Clayhills Brick and Tile Works, Aberdeen

With special thanks to Ed Fowler, Doric Columns for permissions to refer to his notations. click me

Clayhills Brick and Tile Works initially run by John Auldjo (c.1749 – c 1810). It was thereafter renamed as the Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company.

08/05/1749 – Caledonian Mercury – Port of Leith May 8th. Arrived … The ‘Mary’ of Stonehaven, Boyd (Master) from Aberdeen with brick and tyles. (Note – SBH – This could well be an early cargo of bricks from Clayhill).

03/10/1749 – Aberdeen Journal  – Declares that John Auldjo manufactures `pantile & brick.’ (as well as brown earthenware).

1771 – It is reported that Auldjo was making cream-coloured, tortoiseshell, black & brown earthen-ware, flower-pots, water-pipes etc.

Below – 1789 – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works. A group of 9 or so buildings situated at the mouth of Ferry Burn.

04/03/1799 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Lands in the Counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine for sale  – … The lands of Clayhills a part of the lands of Ferryhill … On Clayhills is an excellent bed of clay which owing to its vicinity to the town and harbour of Aberdeen is of great value in the manufacture of bricks and tyles. The manufacture has been and is still carried on there to good account …

12/08/1799 –  Aberdeen Press and Journal – Sale of lands and notice to creditors. George Auldjo of Portlethen having sometime ago disposed his whole subjects in the favour of William Ritchie of Techmuiry, Arthur Dingwall Fordyce of Culshand John Chambers of Tillery, as trustees for the purpose of selling same to discharge his debts – his lands lying in the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine which have already been repeatedly advertised and described are now to be exposed for sale by public roup within the New Inn of Aberdeen … Lot 4th – The land of Clayhills, comprehending the different crofts of Clayhills, Elfhillock, Clayhills Croft, two riggs or crofts of the land of Clayhills with brick house, Corss House and byres built by John Harrow and the Cuttings are to be set up at £5000 sterling. On this lot, there is an excellent brickwork and pottery and a fall of water which may be turned to very good account. The situation of the lands is admirably adapted for manufactory …

Below – 24/02/1802 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works for sale. Mr Auldjo.

Below – 14/04/1802 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works still for sale. Mr Auldjo.

Below – 07/06/1802 – Caledonian Mercury  – Lands at Clayhills still for sale including an excellent bed of clay and an ongoing brick and tile works.

09/02/1802 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Bricks and tiles – To be sold by public roup at Clayhills upon Monday next, the 14th instant at 11 o’clock forenoon. A large quantity of bricks, tiles, kiln pavement of different sizes and of a good quality. Credit to be given on security.

27/04/1803 – Aberdeen Press and Journal –  Bricks and tiles – The advance price of labour and every kind of material renders it necessary for the makers of brick and tile in New and Old Aberdeen, to make a small rise on their prices, which in future will be – Bricks per 1000 deliverable in Aberdeen £1 10s and tiles per 1000 deliverable in Aberdeen £3 15s.

1805 – Nath (Nathaniel?) Care, brickmaker, Clayhills.

Below – 29/05/1805 – Aberdeen Press and Journal.

16/10/1805 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Contractors wanted for making bricks. George Mole & Co, being desirous to contact for the digging of clay and making it into bricks at their field at Clayhills, for the ensuing season, will receive offers to execute the work at so much for each 1000 good a sufficient bricks clamped. The contractor finding himself in tools; the Company furnishing coals and paying the duty. The quantity of bricks wanted will be about 15 hundred thousand (150,000) but the Company will have no objection should it not be convenient for 1 person to undertake the whole, to contact with 2 or more. Should any farther particulars be wanted before making an offer, an application may be made to Alexander Duncan, Overseer at the field.

Below – c. 1809 – c. 1821 – Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company.

Below – 14/06/1809 – Aberdeen Press and Journal –  Clayhills Brick and Tile Works for sale. Alexander Duncan, Overseer, Clayhills.

