Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello, East Lothian

Canmore

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 was 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.

1787 – Portobello Advertiser dated 04/12/1896 –….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.  …. The Marquis of Abercorn gave the lease of a large field (called Adam’s Laws) on the south side to a Mr Hamilton, whom it was opened the Abercorn Brick and Tile Work. This extensive work, in the hands of the Creelman’s, the Livingstones, and of late by Messrs Thornton & Co …..

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 consumption is 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 outstanding 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 tileworks 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.

30/05/1873 – The Scotsman – Fatal accident at Portobello – Yesterday morning about; ten o’clock, a young man named Thomas Brown was accidentally killed, at Messrs William Hunter & Co’s, brick and tile works, West Bank. Brown was engaged bringing out clay with a ballast waggon for the brick machine, and when near the tunnel under the turnpike road, he was suddenly caught by a passing waggon, and so severely crushed that he died within, an hour-and-a-half of the occurrence. Deceased was unmarried.

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.

29/01/1878 – Dundee Courier – Two boys drowned – On Saturday afternoon, Charles Leitch, aged thirteen years, and John Ormiston Leitch, aged eleven years, residing with their widowed mother at Melville Street, Portobello, met their death by drowning. They had gone to the Benhar Company’s Brick Works nearby to skate on one of the clay holes there, and, while they were amusing themselves, the ice gave way. Some men, who were passing, procured a rope and threw it several times to the unfortunate boys, but they did not lay hold of it.

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 brickworks.

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

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 brickworks acquired by Mr A. Scott Turner, and is now carried on under the designation of Turners, Limited.

Below – 1894 – Abercorn brick and tile works.

15/02/1894 – Edinburgh Evening News – Pipemaker (good) wanted at Abercorn Brick Works, Portobello.

04/05/1895 – Edinburgh Evening News – The industrial prosperity of Portobello – Not for many years has the industrial outlook in Portobello been so promising as at present. All kinds of work are plentiful, and while a year or two ago many workmen were unemployed, masters are now experiencing difficulty in securing sufficient men to undertake work on their hands. The bottle making, brickmaking, and pottery industries, which are the mainstay of the town, are exceptionally brisk, and in consequence, most of the works have been or are about to be enlarged. At the Abercorn Brickworks, belonging to Messrs Turner (Limited) extensive improvements, involving a large outlay, have been affected. Within the last 16 years quite a revolution has taken place in brickmaking, and the old process of making bricks by hand then in vogue has entirely superseded by machinery capable of turning out six times more bricks a day than could possibly be made by hand. The alterations at the Abercorn works consist of new drying sheds, where the bricks, chimney cans, pipes, flower pots, &c., undergo a drying process, secured by utilising the exhaust steam from the moulding machinery, previous to their being placed in the kilns. Several Hoffman kilns have been erected at a cost of over £3000. The advantage claimed for over the old fashioned kilns is that the fire will not require to be let out in order to remove the bricks, but on account of the kiln being chambered, one section can be shut off from the others, and the process of firing the bricks can thus proceed without interruption. The firm contemplates putting in during the summer further new machinery, and they now have the whole of their works lighted with electric light. With work so plentiful, it is natural to be expected that impetus would be given to the other trades, and perhaps none is more brisk than the building trade. A large number of houses are being erected in different parts of the burgh, and it is stated that it is nearly 20 years since so many were in process of erection. The Town Council are also effecting several improvements in the town, the principal being the laying the High Street with granolithic pavements, which will when completed, cost about £4000. Slipways at the ends of the streets running on to the beach have been fitted at a cost of £300. Negotiations are proceeding for the leasing of a 10-acre field adjacent to the present public park, with the object of not only extending the park but also increasing the present six-hole golf course to one of nine-hole. The rent of the new portion will be £85. It is stated that many of the summer visitors who used to frequent Musselburgh for the golfing in former years have this year taken houses and lodgings in Portobello on account of the new charges at Musselburgh. It is considered likely that if a nine-hole course is laid out at Portobello it would serve as an extra inducement to such visitors.

1896 –  Turner’s Limited – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works, Portobello.

11/12/1896 – Portobello Advertiser  – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works (Messrs Scott Turner) broken into. Nothing was stolen.

1897 – 1901 – John Scott, Manager at Turner’s clay field.

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

22/07/1898 – Edinburgh Evening News – Pipe maker (fireclay)and pan mill 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.  10/06/1903 – The Scotsman – Court case begins. 12/06/1903 – The Scotsman – Case continues.  13/06/1903 – The Scotsman. Court case resumes.

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.

11/02/1903 – The Scotsman – The storm and Abercorn Brickworks – 130 George Street, Edinburgh, February 10, 1903. Sir – With reference to reports circulated in various papers regarding damage done by storm at our Abercorn brickworks, as these are scarcely according to the fact, might I ask you to correct same? It is reported that the Figgate burn burst the banks of both clay fields, flooding the same. While this is correct so far as the clay field on the left bank of burn is concerned, it is not correct with reference to the other. This clay field ( right bank ) was not flooded by any bursting of burn, but by the Figgate overflowing its banks fully 500 yards up from clay field. Pumping machinery is being erected to get the water pumped out and we expect, under ordinary circumstances to be able to have work in full operation in a few days. We may state that the employees are at present fully employed. I am &c James Gardner, General Manager.

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 the knee. He lives at 36 Gordon Street, Leith was taken to the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.

12/06/1903 – The Scotsman – Reference to James Gardiner being General Manager of Messrs Turners (Limited).

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 managed 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 pipework 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 brickworks 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!).

 

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