Geoffp says:

    I have only just caught up with this post, but I have found it most interesting, especially as our 1935 house in Walsall is roofed with the ‘well-known Leighswood roofing tiles’ and very well-made they are too.

  7. Alan Eardley says:

    IHave found this very interesting I understand my grandmother Abigail Bronsward and some of her family worked there ,as far as I am aware she came from Aldridge and married into the Eardley family.

  8. Chris says:

    Really interested in the Leighswood line and any pics you may have. I live adjacent to the old line and have a triangular garden when the line once cut across it! Chris

  9. Geoffrey Kerr-Morgan says:

    Any information on colliery owner Edwin Barnett would be helpful

  10. Mark Biddle says:

    My father ran the Empire Brick and Tile Company, owned by the Franks family from Walsall, from the mid 50’s and was responsible for closing the company in 1968. The clay pit was sold to the Ibstock group and used for landfill. I have a blue Utopia from the last firing of a kiln called Titan.

    • Elizabeth Thomson says:

      Hi Mark, I’m not sure if you will get this message but it would be great to speak to you about your father. I am researching the brickmaking industry of the Black Country for a PhD at the University of Birmingham and the Black Country Living Museum. I am currently looking at post WWII brickmaking hence me trying to contact you. My email is Many thanks, Elizabeth

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