08/08/1810 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – To be Sold by public roup, within the house of George Ronald, a vintner in Aberdeen, upon Friday the 7th of September, at 12 o’clock noon, (if not previously disposed of by private bargain.)  The Lands of the Clayhills lying on the South Side of the city of Aberdeen, on the banks of the River Dee, close to the said city, and joining the harbour thereof.  The property contains about 22 acres.  On the premises is an extensive Manufactory of Bricks and Tiles, for which there is every convenience of Fields, Shades, and Kilns, all in the best order, and the finest and most extensive bank of Clay that is probably to be met with anywhere.-There is also a Manufactory of Earthern Ware lately erected by the proprietors, which, beside the Buildings necessary for the work, arranged in the most convenient manner, has the advantage of a large Water Mill for grinding Flint Stones, Colours, and other ingredients requisite for the purpose; and an abundant supply of spring water conveyed by means of lead pipes to different parts of the buildings.  The situation is extremely well adapted for these different Manufactories.  Coals are conveyed close to the work by means of lighters, and every article used for Earthern Ware may be obtained on equal terms, and some on better than at other places where the business is carried on.-The rest of the premises is occupied in Nursery and Garden Ground.-The vicinity of these lands to the city of Aberdeen and harbour affords by no means a distant prospect of their becoming extremely valuable.  The writes and articles of roup are in the hands of William Dingwall Fordyce, advocate in Aberdeen, to whom application may be made for farther particulars; and the ground will be pointed out by Alexander Duncan, over-near at Clayhills.

19/06/1811 – AberdeenPress and Journal – Wanted immediately – Contractors to empty a shed of bricks at Clayhills

17/03/1813 – Aberdeen Press and Journal –  Lands of Clayhills and part of Ferryhill for sale. These lands are to be exposed to sale by public roup, within the house of George Ronald, a vintner in Aberdeen, upon Wednesday the 7th day of April 1813, at 12 o’clock noon, At the Reduced Price of £11,000 Sterling. These lands lie on the south side of the City of Aberdeen, on the banks of the River Dee, close to the said City-joining the Harbour thereof, and measure in front toward the harbour about 1250 feet.  The property contains about 22 acres; on the premises is an extensive Manufactory of Bricks and Tiles for which there is every convenience of Fields, Shades, and Kilns, all in the best order, and the finest and most extensive bank of clay that is probably to be met with anywhere.  There are also a set of houses for the manufacture of earthenware lately erected by the Proprietors, in the most convenient manner, with the advantage of a large Mill driven by water for grinding Flint Stones, and other ingredients requisite for the purpose; and an abundant supply of Spring Water conveyed by Leaden Pipes to different parts of the buildings.  The situation is extremely well adapted for these different manufactures, as well as for Distilleries, Breweries, or any other; and for which there is not perhaps a spot of ground about Aberdeen so well situated.  The wet part of the premises is occupied in Nursery and Garden Ground; but maybe turned to better account, if laid out for buildings.  The vicinity of these lands to the City of Aberdeen, and harbour affords by no means a distant prospect of their becoming extremely valuable.-Part of the price will be allowed to remain in the hands of the purchaser if desired.  The writes are in the hands of William Dingwall Fordyce, Advocate in Aberdeen, to whom application may be made for any further particulars.

Below – 25/12/1822 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Aberdeen Brick and Tile Co, Clayhills have ground for sale for house building.

1825 – 1826 – Aberdeen Co, Brick and Tile Makers, Clayhills.
Below – 22/08/1827 – Inverness Courier – Clayhills pantiles for sale at Burghead.
09/03/1824 – Edinburgh Gazette – The subscriber ceased having any interest in the Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company of Aberdeen from and after 01/01/1829 – Peter Nicol.

1837 – William Allardyce – Brick and Tile Maker, Clayhill and 40 Union Street, Aberdeen.p167 and Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company, Clayhills.  p181

1852 – Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company, Clayhills, Aberdeen.

