Chapelhall Brickworks, Airdrie, North Lanarkshire

The Calder Fireclay Company was founded in 1880 by Robert Fleming & Co with a brickworks at Armadale. The Company was reconstructed in 1892 as the Calder Fireclay Co and passed into the control of the Paine family who erected a brickworks 2 miles south-east of Airdrie near the Carnbroe Iron Works. They also worked the fireclay and had a brickworks at Hareshaw near Shotts from 1907 to 1919. James Paine joined his father in the business after WW1. Their firebricks, branded Calder, won an excellent reputation for service in blast furnaces.  The Calder works used 9 Newcastle type kilns with about a 50-ton capacity each. They used a large number of hand moulders as a 1925 catalogue claims all firebricks were handmade. This lack of brick manufacturing machines and the smallness of the Company made it difficult to compete in the 1930’s so an agreement was signed with the Bonnybridge Silica Company to merge on 18/01/1936. Calder owned a mineral field of about 30 acres at Chapelhall, 2 miles south-east of Airdrie with easy access to a railway siding. The combined company decided to build modern works on this site. By March 1937 the Bonnybridge and Calder works were reported at full production and the new Chapelhall Works had started to produce saleable fire bricks.  The original intention to close the Calder Works was postponed. The Calder brand continued after the merger with the Calder Fireclay Company and was used mainly for bricks made at the Chapelhill Works.  Octo and Novo brands were introduced in the 1960s for high alumina bricks. Source Kenneth W Sanderson.

28/02/1936 – Bellshill Speaker – New brickwork to be erected at Chapelhall. To be erected at Chapelhall. The housing boom in Lanarkshire is effecting Chapelhall where negotiations are now going forward for the acquisition of several acres of ground by a Bonnybridge firm for the construction of a brick factory. The brick factory is expected to be producing by about mid-summer. The Airdrie Labour Exchange, which regards the village as one of the worst depressed areas in the county, anticipate that more than 100 men will be engaged at the outset. A small percentage will be skilled labourers. The factory will have the advantage of having its own clay pit.

04/09/1936 – Motherwell Times  – Brickwork for Chapelhall – Chapelhall village is to have an industry, the first for ten years. A new industry is the manufacture of fireclay bricks. Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company are building a factory. Constructional work is being pushed ahead and it is hoped to begin production towards the end of October. Work will be given to about 200 men. The latest type of machinery will be installed in the factory. Bricks produced will be for home use and export.

08/01/1937 – West Lothian Courier – New brickwork. Airdrie industry to commence production this month. A new brickwork, erected at Chapelhall Airdrie, by the Bonnybridge Fireclay and Silica Co., is to commence production towards the end of the month, giving employment to 50 men at the start, and later, when the peak of production is reached, to 100 men. The plant, erected at a cost of over £70,000 is claimed to be one of the three most modern plants of its kind in Scotland, having many technical features used for the first time in Britain. House bricks, roof tiles and fireclay bricks or refractory bricks can be produced by the plant, but it is expected that refractory bricks to be used in furnaces will be manufactured at the start. The fireclay is obtained from a mine about a quarter of a mile away, and is transported to the brickwork by an overhead railway supported on three pylons.

12/03/1938 – Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser – Assault at Chapelhall Brickworks over a machinery issue.

12/11/1938 – Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser – A new trading estate is being established at Chapelhall and adjoining the estate is a busy brickwork.

14/01/1939 – Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser – … The year 1937 was a memorable one for Chapelhall as it marked the opening of a new fireclay brick works, claimed to be the most modern in Britain. Equipped with the latest scientific devices, the works turn out millions of bricks to swell the station quota, and Mr Hislop and “Archie” saw to it that the whole output was satisfactorily dealt with by the L.M.S. services. Rich in clay deposits, Chapelhall may now be regarded as a quota-getter’s happy hunting ground, although competition is ever-present. The improvement can be measured from the fact that the goods quota receipts amounted to £8614 in 1937 as compared with only £151 in 1935 …

04/07/1939 – The Scotsman – Lanark County Council has been given notice by H. M. Inspector of Mines of the abandonment of the following mines: Gain Mine, Glenboig belonging to the Glenboig Union Fireclay Co., Ltd ., Glasgow … Chapelhall, belonging to the Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Co., Ltd., Bonnybridge.

Below – 1944 – 1970 – Chapelhall Brickworks.

Below – 1946 – Chapelhall Fire Brickworks – (Calder)

Below – 05/1960 – The Refractories Journal

09/12/1960 – The Scotsman – Scotcross Limited – Application has been made to the committee of the Glasgow Stock Exchange for permission to deal in and for quotation for all the issued preference and ordinary shares in the capital of the company.

Scotcros Limited was incorporated as a private company in Scotland on 8th March 1960 for the purpose of carrying on business as an industrial holding company and was converted into a public company on 8th December 1960. Under contract no 1 below, Messrs Spiers and Jeffrey subscribed in cash at par for 200,000 6½%, cumulative redeemable shares of £1 each and at 6s 0d per share for 1,599,998 ordinary shares of 5s each in capital of the company. The company has been formed to meet the need which is considered exists for a Scottish industrial holding company which will supply the means whereby the owners of private businesses in Scotland can be enabled to provide for death duties and to eliminate the threat of future surtax directions by the sale of their businesses in exchange or part exchange for locally marketable securities while continuing to be actively concerned in their management. The company’s policy will therefore be to serve this need and to preserve its Scottish character by looking to the acquisition of suitable businesses in Scotland and its environs …

Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company Limited – The following is a copy of a letter received by the directors of the company from Mr F. G. Griffiths, the chairman of Bonnybridge –

To the directors of Scotcros, 145 St Vincent Street, Glasgow


With reference to the advertisement which is being issued in connection with the application to the Glasgow Stock Exchange for permission to deal in and for quotation for the whole issued share capital of your company, I have the pleasure in giving you the following information in regards to The Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company Limited (The Bonnybridge Company).

