Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello, Edinburgh


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 Brickworks″ 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.

1770 1800 – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ states the works were operated by Anthony Hilcote (Hillcoat?).

Below – 11/11/1782 – Caledonian Mercury – Lands and Tenements of Portobello and a house in Nicholson Street for sale – To be sold by voluntary public roup – that part of the lands of Freegate lying in the Parish of Duddingston and shire of Edinburgh … presently possessed by Allan Livingston … part of the grounds afford proper and agreeable situations for building on, and might be feued out in lots to advantage; and should the purchaser incline to carry on a brick and tyle work, or a pottery or brown pot work, the grounds afford proper clay near the surface of which brick of excellent quality was made some years ago … (Note – SBH – I am uncertain if this land was indeed the site of the future Abercorn Brickworks. I have included this article here anyway because of the reference to Allan Livingston).

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 Brickworks 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.  An application may be made to Charles Ferrier, an 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 Brickwork, 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 Brickwork, 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.

03/05/1811 – Edinburgh Evening Courant – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works and Pottery to be let, for such a period as shall be agreed … as possessed by David Hamilton … applications to Mr Guthrie Wright Duddingston Cottages …

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.

1824 – The Abercorn Brick and Tile Works are depicted on the 1824 map as surveyed by J. Wood.

1825 – 1826 – William Creelman, brick and tile manufacturer, Abercorn, Portobello.

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

12/07/1830 – William Creelman dies.

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. (Believed to be Catherine Agnes Ann Creelman and Isabella Creelman, daughters of William Creelman).

Below – 06/06/1832 – The Scotsman – Stoneware manufactory for sale or let – Apply to the Abercorn Brickworks.

1833 – 1834 – C. Creelman & Co, Abercorn Brickworks, High Street, Portobello.

1833 – 1834 – Mr Walter Jackson, Abercorn Brickworks, High Street, Portobello.

20/02/1835 – Glasgow Herald – These extensive premises, so well-known for the last thirty years as the “West Bank Brick and Tile Works” and belonging to the late Mr Alex Guthrie together with a pottery for the fabrications of chimney cans &c are now to be let. The premises consist of about seven acres substantially inclosed, various buildings for
the manufacture of tiles and fire bricks, a pottery, stabling for seven horses, gig-house, work-shops, several small houses for workmen etc. The stock on hand may be had at a
valuation, together with the goodwill of the business which is now in full operation … Offers may be addressed between the 20th May next to Mr Guthrie, West Bank, Portobello

1837 – C. Creelman & Co, brick and tile maker, Abercorn Works, Portobello.

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

1848 – Invoice – Joppa, Portobello. A Livingston & Son, brick and tile manufacturers. Joppa and Abercorn Works, Portobello. Gas retorts & crucibles, plain and ornamental chimney cans, paving tiles, tessellated tiles for kilns, garden pots etc. Flue covers, every description of stove pipes & fire brick, fire clay & water pipes.

Below – 20/06/1850 – North British Agriculturist –  Sanitary Fire -Clay Pipes. New invention. Messrs Livingston and Son beg to recommend to the various public corporations, farmers, agriculturists, &c., their new registered hermetical cover and cradle jointed pipe (which never leaks or allows escape at the joints, like the old spiggot and fawcet, suitable for sewerage, water, &c., &c.) This Invention has now been universally admitted by the first engineers of the day to be one of the greatest improvements of the day, removing a very serious evil which has hitherto prevented the using of these pipes for the conveyance of water, where pressure or distance had to be overcome. A. L. & Son also beg to say that they will always have on hand, to accompany any orders transmitted to them, the various sizes of the patent self-acting cesspool traps, drain and rain and air traps, suitable for sewerage purposes, with the fixed weight, all others being unlicensed by the patentee, from London, and are liable to be charged double. The above are now in use at the police establishment in Edinburgh, where patterns may be seen at the office of 11. Blyth, Esq., Superintendent of Buildings, Streets, &e., &c. Abercorn Brick and Tile Works, Portobello, 15th June 1850.

1852 – Allan Livingston and Son, brick and tile makers and terracotta and patent sewering pipe manufacturers, Abercorn Works, Portobello.

Below – 24/11/1852 – North British Agriculturist – Forbes’s registered drain pavement.

1852 – 1853 – ScotlandsPlaces – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works. A large brick and tile works for the manufacturing of every description of them, situated at the North-West end of Portobello on the Abercorn estate.

