Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello, East Lothian


At Portobello, close to the mouth of the Braid Burn (Figgate Burn), brick clay has been worked since 1765. The oldest pits have long been abandoned. Not far from their sites others have been opened from time to time, worked for a time and then closed. These pits are all grouped together within an area of about a square mile. A few of the earlier excavations were on the south-east side of the Figgate Burn, but the greater number have been on its north-west side.

What were known as ‶The Abercorn Brick Works″ were situated on the west side of the Figgate Burn between the High Street and Baileyfield Road (6)  During the years 1852-1856 when the pit was being worked, Hugh Miller lived close to it in a house in the High Street. It  interested him greatly, and in his book, Edinburgh……..

End of 18th century – The earliest brick manufacturer west of the Figgate Burn on the Abercorn Estate was Mr Hamilton. He broke ground in a large field called Adams Laws about the end of the 18th century. Hamilton was succeeded by Mr Wm. Creelman probably in 1807 from the West of Scotland, who during a long occupancy of the works was a successful man of business. In addition to the manufacture of bricks he acquired in 1825 the Soap Work at the foot of Bridge Street, for many years carried on by George Morrison & Son. On his death in 1830, at the age of seventy-five, the brickwork was carried on by his two daughters for a number of years, till about the year 1845, when Mr Allan Livingston acquired a lease. At that time he was carrying on an extensive manufacture of fire clay bricks at Joppa, and did a large trade, not only with Edinburgh but with London. He made, we are told, great quantities of fire-clay gas retorts for the London market, and in 1848, when the Edinburgh Gaswork chimney stalk was erected, the bricks were supplied by him. Abercorn Brickwork continued to be carried on for some years after the death of Mr Livingston’s son, Mr Allan Livingston, jun., who, at the time of his death, January 1867, was Provost of Portobello.

….we are told that Shrub Mount was probably built by James Cunningham W. S.. It was long occupied by Mr Wm. Creelman, one of the first lessees of the Abercorn Brickworks. When it was built, about 1787, it had extensive grounds attached, including the whole area, now occupied by Tower Street, and the houses on each side of it down to the sea.

William Creelman

Below – 26/09/1805 – Caledonian Mercury – Abercorn Brick Works Co intimate that Alexander Muir and J Plenderleith are no longer managers of the concern.

Below – 26/12/1805 – Abercorn Brickwork, Portobello. David Hamilton, Manager. Hunter & Co, Manufacturers.

25/06/1807 – Caledonian Mercury – To be sold by public roup, within the Royal Exchange Coffeehouse, Edinburgh, on Monday 24th August next, at two o’clock afternoon. Two third shares in the Abercorn brickwork, Portobello, consisting of five acres of Ground, Houses, Machinery, Horses, and Utensils, with a perpetual and exclusive right to the whole Fire and Common Clay on the Estate of Duddingston.  This business has been carried on for some years to a very   great extent in Fire-Brick, Common Brick, Tile, Pottery, and Pavement articles.  The Fire Clay under the Company’s charge is inexhaustible, and the demand for home and foreign consumpt very great from the convenient situation for shipping.  Application may be made to Charles Ferrier, accountant in Edinburgh, or to Messrs Inglis and Robertson, Queen Street.

05/11/1808 – Caledonian Mercury – To the creditors of James Hunter late of the Abercorn Brick Work, Portobello. Several of the creditors of the said James Hunter notwithstanding the notices already inserted in the newspapers requiring them to lodge their grounds of debt and oaths of verity thereon with the trustee, having yet failed to do so, notice is hereby given to all such creditors of the said James Hunter who have not given in their claims that they must lodge the same, as above, with Charles Ferrier, accountant in Edinburgh, the trustee, between and Saturday the 12th November otherwise they can have no share in the funds recovered under the trust executed by Mr Hunter. Sale of oustanding debts – To be sold by Public roup within the Royal Exchange Coffee House, Edinburgh on Friday 11th day of November at 2 o’clock. Certain outstanding debts due to the late firm of Hunter & Co of the Abercorn Brick Work, Portobello amounting per list to £254 1s 7d. A particular list of debts and articles of roup thereof will be seen on applying to Henry David Dickie at Mr Ferriers, 26 North Hanover Street Edinburgh.

30/03/1811 – Carlisle Journal – Scotch Bankrupts –  – David Hamilton & Co, of the Abercorn brick and tyle work, at Portobello near Edinburgh.

23/01/1812 – Caledonian Mercury – Scots bankrupts – – Examinations – David Hamilton and Co, of the brick and tile works at Portobello, to be examined in the Sheriff Clerks Office, Edinburgh 30th January and 13th February at one o’clock.

1825 – 1826 –  William Creelman, Brick and Tile Manufacturer, Abercorn, Portobello.

Below – 18/03/1826 – The Scotsman – William Creelman advertising chimney pots.

Below – 04/08/1830 – The Scotsman – Due to the death of the late William Creelman the Abercorn works will be continued under the firm of C. Creelman & Co.

Below – 06/06/1832 – The Scotsman – Stoneware manufactory for sale or let  – Abercorn Brick Works.

