Nottingham’s First Brewery

One half of a cave complex in Goose Gate contained Nottingham’s first brewery, Simpson’s Brewery, built in 1792 on land leased from Richard Arkwright, later Sir Richard Arkwright, the site originally contained three or possibly four early cave malting complexes. These were knocked into one huge cave for barrel storage. This cave plus the slaughter house cave, to which it is connected, form the largest cave complex under the city.


Malt produced in Nottingham’s caves was sold to local inns and taverns most of which brewed on the premises. Some brewed in caves, (The Trip to Jerusalem), whilst others had brewhouses above ground, but all would have maintained their cave cellars to store the brewed ale. In 1697 during a visit to Nottingham, Miss Celia Fiennes, as lots of travellers to Nottingham would do, visited a cave to taste the ale. She said “Art ye Crown Inn is a cellar of 60/ steps down, all in ye rock like arch worke over your head; I drank good ale.” Alas the Crown Inn is no more but recent investigations made during clean up operations in the caves at the Salutation Inn on Hounds Gate show the likelihood that it brewed its own ale for many years.


A cave discovered in Castle Gate contains the best preserved example of a cave making complex, a central flight of steps leads down to a large rectangular chamber with a central pillar. A small landing two thirds of the way down on one side has a well and a small cave. Opposite this, on the other side of the landing is the upper entrance to the malt kiln. From the large chamber at the bottom there is a second opening into the malt kiln, this is the fire pit. The malting process in caves, started first by spreading malt thickly in the small cave, then water from the well was poured over the grain to steep it. When the grain had swollen and burst open it was quickly transferred to the malt kiln, and spread in a thin layer on a net stretched over a charcoal fire in the bottom of the kiln, to kill the grain and stop its germination. This process used most of the cave’s inherent features, namely constant temperature, (in the reign of Charles 1st it was said “the subterraneous Malt Rooms, they used to make Malt as kindly in the heat of Summer as above Ground in the best Time of the Winter”), and a total lack of daylight to stop the grain germination and pure water to steep the grain in.

The Pritchards and Brick Making on Carlton Hill: the Early Days to 1850

I first became interested in early brick making through my research into my husband Bobby’s family history: his great great great grandfather, James Pritchard was the first member of the family to make bricks in Nottingham, arriving about 1800, to settle on Carlton Hill. More recently, through researching the early days of Bromley House which was built in 1752, my interest has gone back to an even earlier period.

If you draw an imaginary line down the centre of Nottinghamshire, on the west you have Sherwood Forest growing on sandy soil, on the east you have rich farmland and clay deposits. Nottingham was well place to take advantage of both these areas. Oak from Sherwood Forest and the Coppices was used to build the frames of the houses, and some of the well to do occupiers had staircases carved out of solid oak blocks, rather than have them constructed from oak planks. Virtually all secular buildings of Elizabethan and ‘Smart’ Nottingham were timber framed, because of the absence of good building stone within a reasonable distance of the town.

The usual roofing material was thatch but of course thatch was prone to fire, and by 1620 the town had its own “fyer hookes” for pulling burning thatch off a building, or even pulling down a framed house to prevent fire spreading. Nottingham had been producing its own clay roofing tiles from medieval times and these were used on the higher status buildings. A tile house existed at the east end of the town from at least the 1550’s. Pottery kilns and wasters have been found on the site of the Victoria Centre, Glasshouse Street and Goose Gate, and this is the area where the tilers worked making floor tiles, and roof tiles. By this date, 1550, the layout of the town was established.

A combination of an increasing shortage of timber and the presence of clay suitable for tile making stimulated the growing use of brick as a structural building material. Brick had been used in the building of Holme Pierrepont Hall as early as c.1500 and for internal walls at Wollaton Hall in the 1580’s but does not seem to have been generally adopted until after 1600. Deering notes that the earliest dated brick building in Nottingham bore the date stone 1615. This may also date the earliest beginnings of a settled as opposed to itinerant community of brick makers since also in 1615 the county justices ordered a cottage to be built at Sneinton for John Griffin, “an expert in the art of making bricks and tiles” almost certainly with the intention of inducing him to settle. The Nottingham tile makers soon turned their hand to a new craft.

