Talk for VLHG on 14 January 2008

For illustrations, please click on the links. To return to this text, please click on back arrow on the menu bar.


This talk follows on from Elizabeth’s talk (Bricks up to 1850) in November about brick making pre-1850 and in the Carlton area. The focus now is mainly on the Mapperley area, bringing the story up to date and looking particularly at how the brickworks have shaped the landscape of present day Mapperley.

Early Use Of Bricks

Bricks are recorded as far back as Babylonian times. In Britain the Romans used thin bricks and tiles to surface rumble walls and floors. The Saxons continued to use bricks but manufacture then died out and stone was the main building material in Norman times. The C13th Flemish emigrants are said to have brought over the bricks used to build Little Wenham Hall (Suffolk) in 1260 and to have revived brick making in England, although bricks did not become a common building material until the C15th. Surviving C15h brick buildings include Tattersall Castle in Lincolnshire, Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk and Hurstmonceaux Castle in Sussex. Bricks were more widely used after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Brick making in Nottinghamshire is said to date from the 1480s. Holme Pierrepont Hall was built of bricks made on site in 1500. The first house in Nottingham with a tiled roof is said to be in 1503 in Long Row. Wollaton Hall (1580) is faced with Ancaster Stone but has a lot of brickwork including wall cores and lining of the underground passages, the bricks being made locally from the clay extracted in the coal mining (which funded the building.) St Nicholas Church (built c1678 to replace the earlier stone church demolished in the Civil Wars) is an early example of a brick church.

Until well into the C19th brick kilns were usually simple temporary clamps, usually set up on site wherever bricks were needed, (including building canal locks and bridges.) More permanent structures were built for use on estates, such as the rectangular Scotch kiln at Calke Abbey.

Why Were Bricks Made At Mapperley?

Human settlement and activity is largely determined by geology, geography and climate. Brick making developed wherever there was suitable clay that could be extracted. In the east midlands brick clay is usually found in association with coal and many companies developed coalmines using the extracted clay waste to also make bricks. In earlier centuries stone was quarried in the Mapperley area (the disused quarry is now Ransom Road Recreation Ground & Stonepit Coppice Gardens) but there was no coal mining. The clay used for brick making in Carlton and Mapperley was all extracted from pits on the surface.

Mapperley is just over 400 feet above sea level and the highest point in Nottingham. It is on a long narrow spur (the remnant of a plateau eroded by glacial melt water) that runs SW-NE in a narrow ridge, now topped by Mapperley Road and Woodborough Road. The dissected plateau is Keuper Marl (now known as Mercia Mudstone) containing clay suitable for brick making. The steep well-drained marl faces were easily exploited by early, un-mechanised clay diggers and subsequently became the sites of the substantial brickworks that were the foundations of mid C19th Mapperley.

Figure 1 is a map produced by the British Geological Survey showing the main locations of clay extracted for brick making in Mapperley and Carlton.


Figure 2 is a map produced by Terry Gorman in 1980 showing all the larger sites (one hectare or more) used for brickmaking between 1860 and 1960.


Early History

The Borough Records show that bricks and tiles were made on the eastern side of Nottingham as early as 1482-3, but not on any scale until the mid C17th. Illegal clay-digging and brickmaking on Mapperley Hills are recorded in the Borough Records from the early C17th. For example, on 11 January 1682 the council prohibited clay digging and ordered kilns and hovels to be pulled down. On 18 April 1689 the Mickelton Jury (responsible for beating the bounds and removing nuisances) fined Thomas Elliott five shillings for having a brick kiln on the Plaines.

During the C18th, prior to enclosure, clay digging remained illegal. For example on 7 May 1766 Nottingham Journal printed a statement from the council threatening clay diggers with prosecution.

Nineteenth Century

The earliest residential development in Mapperley is at Mapperley Place (the western end of what is now Private Road) on land awarded to the Duke of Newcastle in the 1792 Basford parish enclosure. The land was advertised on 2 August 1822 in Nottingham Journal as ‘divided into lots suitable for country residences’ and having the advantage of a brick works already on site to provide the bricks! The land was bought by Samuel Cartledge who already owned the brickworks. This brickyard (top of Private Road) was later amalgamated into Nottingham Patent Brick Company (NPBC) and ceased production around 1900.