Below – 1853 – Abercorn Brick and Tile Works.

1854 – 1855 – A Livingston & Son, Joppa and Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello. House Joppa House.

1857 – Allan Livingston & Son, Abercorn Brickworks.

06/03/1858 – Glasgow Courier – Deaths – At 306 Bath Crescent on the 3rd inst, Miss Catherine Creelman, daughter of the late Wm. Creelman, Esq of Shrub Mound Portobello.

14/03/1860 – Glasgow Herald – The firm of Allan Livingston & Son carry on business as brick and tile manufacturers at Portobello and Rentonhall, near Haddington. George Young, smith and carter, Haddington, supplied them with coal for the works at Rentonhall. He brings an action against them for the amount of his account and is met by the defence that the Sheriff of Haddington has no jurisdiction over them, the defenders pleading that “neither of the defenders having any residence or domicile in the county of Haddington, they are not subject to the Sheriff’s jurisdiction for a civil debt.” The defender says that he is the sole partner of the firm and the only lessee of the brickwork, and that his father is not a partner; that there is no company, and that he could not be cited at the office of the company at Rentonhall. That office was a temporary erection or shed, as the defender called it; but he paid his workmen there, he had a clerk there, and he occasionally went out and transacted business at the place. He had no house, and never resided at the place, and never slept in Haddington, but always returned to Portobello. Both the Sheriffs sustained the defence of want of jurisdiction. Today the Court recalled their judgments.

The Lord President said that Allan Livingston & Son was a company, and a company carrying on business at Rentonhall, in the county of Haddington, where they had a brick and tile work. At that place, they had an office, great or small. The pursuer furnished coal for their establishment at Rentonhall; and he cites the company, Allan Livingston & Son, at their place of business, where they paid their workmen, and when he delivered the coal. The defender pleads that he is not a company, that he is only an individual, and that his father, old Livingston, had retired. It is not said that the pursuer knew of this. The defender had taken the name of Allan Livingston & Son. I hat was not his own name. it was his own name and something else. It was the name of a company, and he was not entitled to plead the reverse after he had adopted it at name. Lord Ivory concurred. He considered this to be a dishonest defence. The defender carried on business as a firm, and he received coal from the pursuer as a firm, and he refuses to pay them because he is not a firm. It is not in his mouth to plead that. The others also concurred, allowing the expenses in this Court. (Further info – 14/03/1860 Caledonian Mercury).

Below – 05/02/1867  – Daily Review (Edinburgh) – Allan Livingston and Son advert. John Borthwick manager.

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

1870 – 1871 – John Borthwick, 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.

24/06/1873 – Dundee Courier – Contravention of the Factory’s Act. Justice of the Peace Court, Edinburgh.  Messrs Win. Hunter & Co., brick and tile manufacturers, Portobello, were fined £6 for employing three young persons without registering their names and without surgical certificates.

01/07/1874 – North British Agriculturist – Fatal accident at Abercorn Brickworks. An accident,  unfortunately attended with fatal consequences, occurred early on Saturday morning at the Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello. Peter Ward, fifty years of age,  was engaged excavating in a clay pit, when the upper surface under which he was digging (weighing between two and three tons) gave way, burying him underneath. He was quickly extricated and removed to the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, but he expired shortly after his admission to the hospital. The deceased was a married man.

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

22/08/1877 – Edinburgh Evening News – At Portobello, the Abercorn Brickworks, occupied by Messrs Livingston & Son, were flooded yesterday, the bank of the Figgat Burn giving way and allowing the water to flow into the works. The grounds were rapidly covered to a depth of ten feet. Upwards of 400,000 bricks have been destroyed, the entire damage being estimated at £1000. Sixty men will be thrown out of work till the damage can be repaired.

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 – 11/06/1879 – Glasgow Herald – Abercorn Brickworks for sale.

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

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

1881 – Benhar Coal Company sell Abercorn Brickworks 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 Brickworks V Cooper & Co

29/10/1887 – Leith Burghs Pilot – Between one and two o’clock on Tuesday morning, a quantity of oil, stored in casks, at Abercorn Brickwork, Portobello, caught fire from a spark, it is supposed, from one of the workmen’s lamps. The fire brigade turned out, under Inspector Currie, and prevented the fire from spreading, but could not save the oil. The loss is estimated at under £20.

