Denbeath Brickworks, Denbeath, Fife

(Note – SBH – I find the information on the brickworks at Aberhill, Denbeath, Methil and Wemyss very confusing with regards names and locations that seem to swap and move! If anyone can clarify the situation for me or point out information that is perhaps listed wrongly against a particular brickworks then please get in touch.)


Denbeath Brickworks, Denbeath, Fife AKA Wemyss Brickworks.

Denbeath Brickworks were built to use the Wellesley Colliery spoil heaps and this was owned by the Wemyss family.

April 1885  – A brickworks was established by Mr Wemyss on the shore at Denbeath. Initially, clay from the dock excavation was used, then from clay pits established close by on what was later the route of the estate railway.

Bowman, who had an earlier brickworks at Muiredge took on operation of Denbeath Brickworks also in August 1888 a creosote works was built alongside, treating sleepers and pit wood.  It was also proposed to build a cement works, but this plan did not materialise.

12/02/1887 – Fifeshire Advertiser – A visit to Methil Dock – Having heard a great deal lately about the new dock works at Methil, I resolved to pay them a visit … we passed the new Denbeath Pit (the deepest in Fifeshire), 155 1/2 fathoms deep, belonging to Messrs Bowman & Co; also the new brickwork erected by Mr Wemyss. This brickwork is placed close to the large embankment of clay taken from the dock excavation and is built solely for the purpose of converting material, which is now a useless heap, into bricks and drain pipes.

22/12/1888 – Fife Free Press – At Methil on the 6th inst, the wife of John Findlay, manager, Methil Brickworks, of a daughter. (Denbeath brickworks?)

05/07/1890 – Fife Free Press – Birth – At High Street, Methil on the 9th, the wife of John Finlay, manager, Methil Brickworks of a son.

23/01/1892 – Fife Free Press – At High Street, Methil on the 16th, the wife of John Finlay, manager, Methil Brickworks of a daughter.

Below – 1893 – Wemyss Brickworks, Methil AKA Denbeath Brickworks.

22/04/1896 – Dundee Advertiser – David Philp, brickwork manager, Methil has applied for a public house licence in Methil. (Denbeath Brickworks?)

07/05/1898 – Fife Free Press – Buckhaven Burgh Court – At a diet of this Court held on Tuesday, a batch of tramps, numbering 19, including a woman were charged with sleeping at the Methil (Denbeath Brickworks?) and Muiredge Brickworks and were sent to prison for terms of 14 to 21 days each.

26/08/1898 – Dundee Advertiser – Fire at Denbeath – Leven Fire Brigade was on Wednesday afternoon called to Denbeath where the redd bing adjoining Methil Brickworks was on fire. It is common practice for tramps to kindle a fire on the face of the brae and no attention paid to it as usually the stones, clay and dirt keep it from spreading … a stream of water was pumped upon the flames from the sea and kept up all night …

23/11/1899 – Leven Advertiser – Buckhaven, Methil and Innerleven Police Commission – On passing from the Dean of Guild to Police Commission instants, last Wednesday evening, this body had placed before them a report by Mr Ketchen on the new roads. First was the thoroughfare from Buckhaven to Methil. In regard to the position of Mr Wemyss and his property along the line of this road, Mr Ketchen stated he had held a meeting with Mr Budge and Mr Bruce the other night. They told him the only property Mr Wemyss held there was the Links old school and teacher’s house. The whole of Denbeath was leasehold and this expired in 1905. Similarly, the brickwork was built by Mr Wemyss and leased to the Wemyss Coal Company. In brief, the brickwork was part of a building for which they ought clearly to pay, but they objected on the ground that it was only of a temporary character. Bailie Simpson – And so are all houses; they are temporary and liable to come down at any time. Mr Mitchell—The brickwork should be considered a permanent building. Mr Ketchen (continuing) said Mr Wemyss also declined to pay for the railway from the west side of the brickwork to the washer at Denbeath on the same ground. Mr Baird – lt is not very creditable to us as Commissioners, past or present, and he had complained about it in and out of the Commission for personal reasons, that at this late hour, some five or six years after the road for formed, they had not even given the parties their accounts. Mr Robb – But they have all got their accounts. Mr Baird – Well, something should be done to press them home and get done with it. It is not likely to be settled this century – (laughter) – but surely they would manage it in the next. Mr Robb – The accounts were sent out three times to Mr Wemyss and all the others …

Below – 19/01/1903 – Dispute over the making of a road in Fife which would also access the Methil Brickworks. (Denbeath Brickworks) … the case against Wemyss Coal Company … the defenders were then in the occupation of a brickwork contiguous to the proposed new street and had occupied said brickwork since 31/01/1894 under a lease from Mr Wemyss of Wemyss, of 60 years duration …

Below – 03/02/1903 – The Evening Post – Fatal accident. (Denbeath Brickworks?)