04/08/1852 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Annual Exhibition of the Royal Northern Agricultural Society – Implements and machines – Class 1. The most approved implements and utensils used for farm purposes in any rural occupation – Aberdeen  Brick and Tile Company – a collection of drainage pipes with sockets – very highly commended.

11/08/1852 – North British Agriculturist – Royal Northern Agricultural Society – For the best set of glazed socketed pipes for sewerage, premium of one sovereign to the Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company, Aberdeen.

04/11/1852 – Inverness Courier – Mr F.W.G Urquhart, builder, Elgin begs to intimate that having been appointed agent to the Aberdeen Brick & Tile Company for the disposal of their improved manufacture of glazed and socket jointed water pipes and having received a considerable supply of various sizes of same, with the requisite beads and branches, he is prepared to execute orders according to a list of prices which may be had on application to him. Elgin November 1852.

10/08/1853 – North British Agriculturist – Royal Northern Agricultural Society – The Aberdeen Brick and Tile Co – pipes highly recommended.

30/03/1858 – Edinburgh Gazette – Intimation is Hereby Given, That John Galen,  Doctor of Medicine in Aberdeen, a creditor to the extent required by law of the deceased William Allardyce, Merchant in Aberdeen, and sole Partner of the Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company, carrying on business at Clayhills in Aberdeen, has presented a petition to the Lord Ordinary officiating on the Bills, praying for Warrant to cite the successors of the said William Allardyce to appear in Court and show cause why sequestration of his estates should not be awarded ……….

1861 –  Aberdeen Brick & Tile Co Clayhills.  Thomas Fraser Manager.

04/10/1865 – North British Agriculturist –

1867 – Aberdeen Brick & Tile Co Clayhills.  Thomas Fraser Manager.

Below – 1867 – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works.

1868 – 1869 – Aberdeen Brick and Tile Works, Clayhills.

Below – 1869 – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works.

1867 – 1868 Aberdeen brick and Tile Works, Clayhills.

Clayhills – Clayhills Brick and Tile Works initially run by John Auldjo in the early 18th century utilised a large seam of clay which runs down the east coast of Scotland.

John Auldjo was a remarkable man who also made and sold great quantities of manure using available horse dung, bark from a tannage and alternative added elements of unburnable peat, clay and discarded sea dogfish which Torry Fishermen only harvested for the liver oil. – Where there is muck there is brass!

Auldjo also ran a Pottery, an offshoot near the Brickworks.  The Pottery made a range of very fine wares including cups, mugs and bowls decorated with slip decoration. They also made creamware bowls and plates as well as brown- glazed bowls and tea-pots.  Aberdeen Pottery produced ceramic wares during much of the 18th century. It is one of the earliest industrial potteries in Scotland and one of the only that made creamwares. The cups and bowls from a recent excavation at the site are some of the finest which were made in Britain during that period.

The Brick and Tile Works which also utilised a large seam of clay running through the Clayhills area of the city. It was first mentioned in the Aberdeen Journal of 3rd October 1749 where it declares that he manufactured `pan-tile and brick. (as well as) brown earthenware). By 1771 it was reported that Auldjo was making `Cream coloured, Tortoiseshell, Black and Brown Earthen-Ware, Flower-pots, Water-pipes &c’. Potters’ Creek is indicated in Milne’s map of 1789 where it appears as a group of about 10 buildings close to the mouth of the Ferryhill Burn, a branch of which provided the power for their wheels.  There is no indication when these clay seams were first exploited but the name `Clayhills’ is mentioned from at least the late 14th century. According to Milne, near the burn were `banks of laminated clay so steep in the face that sand martins tunnelled long holes in them, where they brought out their young in safety’.

In 1775 the Shipmasters Society brought an action in the High Court of Admiralty against John Auldjo, merchant in Aberdeen, for non-payment of prime gilt for 75 voyages made from the port of Aberdeen. The litigation lasted 10 years, going before the House of Lords and the Court of Session before finally being ruled in favour of Auldjo, a decision which brought an end to the practice, and to the provision of Charity for foreign seamen which it had funded.