As early as 1669 James Brome observed when visiting the town that “the houses are high and stately; they are, for the most part, built of brick”. Brick and tile were established as standard building materials not only because of the fire danger, but also because of changing fashion. The common pastureland on the Plains at Mapperley near the Thorney Woods became both the main source of the clay used in the brick making process and the site of the clamps and kilns, despite continuing prosecutions for encroaching on the common. They were considered an ideal location  close enough to the town to avoid expensive transport costs yet far enough away not to cause offensive pollution. Deering noted that the kilns produced both common and dressed bricks, as well as both flat tiles and the undulating pan tiles characteristic of eastern England but rare in the counties west of Nottinghamshire. In 1738 common bricks sold for 10s. per thousand, and dressed bricks at 17s.

The brick makers in Nottingham and its immediate vicinity used the brick earth from the strata of red marl overlying the red sandstone on which the town is built, and which in its turn rests on the coal measures which make their appearance a short distance to the west of the town. This could be seen among other places, on the Goose Wong Road leading to Mapperley Plains. The marl abounds with loose and thin layers of skerry, or impure limestone, and in many places contains veins of gypsum that were extensively worked for the manufacture of plaster of Paris.

The colour of the bricks varied. For making red bricks, the clay was selected with care, and only particular beds were used. For common bricks, the earth was taken as it came, no care was taken in the selection of the clay, the object of the manufacturer being to clear his yard. The same price being paid for all the clay used, whatever its quality. For front bricks and the superior qualities, the clay was selected with more care, received more preparation prior to grinding, was ground finer, and was sometimes left to mellow in cellars for a considerable time before using.

The old houses in Nottingham were built with very thin brick, much of the old brickwork gauging 10½ ins to 4 courses in height, including mortar joints. These bricks are of a dark red colour, and were from works that had been long abandoned even in 1850. By that time bricks were 131/8 to 4 courses in height including mortar joints. The common bricks were of a very uneven colour, which arose partly from the manner in which they were set in the kiln, and partly from the want of care in selecting the clay, and the quantity of limestone mixed up in it. For these reasons the fronts of many of the 1850 buildings have a mottled appearance, which is extremely unsightly. Edward Dobson, writing in 1849, said:

“At the present time little building is going forward in Nottingham and the demand for bricks is very small, but the enclosure of the common fields will probably lead sooner or later to extensive building operations, and as there are good beds of clay upon some of the newly enclosed lands, it is to be hoped that this defect will be remedied in the new buildings.”

William Howie Wylie writing in 1853 writes:

“The manufacture of bricks was for some years in very low state, but when the Inclosure Bill was passed, and the brick duty abolished, prosperity returned.”

The brickworks supplying Nottingham were situated on the slopes of a small valley along which runs the public road from Nottingham to Southwell, Carlton Road and Hill, and as they were situated on the sides of the hills, it was easy to drain the workings and bring the ground into cultivation again after the clay had been exhausted.

The proprietor of a brickwork usually rented the required land from the owner of the soil, at a price per acre, and in addition to the rent paid for all clay dug, whatever its quality, at a set price per thousand bricks made and sold, exclusive of those used for the erection and repairs of the buildings and works.

The arrangement of the various buildings varied with each yard but all advance towards the kiln at each process, so as to avoid all unnecessary labour. The pit from which the clay is dug was at the rear of the works. The clay or marl was dug in the autumn and collected in large heaps at the bottom of the slopes to be mellowed by the winter frosts. Brick making was a summer occupation. What happened in the winter I will illustrate later through the Pritchard family history.

In the spring the clay was turned over by spade labour being at the same time well watered and trodden. The water for the different processes was usually carried in the yard in buckets with yokes but in times of drought and if the water supply was at a distance, a water cart was used, the supply being taken from a pond into which the drainage of the works was conducted.

Next the pebbles and large lumps of limestone were picked out. This was always done by hand until 1820 when the first rollers for crushing the clay were set up by Mr Nathan Bradshaw who at that time occupied three yards on the Mapperley Road.