Sanderson’s Map of 1835 (Figure 3) shows brick kilns at what is now Redcliffe Road, in Alexandra Park, both sides of the top of Private Road and on both sides of Woodborough Road out towards the borough boundary.


Until the 1820s clay digging and brick making was entirely manual, with significant child labour involved. In 1820 the first horsepowered rollers (for crushing clay) were introduced at Nathan Bradshaw’s three brickyards at Mapperley. In 1853 steampowered machinery was introduced.

A Mr George Smith campaigned for the early Factory Acts to apply to brickyards. In 1871 he published “The Cry Of The Children From The Brickyards of England” which achieved its objective. Legislation the same year prohibited women and boys under 12 years working in brickyards.

There is very little local housing for brickyard workers until the late C19th. The steep hills (up the now Redcliffe Road, Wood borough Road and Coppice Road) were impassable for horsedrawn carts in the winter months and Mapperley brick making was seasonal work for men who worked in the maltings in Nottingham at other times of year. (Figure 4& Figure 5 show brick workers’ cottages)

4 5

Mapperley was still an inhospitable place. On mid C19th maps it is marked as “waste”. Curtis’s Topographical History of Nottinghamshire in 1844 described Mapperley as” a portion of common too remote for recreation”. By 1856 it was apparently derelict brown-field land; a Mr J T Mann described Mapperley in 1856 as ” a hilly place, abounding with tumuli, water tanks and brick kilns, and projecting heaps of debris”.

The demand for bricks in Nottingham escalated in the mid C19th with the abolition of Brick Tax in 1850, the rapid house building that followed the 1845 Enclosure, new factories (in Sneinton, Radford, Basford, Arnold, etc) and the prestigious warehouses in the Lace Market area. During the 1850s the combined Nottingham brickworks produced 21 million bricks, used for 10 factories and 3,500 new houses in the town. From the 1840s the railways also created a huge demand for bricks.

A Mapperley resident, Mr Curran, born in 1842, reminiscing about his childhood (published in Nottingham Weekly Express 30 October 1920) remembered nine separate brickyards operating simultaneously in his youth. (Pease Hill Road, Goosewong Hill near Cranmer Street, Crow’s yard near Dagmar Grove, Samuel Cartledge’s yard at the top of Private Road, Alan Wagstaff’s three yards, Clay’s yard nearly opposite the Belle View pub and “Top Yard” that later became the main Nottingham Patent Brick Company site.)

Mr Curran also described how in the early days Mapperley Hills was simply “waste ground” and would-be-brick-makers simply came and took possession, set up a plant and “used all the clay that was handy to get” before moving on. The bricks were fired in clamps, rough temporary kilns made of old bricks, rubble and “slap clay,” with no flues.

He also mentioned the Coltsfoot Beerhouse run by Hannah Howarth (who is listed in the 1853 Wrights Directory of Nottingham as one of the 12 residents in Private Road), which he described as “on a ridge of the old clay just past Private Road”. It is thought to have been beside Samuel Cartledge’s brickyard (also recorded as Cartledge & Goddard’s yard) which later became Nottingham Patent Brick Company’s “Bottom Yard”. Bottom Yard closed shortly after 1900 and it is thought that the Coltsfoot Beerhouse was demolished when the site was sold off in 1902. A son of Hannah Howarth is said to have been the first landlord of the Duke of Cambridge when it opened around 1860. (This clay pit was later reused for the embroidery factory in Morley Avenue, built 1911 (Figure 6) and the Bladen Close/ Byford Close council estate, built just before WWII.) (Figure 6a) is a 1927 aerial photograph of the brickworks showing the Embroidery Factory in the disused Bottom Yard.)

6 6a

By the mid-1850s some of the smaller brick makers start to disappear and the future giants are starting to dominate. Drake’s 1860 Directory of Nottingham lists only 5 separate brick makers at Mapperley (William Burgass, Edward Gripper, Thomas Osbourne, Wilkinson & Pettinger and Mr Worrall.)