The Clayhills Brick and Tile Works was in financial difficulties from 1799 and went up for roup (auction) a number of times in the early 1800s. In 1810 the following advert appeared in the local press: Lands of Clayhills. To be sold, by public roup, within the house of George Ronald, a vintner in Aberdeen, upon Friday the 7th of September, at 12 o’clock noon, (if not previously disposed of by private bargain,)

The lands of Clayhills – lying on the South Side of the city of Aberdeen, on the banks of the River Dee, close to the said city, and joining the harbour thereof. The property contains about 22 acres. On the premises is an extensive Manufactory of Bricks and Tiles, for which there is every convenience of Fields, Shades, and Kilns, all in the best order, and the finest and most extensive bank of Clay that is probably to be met with anywhere. There is also a Manufactory of Earthen Ware lately erected by the proprietors, which, besides the Buildings necessary for the work, arranged in the most convenient manner, has the advantage of a large Water Mill for grinding Flint Stones, Colours, and other ingredients requisite for the purpose; and an abundant supply of spring water conveyed by means of lead pipes to different parts of the buildings. The situation is extremely well adapted for these different Manufactories. Coals are conveyed close to the work by means of lighters, and every article used for Earthen Ware may be obtained on equal terms, and some on better than at other places where that business is carried on. – The rest of the premises is occupied in Nursery and Garden Ground. – The vicinity of these lands to the city of Aberdeen and harbour affords by no means a distant prospect of their becoming extremely valuable. The writes and articles of roup are in the hands of William Dingwall Fordyce, Advocate in Aberdeen, to whom application may be made for farther particulars; and the ground will be pointed out by Alexander Duncan, an overseer at Clayhills.  The Brick and Tile Works buildings were eventually demolished in the late 1810s or early 1820s.

The site also covers part of the area of the Dee Village built in the 18th century and demolished in the 1890s after it developed into a slum and was bought by the Town Council. In the 1920s it was occupied by the Dee Village Works a steam-powered Electricity generating station and latterly by Hydro-Electric.  Millburn Street takes its name from the Potters Creek or Mill Burn which it ran parallel to.

16/07/1926 – Aberdeen Press and Journal – Affleck Street and Clayhills – A historical industry of Aberdeen –

To get at the historical origins of the Clayhills in Aberdeen we must go a long way back towards the beginnings of the recorded history of the city.  We find definite references to the Clayhills of Aberdeen, near the Dee, in charters of grants of land to the White Friars, of date 1399.  We never again lose sight of the Clayhills as, apart from our registers of property within the burgh royalty, maps of the city keep in touch with the Clayhills, from the time of Parson Gordon’s Pan, 1661, to the present day.  It may surprise some people to know that “Clayhills” is still a local designation daily to be found in the Aberdeen Directory for the current year.  The name arose from the rich deposits of red clay in that outer south-eastern quarter of the burgh.  At one time these were supposed to be without limit.  An intimation may be seen in the “Aberdeen Journal,” for 11th February 1818, relating to the sale of the Clayhills and mentioning, as an enticement to buyers, that the property “contains an inexhaustible supply of clay.”  Certainly, the clay continued to be worked for many years after that time, for the Aberdeen Brick and Tile Company, through one vicissitude or another, carried on its works in the Clayhills well into the memory of persons still alive in Aberdeen.  The clay and pottery works, however, were not confined to the company named.  At one time the hamlet was known latterly as Dee Village-very nearly absorbed now by the Corporation Electricity Works-was known as Potter’s Creek, a pottery being carried on there, driven by the Ferryhill Mill Burn.  But the real brick and tile works, and the clay pits were situated slightly north of Potter’s Creek, mainly between what is now Portland Street and Affleck Street.  A Provost of the city (1971-2), Provost Auldjo, of Portlethen, carried on the brick and tile works, after his father, in the second half, of the eighteenth century.  Indeed, he died in his house in the Clayhills in 1806.  That seems to have been the pillared house which, latterly, stood at the foot of Portland Street, distinguished-looking to the last and was cleared away finally about a quarter of a century ago, about the time that Wellington Road there was improved beyond recognition.