At some little distance from the clay pits was the clay mill which to save labour in wheeling the clay was shifted from time to time as the workings receded from the kiln by the exhaustion of the clay. This was not always done however, as where the mill has been fixed in a substantial manner, the saving in labour would not repay the cost of reerection. The clay mill was where the clay was ground. It consisted of one or more caste iron rollers, set very close together in a horizontal position, and driven by a horse which walked in a circular track and by means of the beam to which he was attached, put in motion a horizontal bevelled driving wheel placed at the centre of the horse track. A horizontal shaft connected at one end with one of the rollers by a universal joint, and having a bevelled pinion at the other end, communicated the motion of the driving wheel to the rollers by spurwheels keyed on their axles. The clay was tipped in a wooden hopper placed over the rollers, and passing slowly between the latter fell on a floor about eight feet below them, where it was tempered for the moulder, the man who made the bricks. The rollers were usually 18ins in diameter and 30ins. long (manufactured by Messrs Clayton and Shuttleworth of Lincoln). One mill ground sufficient clay to keep six moulders fully employed, and was therefore rarely constantly in work.

Next the clay needed to be prepared for use, a process called ‘tempering’. In Nottingham brickyards, the tempering of the clay after grinding was done by treading and spade labour. In other towns, a Pug Mill might be used. Instead of the clay being tempered directly after grinding, it was sometimes deposited to ripen in damp cellars for a year or more. That was done for the best bricks only.

The moulding table where the bricks were made sometimes had a sand box attached to it; sometimes the sand box was detached. The moulding sand used was common rock sand which burned a red colour. The sand was only used to sprinkle on the table to prevent the clay sticking to it, and therefore sand with sharp grit was preferred. The table also had a water box, in which the moulder dipped his hands every time he made a brick. The moulder stood in front of the table with the water box immediately in front of him, the tempered clay at his right hand side and the sand box to his left. A sloping plank was placed at one end of the table to enable the boy who brought the clay from the temperer to deposit it more conveniently on the table. The boy who took off the newly made bricks, and brought back the empty mould, stood on the side of the table opposite the moulder, to the right of the water box, in which he washed his hands after each journey, to prevent the clay from drying on them.

The process for making a brick started with a boy taking up as large a lump of the tempered clay as he could carry, and, placing it on his head, walking with it to the moulding table, and walking up the sloping plank, deposited it at the end of the table to the right hand of the moulder. The moulder, having sprinkled some dry sand over the table, took from the heap of tempered clay a piece sufficient to make a brick, and kneaded this clot with his hands on the sanded part of the table, so as to bring it approximately into shape. He then raised the clot in the air, and dashed it with some force into the mould, striking off the superfluous clay with his fingers. He then dipped his hands into the water box, and, with very wet hands, worked over the face of the brick, so as to force the clay perfectly into the mould in every part. He next took the plane and passed it backwards and forwards with considerable pressure, until the face of the brick was flush with the edges of the mould. Then, reversing the mould he planed the underside in the same way. The brick being moulded, the moulder slid it on the wet table to his left hand side, where it was taken off by a second boy, who carried it, mould and all, to an unoccupied area of the floor where he turned it carefully on one of its sides, and returned with the empty mould. Meanwhile the moulder had made a second brick, which was now ready to be taken off, and this process was repeated until the distance to an unoccupied part of the floor was too great to allow of the boys returning in time, and the table was then shifted to another part of the floor.

It was important that the drippings from the table should not fall on the drying floor as they made it slippery and unfit for use, therefore a rim was placed at one end of the table and the opposite side was furnished with a kind of apron and gutter by means of which the slush was conducted to a tub placed under one corner of the table.