Wright’s 1868 Directory of Nottingham also lists 5 brick makers at Mapperley (the above William Burgess, Edward Gripper and Mr Worrall, plus George Green and Edwin Loverseed). By this time Burgass and Gripper had in fact amalgamated and taken over Loverseed.

In 1867 Nottingham Patent Brick Companv (NPBC) was formed when William Burgess and Edward Gripper amalgamated all their brick works at Mapperley and Carlton. At some stage they also acquired the Dorket Head (Arnold) brick works. Any smaller brick firms still in existence were incorporated or driven out by competition.

When the limited company was floated on 3 June 1867, Edward Gripper and William Burgass were joint managing directors. Other directors included Robert Mellers (first chairman), Arnold Goodliffe, William Musham and Arthur Wells. The Mayor attended the inaugural lunch. Brick making was legal and respectable at last! Their head office was at 14 George Street, Nottingham. (Figure 7 shows NPBC’s Mapperley Brick Works depicted on their letterhead).


NPBC negotiated the exclusive British licence (the Patent referred to in the company title) for the use of a continuously burning kiln invented in Germany in 1858 by Friedrich Hoffman. This is described as “the most important technological development in the history of brick making”. (The word “Patent” was officially dropped in 1876 and the firm becomes Nottingham Brick Company NBC)

[The Hoffman Kiln was originally introduced in Britain by H Chamberlain in Wakefield in 1859. How NPBC acquired the patent is not recorded.]

The Hoffman continuous burning kiln was circular with a central chimney and was an improvement over the earlier clamps and intermittent kilns because it did not need re-firing after every batch of bricks. It also allowed substantial fuel saving; all the stages in the firing could take place concurrently and continuously in the same kiln through utilisation of waste heat. While a batch of bricks was being fired in one of the twelve or more chambers in the gallery, others were either cooling, drying or preheating as the fire passed from one chamber to another through dampers. Ten such kilns were eventually installed in the Nottingham area, six of which were operated by NBC.

(Figure 8 shows a Hoffman kiln at Mapperley in 1867)


Early bricks often had irregular surfaces and were sometimes dressed (like stone) on one face to get a smooth surface. In 1831 R S Bakewell of Manchester demonstrated a process for achieving a smooth surface by pressing. Later this process was mechanised and it was used by NBC. They also introduced new machines for making bricks by the “semi-dry” process where the clay is pressed into moulds in a relatively dry state. These various innovations quickly enabled the company to achieve an output of 2 million bricks per year (more than the combined output of the 12 brickyards in the area recorded in 1852) including high quality bricks with smooth faces.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott selected NPBC bricks for the Midland Hotel and facade on St Pancras Station. Midland Rail opened the station in 1868. It was designed and built by William Henry Barlow of the Butterley Company. The station was forged at Ironville (near Ripley). The Butterley Company began in the 1790s primarily as a coal and iron producer before specialising in bricks. Giles Gilbert Scott liked Butterley bricks and used them for some of his prestigious buildings (such as Liverpool RC Cathedral) but chose NPBC bricks for the St Pancras facade and hotel, which opened 8 years after the station.

[The hotel quickly declined (because it had inadequate toilets and no baths) and it closed in 1920. In 1960 the station almost closed (after Euston was demolished) but was saved by a campaign led by John Betjamin. In the 1990 the terminus of the Eurostar link with Paris was established at Waterloo, pending a permanent terminus at St Pancras. In 2004 the old St Pancras closed for complete refurbishment, with trains diverted into a temporary extension to the east. The work took 3 years, involved 1500 workers and cost £800 m. Ibstock have supplied matching bricks for the refurbishment. On 14 November this year the Queen opened the Eurostar service between St Pancras and Paris.]

Nottingham Suburban Railway

Nottingham Suburban Railway (NSR) would be a suitable topic for a separate future meeting. It is briefly mentioned here only in so far as it relates to Mapperley brickworks.

NSR was planned in 1886 with work starting in June 1888 and opened in December 1889. It was set up by a group of local businessmen including Robert Mellors, Chairman of NBC, and another NBC director, Edward Parry, who was the engineer and surveyor for the line.