07/02/1903 – Fife Free Press – Fatal accident inquiries Fife. Death of Methil shunter. – An inquiry was conducted Sheriff Armour and a jury in Cupar Sheriff Court into the circumstances attending the death Patrick Healy, shunter, 8 Victoria Buildings, Methil, who on Thursday, 15th January, while engaged shunting waggons at Denbeath Colliery lyes, opposite Methil Brickwork, and while in the act of stepping off the footplate a pug engine, was accidentally jammed between the corner of a waggon and the side of the engine and sustained fatal injuries. From the evidence, it appeared that Healy only entered on his duties the day before the accident. The jury brought in a verdict in accordance with the evidence.

15/02/1903 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – Methil right of way dispute – Local feelings still run high in Methil against the action of the Colliery Company in erecting a fence from the brickwork to Denbeath. Mr Budge wrote that Mr Wemyss would admit no right-of-way to the beach there, and the fence was to stop stealing. Provost Greig at the Town Council last night said he knew the right-of-way 50 years ago. Mr Wemyss might have given them an overhead bridge instead of doing this. Mr Suttie said they should fight the case. This was agreed to, and it was decided to try to get the Parish Council to join. The Clerk was instructed to give the Company a month’s notice to remove the fence.

18/05/1904 – Edinburgh Evening News – The proposed new Fife town – Mr Wemyss of Wemyss Castle has, through his agent, Mr William Shepherd, Royal Bank, Leven, submitted to the individual members of the Town Council an extensive feuing plan on the Wemyss estate between Buckhaven and Methil in connection with the proposed electric tramcars from Kirkcaldy to Leven. The plan shows that the low road by the beach is to be closed between the east end of  Buckhaven and the west end of Methil, but not inclusive of the Brickwork. At each of these two points street is to run north, and connecting with main street 40 feet wide from Buckhaven to Methil the route of the tramcars, which Mr Wemyss is to make and give in exchange for the road.

Below – 14/01/1905 – St Andrews Citizen – Methil Brickworks to close and a new works to be established at Muiredge.  They had been established around 1890 when the first docks were being built. They had been utilising the clay dug up during the dock construction.

24/06/1905 – Fife Free Press – Methil Brickworks have been practically demolished and preparations are being made build the new works at the Den. Men have levelled the ground and erected a platform at the side of the mineral railway.

1906 – This article dated 23/07/1949 states that Denbeath Brickworks were established in 1906 so which exact brickworks do the articles above refer to!

19/05/1906 – Fife Free Press – Methil – Considerable progress has been made with the new Wemyss brickwork which is being erected in Denbeath. J. Farmer has started to the bridge over the railway from the highway to College Street. The finishing touches are being given to the new road Buckhaven.

26/07/1906 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – Wemyss new brickwork – The dismantling last winter of the brickwork to make room for railway sidings for the sinking of a new pit at Denbeath, and also the connection with the dock extension at Methil, necessitated the erection of new works. Rising over the high land behind the huge washer at Denbeath the extensive new building can now be seen from all directions. The new premises are situated on the side of the mineral railway leading from the collieries the Wemyss estate, and also in direct touch with the dock. The electric motor-house is 54 feet long, 15 feet broad, and 18 feet high. The mill breaking and preparing hall, which will contain two machines, is 46 feet broad and 53 feet long. One of the machines has been brought from the old works and is fitted into position. The kiln a model of the Hoffman patent type. It is twelve chambered, each chamber 17 feet long and 9 feet high, the length the egg-shaped building being 115 feet inside. The kiln is heated from the top. It is claimed in this way there is a great saving of coal. Each kiln can be fired separately, but by altering the dampers the hot air can be directed into a chamber of green brick, other flues carrying away the superfluous air. It is estimated that the kiln will keep the machines going. A chimney stalk 120 feet high is being built.