Traditionally the brick moulds were made of wood, but by 1850 they had almost entirely been superseded by brass, or as they were technically called copper, moulds. Sometimes the brass work was merely an inside lining, screwed to a wooden mould but the best construction was where the mould was of brass, cast in four pieces, and riveted together at the angles, the woodwork being in four pieces, and attached to the brass mould by angle rivets. Those moulds were expensive. The brass overlapped the woodwork all round the mould on each side, and they wore down and had to be replaced each season, an expensive job. The use of copper moulds was confined to the making of building bricks and quarries for paving floors but was too expensive for larger articles. Unlike in London, the mould did not have a bottom but rested on the moulding board itself, the top and bottom of the brick being formed at two distinct operations with a little instrument called a plane. The plane was usually 9ins. long by 3ins. broad with a handle at one end. Its use was to compress the clay in the mould, and to work over the top and bottom beds of the brick to give them an even surface.

After the bricks had remained for a few hours in the position in which they were first placed on the floors, they were turned on their edges by a boy, who turned up two at once, one with each hand. They stayed in this position a few hours longer, and were then laid flat on the opposite side to the one on which they were first placed. Careful moulders sprinkled sand over the wet bricks as they lay on the floor which absorbed any superabundant moisture and rendered them less liable to crack but this was not always done.

The new bricks sometimes underwent a slight dressing with a clapper to take off any roughness at the edges and correct any alteration of form that might have taken place on turning them out of the mould. In some cases they were scraped with a small iron scraper to remove any dirt that was adhering to them.

After lying flat a few hours longer, they were carried by the boys, three at a time, to the hovel, where the moulder built them into hacks 50 bricks long and 14 courses high, each hack containing 700 bricks. As the bricks were hacked they were batted with the chipper (a piece of board 12ins. by 6ins. with a handle on one side) to correct any warping that may have taken place whilst lying on the floors. The bricks remained in the hovel without being again shifted, until they were ready for burning.

Whilst the bricks were in the hacks the excise officer counted them. The brick tax had come into force in 1784 and was repealed in 1850, although tiles were exempted from 1833. Bricks were charged at 2s.6d. per thousand, plain tiles 3s. per thousand, and an allowance of 10% was given for bricks spoiled in the firing. It is difficult to know how much difference the brick tax made but there was a feeling that taxes on bricks like taxes on windows or glass were taxes both on health and progress; the repeal was greeted with general satisfaction and the revenue proved adequate without it.

The hovel or drying shed generally formed two sides of a rectangular yard adjoining the public road; the kiln was placed as close to the hovel as practicable and the working floors or flats in the rear of the latter. By this concentration of plan, the distance to which the bricks had to be carried between the successive processes of moulding, drying, hacking and burning was reduced to a minimum, which was an important point to be considered, as the raw bricks were shifted by hand and not barrowed. The flats or working floors were prepared with care by levelling and rolling so as to make them hard and even and were laid out with a slight fall so that no water lodged on them. They were well sanded, and constant care was required to keep them free of weeds. Their usual width was about 10 yards. In unfavourable weather a single moulder would sometimes have as many as 7,000 bricks on the flats at once, for which an area of from 300 to 400 superficial yards would be required. This would be an extreme case, and in good drying weather a moulder would not require more than half that extent of floor, probably less.

The hovel or drying shed in which the bricks were hacked (stacked to dry) was generally built in the roughest and cheapest manner possible with open sides and a tiled roof, supported by wooden posts or brick piers: the width of the hovel was about 18ft. or rather more than the length of the hack but the caves were made to project a couple of feet beyond this distance in order to give additional shelter from the rain for which reason as well as for the sake of economy, the eaves were carried down so low as to make it necessary to stoop to enter the shed. A few years after 1820 attempts were made to manufacture bricks in winter and this after many attempts was effected by introducing flues under the floors of the drying sheds. So late in the period I am talking about, some of the hovels had flues under the floor, the fireplaces being placed in a pit sunk at one end of the hovel and the chimney at the opposite end. The flues were used when the demand for bricks was so great that sufficient time could not be allowed for the bricks to dry in the open air and also during inclement seasons. The sides of the hovel were then walled up to retain heat. No specific rule can be drawn up for the relative sizes of the hovel and drying floor. The common practice seems to have been to make them the same length.

This description applies to the ordinary hovel, but the best front bricks were dried wholly under cover in a brick hovel enclosed by walls on all sides, and furnished with flues, by which the place was kept at a regular temperature. This was too expensive for general adoption.