History and business – The Bonnybridge Company, which is a private limited company, was incorporated in Scotland on 17th January 1906 for the purpose of taking over the business of manufacturing fire bricks from the fire clay and ganister which had been carried on for more than 20 years previously by my grandfather Mr A. Griffiths, who had acquired in 1880 the lease of minerals in Drum Setate, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire. In 1936, the Bonnybridge Company acquired the business of the Calder Fireclay Company which held mineral leases at Chapelhall, Lanarkshire.

The Bonnybridge Company now operates three fireclay mines in the vicinity of its works at Bonnybridge and Chapelhall in which is carried on the manufacture of high-grade firebricks, high alumina refractories, cements, castables and mouldables for use in iron and steel works, foundries, boiler installations, cement and lime works, oil refineries, carbonisation plants and most industrial furnaces. These products are both sold in home and export markets and a laboratory and research staff ensure quality control and technical development.

Mines – Of the three fireclay mines operated by the Bonnybridge Company, one is situated on Drum Estate, Bonnybridge and on Torwood Estate near Larbert, Stirlingshire and these supply the Bonnybridge Works; the third is situated on Monkland and Torwood Estates and supplies the Chapelhall Works.  The surface of Drum Estate extending to approximately 210 acres and the minerals with the exception of the lower measures of coal are wholly owned by the Bonnybridge Company on feudal tenure and at Torwood the fireclay, silica rock and ganister in an area of 539 acres are held on lease until Martinmas 1971. At Chapelhall the Bonnybridge Company holds a lease of fireclay in the Monkland Estate in an area of 135 acres which runs until Whitsunday 1972. The Bonnybridge Company has contracted to purchase on feudal tenure seams of fireclay in part of the Lauchope Estate extending to 144 acres. In addition, the Bonnybridge Company holds a lease until Whitsunday 1979 of fireclay and other refractory minerals in Newhouse Estate in an area of 87.92 acres but no workings have as yet been opened up. Subject to renewal of the relevant leases and to the availability of supplies of imported raw materials for the manufacture of high alumina refractories the Bonnybridge Company, to the best of my knowledge and belief in the light of technical and professional advice which I have received, has within its control reserves of fireclay and ganister adequate to permit of the maintenance of at least the current rate of production of finished products for a period of at least 60 years and such reserves should be workable without incurring expenditure on major development in the immediate future. Except in the case of the Newhouse minerals where a preliminary permission only has been obtained, the Bonnybridge Company has all the planning permissions required for the winning, working and carrying away of the reserves. All the minerals provide breaks in favour of the Bonnybridge Company.

Land and buildings – The works at Bonnybridge and Chapelhall have both been erected on ground belonging to the Bonnybridge Company. The Bonnybridge Works are situated on part of Drum Estate and cover an area of seven acres and have been extended and modernised over the years with plant suitable for present day requirements. A further extension of the works is at present in hand with a view to meeting increased demand and to allow for the development of new products. The Chapelhall Works, which were erected after the acquisition of the Calder Fireclay Company and on ground held by the Bonnybridge Company on feudal tenure, are of a modern design and have undergone many improvements in recent years, including the conversion of the tunnel kiln from coal to oil firing. The Bonnybridge Company owns 10 dwelling houses which are occupied by senior executives and staff and 42 houses in tenement property in Bonnybridge which are occupied by a number of its workers and a few retired workers. The surface of Drum Estate includes 2 farms which are let on agricultural tenancies.

Management and employees – The directors are all full-time working directors and each of them has entered into a service contract with the Bonnybridge Company (see contracts no 4 to 8 below). I am aged 66 and have been a director of the Bonnybridge Company since 1919; Mr A. F. C. Forrester (aged 59) is the managing director and has been a director since 1933; Mr J. W. R. Paine (aged 63) is the sales director and has been a director since 1936; and my sons Geoffrey D. G. Griffiths (aged 34) and Donald G. Griffiths (aged 30) are respectively the works director and director and secretary. The Bonnybridge Company has approximately 350 employees many of whom have spent most of their working days in the service of the Bonnybridge Company. A staff superannuation scheme has been in operation since 1946.

Profits – The products manufactured by the Bonnybridge Company are supplied to a large extent to the steel industry. As a result of this close connection, the profitability of the Bonnybridge Company was adversely affected in 1958 and 1959 by the recession in that industry and at the present time is benefitting by its resurgence. In 1958 the Bonnybridge Company undertook a major reconstruction programme being one of the first companies in the United Kingdom to convert chamber kilns to side oil-fired burning. As a consequence of this programme the ability of the Bonnybridge Company to cut costs in 1958 was restricted but the position was rectified entirely in the course of 1959 and I anticipate that pro rata the profits for the 15 months to 31st March 1961 will exceed our previous best year.

Yours faithfully Fred G. Griffiths.


1961 – 1962 – A directory of British clay products and manufacturers – Bonnybridge Silica & Fireclay Co. Ltd. Head office – Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire. Tel – Bonnybridge 227. T. Add – Silica Bonnybridge. Fireclay and high alumina bricks, refractory cements, castables and mouldables. Other works at Chapelhall, Lanarkshire – fire bricks. Trade names – Bonnybridge firebricks, Calder, Calder L, Calder LS, Octo, Novo Fifty, Novo Sixty, Novo Seventy, Novo Super 70, Novo Sillimanite. Refractory materials – BoncreteCastables, Bonsil Mouldables.

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