The line was intended to provide commuter transport for the growing suburbs of Sherwood and Mapperley (which were inaccessible for horse-drawn trams and omnibuses because of the steep hills) and to serve the NBC works at Carlton and Mapperley. There was a branch line connecting the Carlton NBC site to NSR at Thorneywood Station and a chain-hauled branch up a very steep incline connecting the Mapperley Brick Works with the line just north of Sherwood Station.

(Figure 9 shows the route of NSR through Mapperley and the connection to the brick works.)


(Figure 10 shows wagons from the brickworks descending the incline.)


The route of the branch up to Mapperley brick works is still discernable (Figure 11 shows where it passed under Sherwood Vale and Figure 12 shows the last traces of sleepers).

11 12

To provide access to Sherwood Station, Winchester Street was extended up from Sherwood and NBC built Mapperley Rise across their site in 1891 to provide access from Mapperley. In 1899 NBC also laid out Morley Avenue and sold the land, for residential development close to the station, around 1900. (See Figure 13) However, the commuter traffic never materialised because electric trams were introduced (reaching Sherwood in 1901 and Mapperley in 1903). After WWI, NSR ceased providing a passenger service. The goods service continued until 1951 when the line was closed and demolished.


NBC continued to develop at Mapperley right up to WWII. For example, Planning Applications show that they erected a storehouse in 1882, cowsheds in 1885, new kilns and drying sheds in 1893, a boiler house and chimney stack in 1894, more kilns and closets in 1897, an engine shed (for the railway link) in 1898, a shoeing shed in 1900, closets and workshops in 1901, another kiln in 1902, and a canteen in 1946 (possibly using POW labour). In 1947 they opened new clay pits and applied for change of use of areas already worked out.

Because Mapperley brick works were on the highest point in Nottingham, the brickyards were used for beacons and bonfires to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (Figure 14), the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 (Figure 15) and that of George V in 1911 (Figure 16).

14 15 16

Famous People Connected With NPBC

Charles Bennett (1832-1909) was a local lad who started work in the brickyard at age 9. He gradually worked his way up to become foreman and then manager of NPBC. He became a town councillor, an alderman and a magistrate. He allowed the Mapperley Methodist Church to meet in the NPBC offices and encouraged outdoor evangelical services on the site. He gave the land for Mapperley Methodist Church and he and his family (he had 3 wives and 9 children) raised much of the funding. He was also a trustee and committee member for the association that established the Porchester Gardens estate. Bennett Street (off Woodborough Road facing the brick works site) is named after him and his family home still stands on the corner of Bennett Street, now converted into three flats). (Figure 17)


Edward Gripper (1815-1894) was born at Layer Breton Hall in Essex, had a good education and became an Essex farmer until, at age about 40, he came to Nottingham and took over the Mapperley Hills brickworks. (The reasons for this extraordinary career change are not recorded.) In 1853 he introduced steam-powered machinery and in 1866 the Hoffman Kiln before joining up with William Burgess to form NPBC. He was a member of Basford Council and, after Basford was incorporated into Nottingham in 1877, he was a Nottingham councillor, alderman, JP and chair of the Water Committee. He served as mayor in 1880-81 and was a member of the School Board for 16 years including chairing it for 13 years. He was an active Quaker and was buried in the Friends’ Burial Ground when he died in 1894.

William Burgass was originally a coal merchant. By 1844 he had both coal and brick yards in London Road (beside the canal) and brickyards at Carlton and Mapperley. Burgass Road (alongside the site of his main Carlton brickyard) and was named after him.

Edwin Gordon (1848-1929). He was secretary to NPBC for 35 years. He was a trustee and vice-resident of the Nottingham Mechanics and a strong supporter of the Liberal cause. He was secretary to the Arkwright Street Baptist church and treasurer to the Nottingham Band of Hope. He lived at Heatherdene in Hartington Road, Sherwood (built in 1902 for £600) with his wife Emmeline, her mother, Caroline Dann, and his only daughter, Dorothy. Gordon Rise is named after him. (Figure 18)


Closure of Mapperley Brickworks& Reuse of the Sites

In 1969 brick making at Mapperley and Carlton Hill ceased because NBC estimated there was only enough accessible clay for another ten years and it was economically preferable to concentrate their efforts on their more modern, highly-automated site at Dorket Head where there were reserves for another 50 years. In 1970 the last NBC kiln at Mapperley was demolished. The NBC works at Dorket Head have since been absorbed into the Marley Group in 1987 and now the Ibstock Brick Company. In the 1990s the Dorket Head works were described as one of the most technologically advanced in Europe, producing a million bricks a week.