Sometimes a dressing bench was used at this stage, a stout bench to which was fitted a plate of cast iron on which the best front bricks were rubbed or polished to make them perfectly true and even, the workman, at the same time, beating them with a wedge shaped beater tipped with iron called a dresser. This operation toughened the brick, corrected any warping and left the arrises (edges) very sharp. These bricks were very expensive.

There was machinery for pressing bricks in some yards. These screw presses were used for pressing front bricks but they were not considered as durable as bricks dressed by hand. The operation of dressing on the bench required an experienced workman, whilst a common labourer could use a machine. For this reason machine pressed bricks could be produced much cheaper than those dressed by hand.

The time allowed for drying varied with the weather, the size of kiln, and the demand for bricks. Some brick makers got the bricks out of the kiln within a fortnight of leaving their moulds but this haste was very prejudicial to the soundness of the bricks, and as a general rule, three weeks was the least time that should have been allowed for drying. The time that the raw bricks lay on the flats depended solely on the weather. In good drying weather the bricks were made one day and hacked the next, but at other times several days might elapse before they were fit for hacking.

Pressed bricks were prepared by putting the raw bricks one at a time when nearly dry into a metal mould in which they were forcibly compressed by the action of a powerful lever which forced up the piston forming the bottom of the mould. That gave a beautiful face to the brick and left the arrises very sharp, but bricks prepared this way needed a longer drying time and judicious management of the kiln, otherwise they would be unsound and perish when exposed to the weather.

The largest common bricks when burnt measured 9½ ins long by 4 5/8 ins. wide and 3 1/16 ins thick or thereabouts. They weighed 7lbs. 5oz. when burnt. The best red facing-bricks made at Mr. Woods yard in the Carlton Road, measured when burnt, 9 1/8 ins. long, 4 ½ ins wide and 2 13/16 ins thick. A good moulder, if solely occupied in moulding, would turn out 2000 bricks in a day between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. but as nearly one third of the moulder’s time was taken up with hacking, the average day’s work was not more than about 1300 per day or between 7000 and 8000 weekly.

The kilns varied considerably as regards their dimensions and construction details but all were built on the same principle. They consisted of four upright walls enclosing a rectangular chamber. The floor was sunk about four feet below the general surface of the ground, and was not paved. The doorways for setting and drawing the kiln were merely narrow openings at the ends of the kiln raised a step above the ground, and about five feet from the floor. The fire holes were arched openings opposite each other on the sides of the kiln, lined with firebricks, which needed renewing from time to time, generally every season. The width of these holes was reduced to the required space by temporary piers of brickwork so as to leave a narrow opening about 8 ins. wide and about 3 ft. high.

On each side of the kiln a pit was sunk to the level of the floor and covered with a leanto roof, which protected the fuel and the fire man from the weather and prevented the wind from setting against the fires. The walls of the kiln were about 3 ft. thick, and were built of old bricks. No mortar was used as the use of lime would destroy the brickwork under the intense heat to which the bricks were exposed. The bricks were therefore set in loam or fireclay if it could be readily obtained. The firebricks for lining the fire holes were sometimes brought from Ilkeston where excellent fireclay was worked but it was most common to make them at the yards with such clay as was available in the neighbourhood. This clay was brought from neighbouring collieries and was obtained when sinking shafts; there was no fire clay at any of the Nottingham yards.

Some kilns were built with walls of great thickness at the bottom diminishing by setoffs until near the top they were comparatively thin. Some had massive buttresses at the angles to counteract the tendency that the walls had to lift themselves with the heat. Very great care was required in drying a newly built kiln, or the walls would crack at the first firing and the thicker the walls the greater the care necessary. Some of the kilns were provided with a flight of steps by which access was obtained to the top, in others ladders were used for this purpose.