GRANITE SUPERCEDES BRICK

It may be that the new pressure of quarried granite, as a building material in Aberdeen, as well as the increasing use of slate for roofing gradually reduced the brick and tile industry to the point of extinction.  But the insistent encroachment of new streets on the Clayhills in the nineteenth century also had an effect.  As soon as Union Street was completed, under the act of 1800, Crown Street was laid out by the Hammermen Corporation of the Incorporated Trades and was joined up with Union Street in 1806. In order to avoid bridging Windmill Brae, the shrewd Hammermen diverted Crown Street westward a little at the top, and so joined Union Street nearly on the level.  But they gave us the unsightly bend at the upper end of Crown Street from which the street suffers to this day.  The new Crown Street was laid out along the west side of the Clayhills.  On the east side the Brick and Tile Works were bounded by the poor street that became known as Wellington Road from the fact that, on the completion of the Suspension Bridge in 1830, and its designation as the “Wellington Bridge” in the following year, this road was the most convenient access to Wellington Bridge from most parts of the town.  Presently, after the making of Crown Street, the Clayhills had a menace from the north side when the Shoemaker Craft of the Incorporated Trades aid out a new street between Crown Street, and Wellington Road, familiar to us ‘all as Affleck Street, which directly overlooked the clay pits.  But Affleck Street was not the first name of this thoroughfare.  Among other interesting particulars for which I am indebted to Convenor A. T. Morrison of the Incorporated Trades, I have from him this curious fact that for a short time in the twenties of last century this new street was known as South Street.  But, so indebted were the Shoemaker Craft to their Deacon, Andrew Affleck, for fueing out the whole of the street that in July 1826, they resolved to change the name of the street to Affleck Street in his honour, and so it has remained to our time.

CLOSING OF THE CLAY PITS.

By the time that Affleck Street was well built up-along the high ground on the north side of the street, overlooking the Clayhills immediately to the south, over which a great change was coming.  The clay pits were ceasing to be worked.  In a way, the Brick and Tile Works went on to the end of the sixties, but the end of the industry was in sight.  At the beginning of 1868 the Bank authorities, who held the Clayhills property, let it be known that they were prepared to lease out the Clayhills for yards and works of various kinds.  even before the Brick and Tile Works had entirely ceased, part of the property was occupied by the Clayhill Provision Works, but only for a year or two.  In 1870 that industry was removed to the new buildings erected in South Mount Street-laid out a short time before on the nursery lands of Belleville where it became known as Rosemount Provision Works, down to its discontinuance only a few months ago.  When the clay pits ceased to be worked the ground of the Clayhills, with its deep, quarry-like excavations, became a public “dump” for all kinds of industrial and household refuse.  The actual premises of the Brick and Tile Works became occupied by granite yards, cartwright works, and so on, and certain of the buildings-with curiously constructed brick buttresses remained in use till the railway and street improvements there if a quarter of a century ago.  Thus the Clayhills, as such, ceased to be.  This was not the only place, of course, where clay and pottery were worked in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen.  Clay was a product of the Seaton district from at least the first half of the eighteenth century, and the rich colour of the Seaton clay may be seen int he tiles and brick of old houses and walls in the Oldmachar region to this day.  Then, many persons will remember the fancy chimney-stalk of the “Northern” Brick and Tile Works at Pitmuxton, not far from the Bridge of Dee, and the active operations of the Seaton Brick and Tile Company, begun in 1884, that went on at Torry and in the neighbourhood of Balgownie till two years ago, when the works were closed down.  yet it may be- one hopes it will be-that artistic production of pottery will continue to be one of the delightful minor crafts in the city, although the old industry, as represented by the “Clayhills,” has so definitely passed away.

G. M. FRASER.

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