Other small commercial activities along the Woodborough Road perimeter of the NPBC site, such as Thomas Fish Building Contractors (Figure 19) and Patching’s Wheelrights, Blacksmiths & Funeral Directors (Figure 20) were also demolished in the 1970s.

19 20

The disposal of NBC’s land had begun in 1961 but the redevelopment process proved lengthy and complicated and was not finally completed until 1978. Much of the 100 acres at Mapperley and Carlton Hill was heavily waterlogged ground with sheer cliff faces. The redevelopment was piecemeal and uncoordinated with small parcels of land being sold off while production continued at Carlton until 1966 and at Mapperley until 1969. Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Councils both sited inadequacy of local sewerage capacity as reasons for refusing planning permission for residential development at both Mapperley and Carlton Hill in 1961, 1964 and 1965. This was overcome with new infrastructure provision in 1966.

There was strong opposition to reusing the land for industrial purposes in neighbourhoods which were by this time predominantly residential but also complicated difficulties in obtaining permission for change of use from mineral working to residential use. The process was also delayed because six of the many local building contractors involved in the redevelopment at Mapperley and Carlton were dissolved or went bankrupt during the process. Despite all this, by 1978 the NBC land at Mapperley and Carlton had become the location of more than 1,200 much-needed new homes, a number of commercial concerns, recreation grounds and sports fields (Breckhill Road, Standhill Road and Dale Road) and a new secondary school (Manvers School on Carlton Road, later combined with Pierrepont and now part of New College Nottingham).

A small block of flats, Cavendish Court, (Figure 21) was built at the northern end of the main Mapperley site. (It is named after Henry Cavendish who was awarded this land in the 1792 Basford Parish Enclosure). Much of this site was used for the Penarth Rise/Close and the Park View/Close housing estates.


The Texaco petrol filling station built on the brickworks site, between Cavendish Court and the Mapperley Institute, has since been demolished and, along with the remainder of the site, has been occupied in recent years by Millennium Car Sales, now Nottingham Auto Park. An application to redevelop the site again for residential use is still in the pipeline.

The narrow strip of land between Woodborough Road and the disused clay pit and brickyard at the top of Private Road is still used by AFD second hand car sales (Figure 22)


In the early 1970s Springwood Gardens, an estate of small bungalows, was built in the bottom of the clay pit between Woodthorpe Drive and Woodthorpe Road (Figure 23 & Figure 24) The houses are dwarfed by the cliff faces of the clay pit and are accessible from Woodthorpe Road side only by descending steep flights of steps.

23 24

The later clay pit on the opposite (north) side of Woodthorpe Drive was connected to the brickworks on the south side by a chain-haul rail track with a brick bridge carrying Woodthorpe Drive over the track. The tunnel under the road is now filled-in but the brick parapets remain. This clay pit was redeveloped in the 1970s as Breckhill Recreation Ground and Sports Field. The landscaped side of the former clay pit form an arena for spectators (Figure 25).


In 1874 Henry Ashwell, a bleacher with factories in New Basford, bought the land that is now Woodthorpe Park and built Woodthorpe Grange as his family home. He developed the park and adjoining farm (a possible subject for a future VLHG meeting) including buying an adjacent brick works and developing it into a rock garden that still exists (Figure 26).


The only part of the former Mapperley Brickworks not redeveloped [at the time of writing] is a small area of clay pit on the corner of Woodborough Road and Mapperley Rise, opposite the Belle Vue pub, which has been derelict for nearly 40 years. (Figure 27)


Some VLHG members have expressed a wish to know more about brick laying methods and bonds. Some diagrams are available from Christine showing various types of joints, pointing, wall bonds, paving bonds, cappings and copings.

© Christine Drew