The sizes of kilns varied considerably: 20ft. long, 10ft. wide and 12ft. high would, with the addition of a parapet, burn 25,000 bricks at once, and would require more than that number of bricks for its erection. The cost of such a kiln in 1850 was £30  £50. Ten bricks required a cubic foot of space in the kiln. A wellbuilt kiln would last for many years. The setting of the kiln was an operation on which much depended, and needed to be done by an experienced hand, as there was a great deal of art in arranging the bricks in a proper manner, so as to allow the heat to be diffused equally through the kiln, and to afford a proper draught so as to obtain the greatest amount of steady heat with the smallest expenditure of fuel. The lower part of the kiln was filled with common bricks. The best bricks were placed in the middle of the kiln, and above these were placed common bricks to the top. Space was left round each brick to allow the passage of heat round it. When a brick partly rested on another it would be mottled.

The kiln being topped, the doorways were built up with refuse brick and plastered over with clay. The fire was built up slowly to drive off the steam, before the actual burning began. When the fire had attained its full heat, the fire holes were partially stopped with clay, and the top of the kiln was covered over with earth, turfs, or boards to check the draughts, and a steady, uniform heat was kept up until the completion of the burning which generally occupied three days and three nights from the first lighting of the fires, at the expiration of which time the fireholes were completely stopped and the fires put out; after the fires had been extinguished, the kiln should have been allowed to cool very gradually, so the bricks did not deteriorate. The fuel used was coal, ½ ton per 1,000 bricks. Nottingham being on the edge of the Nottinghamshire coalfields the cost of firing was very low, and excellent coal could be laid down at the yards at from 8s.6d. per ton upwards. Slack used in the early stages of burning was 5s. to 6s. per ton. The colour and soundness of the bricks would vary according to their position in the kiln and the intensity of the heat to which they had been exposed. The best bricks came from the middle of the kiln. The goods for sale were stacked in the open part of the yard as near the public road as practicable.

The proprietor of the brickwork usually rented the necessary land at a price per acre and in addition paid for the clay removed, regardless of quality. He would need cellars for ripening the clay, a tempering shed for tempering under cover, one or more drying houses (in later years they needed to be provided with furnaces and flues), a wash mill, stabling for the horses, a cottage for the undertaker of the yard, sheds or outbuildings for tools and implements.

William Howe Wylie writing in 1852:

“The brick yards in operation in 1852 are: Mr. William, Burgass, two yards in Carlton Hill and two at Mapperley, producing six million bricks annually; Messrs. Thomas and Joseph Terry, two yards at Carlton Hill, 3 million bricks produced annually; Mr. Moses Wood, architect, one yard on Carlton Road, 1 ½ million; Mr. William James, Carlton Hill, 1½ million; Mr. John Drury, Carlton Road, 500,000 or 600,000; Mr. Joseph Hornbuckle, Carlton Road, 1½ million. Also Mr. Thomas North, Cinder Hill, Basford, 6 million; Messrs. Cartledge and Goddard, Mapperley Hill, 1½ million. These bring into Nottingham 5 million bricks. More brickyards opened in 1852: Mr. William Whitehead 3 large yards on Beacon Hill which produced bricks of a superior quality; Messrs. Hopkin & Co who had a yard on Carlton Hill; Mr. John Scattergood had a yard at the bottom of Goosewong Hill; Mr. Whitchurch, druggist who had a yard in Will Close, St. Ann’s Well Road; Mr. Edward Watts who had a yard near the Fieldhouses in the same road; and Mr. William Smith, Mapperley. A new yard has opened near the Asylum, Carlton Road, under the management of Mr. Drury. Messrs. Bailey & Shaw of Lenton, the most extensive fellmongers in England, have purchased a large tract of clay land at Arnold, on which they are introducing machines for brick making. A company under the names of Mr. Gripper& Co. have purchased extensive pieces of land on the Mapperley Hill where gigantic preparations for brick and tile manufacture are being made”.

The Pritchard Family

It is interesting how the story of the Pritchard’s throws light on the brick making industry.