08/11/1907 – Dundee Courier –  Article regarding the construction of a new dock at Methil and alterations at Leven dock … Of late fear has prevailed that the Company might use the beach as the dumping ground for the material dug from the dock. Twelve years ago the Company had wasteland at the other side of Methil for this. The last it was used up by Methil Brickwork only a few months ago, and the site now utilised for Denbeath pit sidings …

18/07/1908 – Dundee Courier – Provost Wemyss of Wemyss dies in London … a huge pit was being sunk there ( Denbeath) to tap the Dysart seam at a depth of 250 fathoms and a new brickwork was completed at the village of Denbeath which was built by Mr Wemyss …

Below – 1913 – Wemyss Brickworks possibly aka Denbeath Brickworks.

Below – 1918 – Wemyss Brickworks (Denbeath?)(Just to the south of White Swan Brae)  Note the distance to the Wemyss Brickworks chimney (182 ft) although this could be the chimney for the brickworks shown on the 1913 map above).

28/05/1926 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – Methil Man Charged. David Proudfoot, check weigh man, 21 Durie Street, Methil, was charged with having between 7.30 and 8 p.m. on Friday 7th May, in a vacant piece of ground between Sea Road and the south entrance to Denbeath Brickworks, Denbeath, addressed and incited a mass meeting of strikers and others congregated there, and used language calculated or likely to cause sedition or disaffection among the civilian population. He pleaded not ‘guilty, and was defended A F- Burke, Dundee. Police-Sergeant George Park, Methil. stated that he attended a mass meeting of strikers held at Denbeath Bridge on the night in question. Accused addressed that meeting. On the afternoon of that day, a train was held up near Leven by the strikers, and before the crowd was dispersed the police had to use their batons. Accused made reference to that incident, and said the Emergency Regulations parsed Baldwin were not law unless the workers agreed to accept them, as the workers were now in power. ” To the Bitter End.” He also stated No matter whether we are called upon to face batons, bullets, or bayonets, we will fight to the bitter end.”…

07/03/1931 – Fife Free Press – … If the depositing of redd from Wellesley Colliery is no longer allowed on the foreshore of Buckhavcn, then the refuse will be conveyed to ground adjoining the brickworks, and a redd bing established there. Such is the attitude taken up tho Wemyss Coal Company, Ltd., in their dispute with Buckhaven and Methil Town Council regarding the disposal of Wellesley Colliery refuse. The Town Council, it will be recalled, have passed a resolution intimating to the Coal Company that, unless the dumping of redd on Buckhaven foreshore is discontinued within two months,an interdict will be sought …

21/08/1934 – Leven Advertiser – An elusive creature. Mr Harry Corns obtained a young greyhound just recently from the West of Scotland and much excitement and humour have been evoked since the dog slipped its collar last Tuesday and absolutely refuses to return to its owner at Wilson Square. Whole days and nights have been spent in attempting to capture the dog, but up for the present, all these threatening and cajoling efforts have been fruitless. Curious it approaches about a yard from any of its pursuers, then it naughtily races away again. The temporary haven of hiding is in and about the Denbeath Brickwork.

Below – 22/01/1937 – Dundee Courier – New kiln at Denbeath.

31/03/1937 – Dundee Courier – Big extension to Fife Works – Million bricks used in building kiln – Developments on a large scale are being carried out at Wemyss Coal Company’s brickwork at Denbeath. When they are completed, in a few weeks time, the output will be increased over 100,000 bricks per week, and work will be found for many residents in the district. Fully a million bricks have been used in the construction of a new kiln. The chimney will be 160 feet high and contain 200,000 bricks. New railway sidings have been laid into the works to deal with the extended traffic. At present only single shifts are worked, but double shifts will be introduced when the additions are finished.

01/01/1938 – Dundee Courier -… Wemyss Coal Company have plenty of orders on hand. They have also completed a 16-chamber kiln at their Denbeath Brickworks, and the output of bricks has increased from 200,000 to 300,000 per week.

25/01/1938 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – A brickwork mechanic, Thomas Murray (35), was found dying at the Wemyss Coal Co’s Denbeath Brick Works, Methil early today, shortly before he was due to finish his shift. (05/03/1938 – Fife Free Press – The inquiry).