1842 – 1843 – George Ingram, Clerk, Abercorn brickworks.

1842 – 1843 – Also the Edinburgh & Leith County Directory Portobello & Duddingston refers to Creelman, C. and Co, Abercorn brickworks – house, Shrub mount and Ingram, George, Clerk, Abercorn brickworks, Portobello

Below – 1853 – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works.

1854 – 1855 – Livingston, A. & Son, Joppa and Abercorn brickworks, Portobello — ho. Joppa house.

1857 – Allan Livingston & Son, Abercorn Brickworks.

1870 – 1871 – Allan Livingston & Son, Brick and Tile Works, Portobello and Joppa Quarry. P 58.

1870 – 1871 – Borthwick, John, manager, Abercorn brickworks, High street, Portobello.

Below – 29/06/1874 – The Scotsman – Fatal accident at Abercorn Brick Works.

Below – 12/03/1875 – Edinburgh Evening News – Action for unfair dismissal against Allan Livingston & Son, Abercorn Brick Work. John Borthwick Manager.

01/04/1878 – The Scotsman – The Benhar Coal Company annual general meeting – The lease of the Abercorn Brick and Clay Field on the company’s lands of Duddingston came to an end at Matinmas 1877 and the directors chose not to renew the lease and that the Company should take the Works into their own hands……

Below – 27/12/1879 – The Scotsman –  Benhar Coal Co instruct sale of stock at the Abercorn brick works.

12/01/1880 – The Scotsman – At Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello on the 1st inst, the wife of John Scott, managaer a daughter.

1881 – Benhar Coal Company sell Abercorn Brick Works to Thornton & Co

1882 – The business was taken over by Messrs Thomas Thornton and Sons, by whom it was carried on till 1893, when it was acquired by Mr A. Scott Turner, and is now carried on under the designation of Turners, Limited.

Below – 26/01/1884 – Portobello Advertiser  – Action for damages for loss Thornton & Co, Abercorn Brick Works V Cooper & Co

Below – 23/01/1889 – The Scotsman – Abercorn brick works for sale.

Below – 1894 – Abercorn brick and tile works.

1889 – 90 – Thomas Thornton & Sons at the Abercorn Brickworks, High Street, Portobello.

1892 – 93 – Thomas Thornton & Sons at the Abercorn Brickworks, High Street, Portobello.

1893 – Abercorn brick works acquired by Mr A. Scott Turner, and is now carried on under the designation of Turners, Limited.

1896 –  Turner’s Limited – Abercorn brick and tile works, Portobello.

26/05/1897 – Edinburgh Evening News – Blacksmith wanted, must be steady; good horseshoer preferred. Apply Abercorn brick works, Portobello.

22/07/1898 – Edinburgh Evening News – Pipe maker (fireclay)and panmill man wanted. Apply Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello.

01/08/1901 – Edinburgh Evening News – Wanted 6 good clay diggers; also an experienced fire clay moulder. Apply Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello.

Below – 31/03/1902 – The Scotsman – Railway subsidence due to clay workings of  Turners Ltd, Abercorn Brick Works.

1903 – Turners Ltd, Brick and Tile Maker, 31 High Street, Portobello.

1903 – Turners Ltd Coal & Quarry Masters & brick manufacturers, 130 George Street, Edinburgh. TA Freestone.

03/03/1903 – Edinburgh Evening News – Portobello Accident.—While Alexander Smith, labourer, was leading a horse out of Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello, last night, the animal becoming scared bolted, and Smith falling, was run ever. A cart of drain pipes passed over his leg, which was fractured below knee. He lives at 36 Gordon Street, Leith, was taken to the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

Below – 19o5 – Abercorn Brick and Tile works are shown middle bottom right. (Westbank new works are to the left).

Below – 21/08/1909 – The Scotsman – Abercorn Brick Works belonging to Turners Ltd for sale.

24/09/1909 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – New Management at Muirs Brickworks –  Hugh Goldie, who has managcd the brickworks and coalmine of Messrs Robert Muir and Ltd., for past three years, having accepted an  engagement of similar nature Bonnybridge, left on Wednesday of last week. In order  to fill the vacant position. Messrs Muir and  Co., who own Armadale. Barbauchlaw, and Boghead Brick and Pipe Works, and Coal Mine, have had to engage a  manager for the brick and pipe works, and also a manager for the mine. Mr James Gillespie,  late of Turner and Co., Portobello, took up the duties of managing the brick and pipe work on Tuesday, and Mr Heaps, from Blackbraes, a young certificated mine manager, has taken over the management the mine.

1912 – 1913  – Turners, Ltd., Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello.

Below – 1913 – Abercorn Brick and Tile works. Should be detailed just below the Bottle Works but its not. There is the outline of the round kilns as shown on the 1905 map.

Westbank brick works are shown middle left.

Below – 1917 – 1918 – Abercorn Brick Works – the round kilns shown on the 1905 map have gone. (This may have been surveyed prior to 1917 and probably prior to the 1913 OS Map as the Abercorn brickworks are not depicted on the 1913 OS Map!).


Similar articles