The name Pritchard is Welsh, Ap Richard meaning the son of Richard. James Pritchard was christened on 1st August 1785 at Ewyas Harold in Herefordshire where he married Alice Ralph on 15th May 1801. This was a very Welsh part of Herefordshire where the Pritchard’s combined fanning with brick making. Transport in Hereford was not good although it improved somewhat with the building of the Hereford Canal, which may be why one member of the family moved to London, to Bethnal Green. When bricks could only be carried from brickworks to building site by packhorse or (where roads existed) by horse and cart, then transport costs made a very big difference between the cost of bricks at the yard and the cost of those same bricks at the site. Ideally, the bricks had to be made at the building site. Similarly, the cost of hauling heavy brick clay meant that effectively the brickyard had to be at the clay ground. For hundreds of years, until well into the nineteenth century, transport problems dominated the brick making industry, good transport became more and more important to brick makers as the century wore on. The canals certainly helped and so of course did the railways.

James and Alice moved to Carlton Hill where they remained for the rest of their lives, and where their six children wore born. Born in 1805, James was the eldest of the surviving children. It is in the baptism records of these children that we first catch a glimpse of what brick makers did in the wintertime. In 1813 when William was born, James was described as a maltster. William died in 1815 at 17 months old, and the next child, born in 1816 was named after him. James was then described as a brewer. When Charles was born in 1820 James’ occupation was brick maker. In the winter brick makers turned to brewing.

All James and Alice’s sons become brick makers. James Pritchard junior, Bobby’s great great grandfather, being apprentice to William Oakland, brick maker, in 1823, for 7 years. Looking at the information in the book of apprentices for the town of Nottingham, we see:

“William, son of Joseph James, brick maker and maltster;
John Barker to Charles Doncaster, brick maker and maltster;
Joseph Oakland, son of James Oakland, brick maker and maltster to James Oakland, brick maker and maltster, 1818”.

The said James Oakland was one of seven Oaklands who were brick makers, including William who James Pritchard was apprentice to. So although it does not specify that William was also a maltster, there is no doubt that he would be making beer in the winter, and that young James would be learning this trade from both William Oakland and his father, James Pritchard.

James Pritchard junior married Elizabeth Lord, and for a time he moves from Carlton Hill to Gamston, near Retford, where he sets up a brickworks. That is where his surviving children, James and Louisa are born, in 1838 and 1840, respectively. That site would be well placed, having the Chesterfield Canal nearby. About 1848, when his father dies, James and his family move back to Carlton, but he goes on to set up brickworks in Rempstone in south Nottinghamshire and finally Wymeswold, just over the border in Leicestershire. By this time, 1876, James probably realised there was no future for the itinerant brick makers making handmade bricks.

Towards the end of his life James becomes the victualler of The Falcon Inn at Long Whatton which is near Rempstone but in Leicestershire. By this time his two children, James and Louisa, are grown up and obviously friendly with the Wadkin family who own the windmill at Rempstone because James marries Esther Wadkin and his sister, Louisa, marries John Wadkin, who becomes the miller.

On his marriage James became the owner and victualler of the Falcon Inn, and made a great success of the business, eventually retiring to a large house nearby, living in comfort and leaving a sizeable inheritance. So James was not a brick maker, and yet he was continuing a family business that had existed for at least three generations. When Bobby’s brothers from South Africa came to stay with us for a family reunion, we were able to take them for a lovely meal at The Falcon Inn, where their grandmother had been born.

Extract from “Victorian Horsham”

“The Diary of Henry Michell 1809-1874”. Edited and introduced by Kenneth Neale Phillimore 1975.
This book was published in co-operation with the Horsham Museum Society.

Page 40

“Henry Michell is born in 1809 and left school when he was fifteen. His business life then begins and he assists his father in the general management of the Brewery, Malting and Coal Businesses at Steyning and also has something to do with farming as well. This continues up to January 1833 when he accepts the management of a local bank, which gives him business experience, and an understanding of bookkeeping, which he considers of the greatest importance. He only works there three days a week, so he can continue helping his father.

In 1834 he marries and begins business in the town of Horsham. He runs a Brewing business and resumes brick making. From that time he always tells us how good the hop and barley crops are and how much duty was paid per year. Apparently there was a saying that you never get a good crop of barley and hops in the same year.