Below – 23/01/1889 – The Scotsman – Abercorn Brickworks 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 Brickworks, Portobello.

21/05/1894 – Glasgow Herald – Contractor wanted for the filling and emptying common bricks – Hoffman kiln. Apply Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello.

30/03/1895 – Glasgow Herald- New companies. Turner’s Limited established with a capital of £60,000 in 12,000 shares of £5 each to adopt and carry into effect an agreement with William Turner and Sons, brick manufacturers and quarry masters, Eastfield, Fallahill and Abercorn and to carry on the business of mining, brickmaking and quarrying &c. The registered office is at 262 Morrison Street, Edinburgh. The subscribers are William Turner, quarry master, Fauldhouse. Gardiner Turner, quarry master, Edinburgh. James Turner, quarry master, Edinburgh. Andrew Scott Turner, quarry master, Edinburgh. William Turner Jnr, builder, Edinburgh. Alex Turner, joiner, Edinburgh and Thomas Turner, cashier, Fauldhouse.

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.

02/08/1895 – Midlothian Journal – Article on the industry in the Duddingston area … In both quarries, however, there existed fine seams of fire-clay from 6 to 14 feet thick. Close to it there was established in the latter part of last century a large fire-clay work chiefly for the making of bricks, which was carried on with success till about fifty years ago, first, by Mr John Smith, Baron Bailie of Duddingston, and latterly by Mr Allan Livingston. The brickwork, which was capable of turning out about 18,000 bricks per week, stood close to the sea beach in what is now called Joppa Park. Here there was a considerable range of offices, sheds, kilns, and workmen’s houses, and the buildings were protected on the seaward side by a high stone wall which stood a few feet outside the present promenade wall. About fifty years ago the works being disused fell into ruins, and ultimately the great seawall was swept away by the sea. Occasionally, however, its foundations may yet be seen after some high tide has lowered the level of the sand. …

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.

Below – 03/02/1898 – Glasgow Herald – Prospectus for Turners Limited, quarry masters, brick manufacturers and coal masters, Edinburgh … The company was formed in 1894 as a private joint-stock company for the purpose of acquiring, carrying on, developing and extending the business of quarry masters, brick manufacturers and coal masters, Edinburgh and elsewhere, previously the property of Messrs William Turner and Sons … The company consists of … Eastfield Freestone Quarry, Fallahills Freestone Quarry, East and West Braehead Quarries, Plean Mill Quarry, Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello, Eastfield Brickworks, Braehead Brickworks, Kepplehill and Tarbrax Collieries, Stane Colliery, Lands of Stane … The brickworks are capable of producing upwards of 18,000,000 bricks annually, besides tiles, flower pots, fireclay goods etc …

30/06/1898 – Glasgow Herald – West Patents Pottery and Machine Company Limited, Walthamstow, London prospectus –  … The machines are working at the company’s works at Walthamstow and at the licensees, Messrs Turners Limited, Portobello …

22/07/1898 – Edinburgh Evening News – Pipe maker (fireclay)and pan mill man wanted. Apply Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello.

10/11/1898 – Edinburgh Evening News – Edinburgh Dean of Guild Court – … warrant granted to Turner’s Limited to erect a new drying shed at Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello.

10/03/1899 – Dundee Advertiser – Flowerpots. Machine-made. Fore samples (free) and prices apply Turner’s Limited, Portobello. N.B.

1901 – Clayworkers Directory – A. S. Turner, 16 Torphicen Street, Edinburgh. (Note – SBH – I think this refers to Mr A. Scott Turner, Portobello – to confirm).

26/07/1901 – Midlothian Journal – On Monday the employees of Turner’s Limited, Abercorn Brickworks and their friends to a number of about 80, held their annual outing to Dirleton where a most enjoyable day was spent.

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

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

28/01/1903 – Edinburgh Evening News – Contractors wanted to dig clay for brickmaking. For particulars apply to Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello.

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.

