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Gotham Co.




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  Gotham Brick & Tile Company Works.  


This brick and tile yard was situated in Romford on the western edge of Verwood in Dorset in the UK. It is now derelict and it was fortunate to be able to see the kilns and chimney as they were gradually demolished. It is a sad thing that all evidence of a brickyard has virtually gone for ever.

Mr. Waters was the only tile maker still living in the village in 1967. He came with his father and brothers, a family of tile makers from Sussex to boost the output of tiles in Verwood. He was delighted to talk of his work and could not resist illustrating his memories.

Apparently yellow and brown, clay was dug on the site, these clays producing good red bricks.   Three parts clay and one part sand were mixed with water in the pug mill until the mixture was like putty. It was left to stand for one day.   In the early days, bricks were made in a mould by hand or in a presser which pressed out one brick at a time. In later years a cutter which cut four housebricks at a time was attached to the outlet of the pug mill, and I understand that another attachment could be fitted for making drain pipes. Fie-place bricks were also made. 

The pug for tile making was made much softer than that for bricks and was taken from the pug-mill in large chunks to be made into tiles by hand. As Mr. Waters said he "had to have a system" to make tiles rapidly without wasted time and effort.

The picture shows the buildings that housed the "pug-mill" and other brick making equipment.

The clay was placed on the right hand side of the work-bench, a box of sand on the left and the tile mould, made of wood or iron, placed on a piece of oak in the centre. When the mould and base were sanded, a lump of clay was cut and thrown into the mould the top being cut level with a wire "bow". This surface was smoothed level with a wooden striked dipped in water, which was used in two quick strokes.   The mould was then lifted off the tile which was placed on the sanded floor.   Mr. Waters informed me that this method of tile making is the Staffordshire method.

The tiles were then dried on racks until they were leather hard when they were bevelled on a "wooden horse". Five tiles were placed on top of one another on the horse and the wooden top was pressed on top of these.   The tiles were then stacked in piles of five on the drying shed floor until bone dry, this stage was called "checkering".   The tiles were then fired at the same time as the bricks.


        "The pictures show the Belgium Kiln, Exterior and Interior."

The kilns used during Mr. Waters' time were circular Belgian type kilns with firing holes at intervals all round and one entrance used when stacking and removing bricks and tiles.   Apparently before 1924 square Scotch kilns were used. These were twelve feet high with six firing holes along each side and an entrance hatch at each end. By the descriptions I have heard they had no roof, the top bricks were watched during the firing to judge the heat obtained. These top bricks the "plotters'' also kept the heat in. The pictures shows the remains of a Skotch kiln.

The bricks were stacked in the bottom and at the sides of the kiln and the tiles stacked within them.   As Mr. Waters explained, the tiles were stacked on their bottom edges so that the lip at the top kept the tiles apart, allowing the heat to travel between them. The firing with coal, took two days and nights the fires being checked every two hours. The draught was drawn up from the firing holes and then down through a central pillar in the kiln, under the drying sheds, through flues and up through an eighty feet high chimney.   During the firing "the bricks became nearly white hot".

The entrance hatch was bricked up during firing, but one brick was left loose so that three half-tiles which had been placed in a certain position could be pulled out with a hooked iron rod for testing. When firing was complete the kiln was left to cool.

Most of the tiles were a "natural red", others were coloured, the colouring being mixed with sand used at the moulding stage. Manganese with sand produced black tiles; manganese alone gave a purple colouring and a mottled effect was obtained by sprinkling manganese over the tiles after they had been sanded.   When green tiles were required, the tile makers had to tour the nearby fields collecting fresh cow-manure. This was made into a solution with water and manganese and was painted onto the surface of the tiles.

A variety of different shaped tiles were made including the normal tiles, one and a half tiles, half tiles or slips, eave, ridge, hip and valley tiles as well as decorative, wall tiles.

Until 1910 the bricks and tiles were taken to the surrounding villager, and towns by horse and cart, the number of bricks per load depending on the size arid ability of the horse.   Some horses could pull as many as three hundred and fifty to four hundred bricks. After 1910 the bricks were transported by Foden's steam lorries and could be taken greater distances. I understand that the' roof of Bournemouth Pavilion is tiled with Verwood tiles.

Mr. Waters said that he made an average, of four thousand tiles per week for which he was paid thirty two shillings. He was reminded by his wife that he always worked on Sunday mornings, for which he was paid no extra. He and his family made tiles in Verwood for fifty years, until the outbreak of the second world war.

Mr- Waters - a craftsman at heart - enjoyed inventing in his spare time and made some beautiful model ships from rough wood and "odds and ends" as he called them.

Copyright P Reeks.     


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