The first mention of the railway is in 1839 when the Brighton railway was under construction. That same year “the very elements seemed to have conspired against brick making this summer; large quantities were washed down in the hack, and the fires were put out in the clamps before the bricks were sufficiently burned. This of course was a great loss as there was then a duty on bricks of 5s 10d. per 1000 and I paid nearly £500 duty for the summer of 1839. It was altogether most discouraging. Railway contractors would not buy my bricks till they were compelled to do so, or let their works stand still. I ultimately sold a good many at a very high price and so I eventually cleared out at a loss of only a few hundred pounds, whereas at one time it threatened to be almost ruinous.”


1845 is an outstanding year in which he makes a courageous and successful business venture.

“…… This year is celebrated in my business career for having become the purchaser by tender of the County Gaol …. my tender was £2,560…. it was a great bargain as the amount of materials was vast. After disposing of the material, I bought some other land adjoining and added to the site.”

Before the gaol is pulled down he has sketches made of it, and allows the public to go round it. Thousands come to see it. He builds the new Malt house on this land. He makes ten million bricks on the land. 1846. In 1846 he itemises the recycling of Horsham gaol. 2 ½ million bricks were used in the building, 15,000 square feet of paving stone and about 100 iron doors and 150 iron windows. The greater part of the old iron is sold to Palmer and Green of Brighton and used to construct the bridge that carries the railway over the Ouse at Lewes. Nearly the whole of the railway works from Three Bridges to Horsham were constructed with the bricks, also a factory and a new house and many other buildings.

After the building was demolished there was an immense quantity of brick and mortar rubble, but in this the construction of the railway again came to my aid, and I ballasted about a mile of railway with it.


“The Horsham and Three Bridges railway was opened in February this year; the trade of the Town felt an immediate impulse. Our trade instead of declining, as I supposed it would when the railway works were finished, continued to increase and we were now doing more than my wildest flights of imagination led me to expect and began to speculate on some day being a rich man (i.e. comparatively) if my health and strength were continued to me.”


In the summer of 1850 he begins brick making in the field he had bought that backed on to the gaol, intending to sell part of the field to a builder. He would then be able to sell his bricks to the builder who would be pleased to have them close to hand:

“But to my surprise, I had no sooner made a quantity than parties came by rail and cleared them off as fast as we could make them, and this continued for several successive years.”

It is at the end of this year that he buys Stakers Farm “which was quite a new thing to me and more conducive to my health than money profit.”

“In 1841 the census showed that 45,000 people were employed in the manufacture of bricks. The duty was repealed about 1847 or 1848 and in the next census of 1851 it is shown that 95,000 were so employed.”

Nottinghamshire Archives

Apprentices No. 6 Town of Nottingham

A Register of the Apprentices bound by indenture to Burgesses of the Town of Nottingham and also of the names and places of abode of the masters or mistresses, with other Particulars required by the 5th . Geo. 3rd Chap. 46.

Page 62 no. 548.
Apprentice’s name: John Pritchard

The names of the Father or Mother of the Apprentice: James Pritchard. Their Occupation and Residence: Brickmaker, Nottingham.

The Masters or Mistresses to whom bound and their places of abode: William Oakland, Brickmaker, Nottingham.

The Premium or sum of Money given or contracted for with the Apprentice: £40.

The Trade or Profession to be learnt by the Apprentice: Brickmaker.

The date and term of the Indenture: 9th August 1823.

By whom and when received: William Oakland, 23rd December 1825. Witness: Wm. Barnes.

1881 British Census

Dwelling: Town Street (Falcon Inn)
Census Place: Long Whatton, Leicester, England

Source: FHL Film 1341751 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 3147 Folio 90 Page 10

Marital Status Age Sex Birthplace
Rel: Head
Occ: Licensed Victualler
M 42 M Gamston Common, Nottingham
Rel: Wife
M 42 F Kegworth, Leicester
Rel: Son
14 M Long Whatton, Leicester
Florence Elizabeth PRITCHARD
Rel: Daur
Occ: Scholar
10 F Long Whatton, Leicester
Rel: Daur
Occ: Scholar
5 F Long Whatton, Leicester
Joseph Turner PRITCHARD
Rel: Son
2 M Long Whatton Leicester

© Elizabeth Robinson 2007