12/03/1903 – Edinburgh Evening News  – The flooding of Portobello Clayfields. A number of labourers are still employed at the clayfields, Portobello, belonging to Messrs Turner, limited, which were flooded early Sunday morning through the Figgate Burn bursting its banks at that spot. The men continue to pump the water from the smaller hole, so as to enable work to be resumed and thus carry out orders. At present only a small pump is in use, and the amount of water taken out is very limited, only three inches being run out in eight hours. A much larger and more powerful engine has been requisitioned and it is expected that within a week or so the water will be cleared. The water in the larger hole has fallen considerably during the last few days, and now the tops of trees and little pieces of ground which were submerged are visible. The line upon which the hutches carrying the clay from the holes to the brickworks has been repaired, so as to enable the workmen get on with their work. The railway officials are taking all necessary precautions for the safety of the trains and at each end of the dangerous spot men are placed with flags, and fog signals are laid on the rails to warn engine-drivers of the danger. In case of any accident, communication has been established between the watchman’s hut, on the embankment, and the signal-box, and also Portobello Station. As the water falls, the danger of the embankment subsiding is increased, but the railwaymen do not anticipate that anything of a serious kind will occur. As each train passes the spot it is slowed up and the passengers get a full view of the two miniature lakes, which are most picturesque.

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).

18/03/1904 – Musselburgh News – On Wednesday evening of last week, several of the employees of Camp’s Brickwork met together in a social capacity to do honour to their respected foreman, Mr John Scott, who was formerly employed at Abercorn Brickworks, Portobello, who is being transferred to take charge of the brickwork at Carfin. Mr Irvine, clerk at the work, occupied the chair. Mr George Stewart acting as croupier. Mr Pollock, one of the employees, in fitting terms and in name of the employees, handed over their gifts, which consisted of a handsome meerschaum pipe, pouch, and a silver-mounted walking stick. Mr Scott suitably replied. Song and sentiment followed, a pleasant evening ending with the singing of ” Auld Lang Syne.” The purveying was in the hands of Mr Taylor.

Below – 1905 – Abercorn Brick and Tile works are shown middle bottom right. (Westbank new works are to the left).

14/05/1909 – Midlothian Journal – Mr Robert Crosbie, residing at 101 High Street, Portobello, dropped down dead at his work on Monday forenoon about eleven o’clock. He was employed by Messrs John Smith & Sons, builders, and was engaged at work in their yard when he suddenly expired. Mr Crosbie was employed in the olden days in Messrs Thornton & Son’s (now Messrs Turner’s, Limited) brickworks in the making of bricks with the hand. He was an old resident of Portobello and had been working with Messrs Smith & Sons for a number of years past. Much sympathy is felt for Mrs Croabie and her family in their sudden bereavement

Below – 21/08/1909 – The Scotsman – Abercorn Brickworks 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 Brickworks, 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 Brickworks – 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!).

Below – An interesting theory by Ian Suddaby.

The small octagonal chimney in the first three photos was recovered from Dalkeith, Midlothian a few days ago. Thanks very much to the homeowner who donated it.
This is only the second fireclay product to be found with the ABERCORN mark so it was made at Abercorn Brick & Tile Works in Portobello, Edinburgh. The works took its name from the Abercorn Estate.
The problem here is that throughout the history of the Abercorn Brick & Tile Works (starting in around 1787), the products have been either unmarked or, since c.1845, been marked with the name of the tenant/lessee or in later years, the owner. When and why would the Abercorn name be used?
c.1845-1877, Allan Livingston & Son
1878-1881, Benhar Coal Company
1881-1893, Thomas Thornton & Sons
1893-1909, Turner’s Ltd
I have named bricks made by Livingston, Thornton & Turner’s. Helpfully, I also have a chimney made by Turner’s.
I seems to me that there are two periods when products could have been given the Abercorn name, 1878-1881 and 1903-1909.
First, 1878-1881. No named products of the Benhar Coal Company have been found to my knowledge so the Abercorn name could have been used.
Second, 1903-1909. In 1903, Turner’s stopped using the Abercorn address and moved to 31, High Street, Portobello and 130, George Street, Edinburgh and seemingly started trading as a new company, Freestone. This could have coincided with them abandoning the Turner’s name on Abercorn Products.
In terms of the design, the Abercorn and Turner’s chimneys are virtually identical apart from the height. Chips on the sides show both are made from visually identical granular fireclay, with occasional black speckles. This strongly suggests both were made in the period 1893-1909.
Turning to cartographic evidence, construction of the house where the chimney was found took place between 1892 and 1905.
So, it would be my suggestion that the Abercorn chimney was made between 1903 and 1905.



Below – Abercorn chip, black speckles.

Below – Turner’s chip, black speckles


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