01/03/1938 – Leven Advertiser – Denbeath Brickworks tragedy. At Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court on Monday, Sheriff-Substitute Dudley Stuart and a jury held an inquiry into the death of a mechanical engineer, Thomas Martin Murray, who resided at 113 Wellesley Road, Methil. The inquiry was conducted by Mr R. S Henderson, Procurator-Fiscal for Fife. Murray received fatal injuries in the course of his employment at the brickworks Denbeath owned by the Wemyss Coal Company. John Watson, labourer, 17 Cowley Street. Denbeath, stated that he had gone on duty in the brickworks at 10 p.m on January 24. His duty was to pick the stones from the clay shovelled by men out of waggons on to a chute. The clay was then conveyed by a mechanical conveyor to the pans. About 4 a.m he was at the junction of the chutes and spoke to two men who were filling clay from two waggons in the chute. About five minutes later, Murray came through between the two waggons to ask if the pans were all right. The witness stated that he told Murray they were and Murray told him to signal to the men to continue emptying the clay. Murray then went through between the waggons said the witness. “A few seconds after he spoke to me I heard the waggons get a bump at the rear. I heard someone shout ‘Oh’ and I took it to be Murray. I saw him standing between the buffers of the first and second waggons. He seemed to be trying to push them apart with his hands. By this time, the waggons were close together. The witness said that scutches or blocks had been placed at the front wheels of the waggons, but the sudden bump had caused the front wheels to jump the scutches. He then saw Murray sit down at the side of the waggon as if in pain. The witness brought assistance and he could see Murray was hurt. He was moaning and indicating that he had been injured about the chest and stomach. Murray was unable to say what had occurred. The witness was unable to say what caused the waggons to move. James Ross, labourer, 13 Whyte Avenue,  Leven, said he had not seen anyone push the waggons at the rear and so cause them to move. Robert McAdam, labourer, 40 Ward Street, Denbeath, said there were six waggons and he and Murray released two in the centre. These Murray moved forward to take their place after the first and second had been emptied. The witness said he then saw the fifth and sixth waggons move forward of their own accord. He tried to stop them but he could not do so before they struck the fourth, which, in turn, moved forward and struck the waggons in front. Dr Wilson, Buckhaven gave medical evidence, and the jury found that Murray had been killed by being crushed between the buffers of two waggons.

06/01/1945 – Fife Free Press – Reference to Mr Robert Simpson as Manager of the Wemyss Coal Company Brickworks, Denbeath.

23/07/1945 – Fife Free Press – Late Mr Robert Simpson – Manager of Denbeath Brickworks since they were opened in 1906, Mr Robert Simpson, 51 Cowley Street, Denbeath, passed away at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, on Saturday, after a short illness. A native of Armadale, Mr Simpson was in his 71st year. He served for a period many years ago on the Board of Management of Buckhaven Co-operative Society. He is survived by his wife and two sons. Robert, who employed as an engineer at the brickworks, and James, a banker at Cupar.

Below – 1957 – Wemyss Brickworks is still detailed south of White Swan Brae.

Below – 1962 – The Wemyss Brickworks (middle left). There is no trace of the Wemyss Brickworks that used to be located south of White Swan Brae.

Below – 02/03/1990 – Perthshire Advertiser – Wemyss Brick Company – Manufacturers at Methil since 1906.


The Wemyss Brick Company Limited, Denbeath, Methil, Fife KY8 3QQ. Tel Buckhaven 0592 712313

How Bricks Were Produced By The Wemyss Brick Co Ltd At Denbeath –

The clay came down from the cults, just outside Kennoway.  The ‘black’ as they called it came from the coal waste Bing next to the R..G.C site at Denbeath.
The clay and ‘black’ were transported by lorry to the brickworks, where the clay was dropped into a separate hopper from the ‘black’.
The hoppers were motorised which brought the clay and black to fall on the conveyor at the same time.
This was then taken by the conveyor to the preparation plant where it was dropped into a crusher to be crushed to a reasonable size, it then dropped onto another conveyor and was taken by this to the pan mill to be grounded down to the size of small grit.
It was then transferred to the screens.  They were like large riddles that rotated and dropped the very fine clay onto a belt that led to the storage bins.  There were three of these, each one held enough clay when full to make 4000 bricks.
The clay then went to the water machine where it was mixed with water to give a smooth consistency.  This was then sent by belt to the rotary store, which then rotated round to give out the same amount of clay to the two brick machines.  The brick machines mixed the clay and pushed it through the end of the machine, which was called the Intruder, in long slabs which were then automatically cut by a guillotine to approx 4 feet in length.
The clay was then automatically pushed through what were called the cutters, piano wires, which were to pass through.  They made excellent cutters.
The clay, then cut into the bricks, were lifted by grabs onto a belt that led to the setting machine.  The bricks were then lifted automatically onto a kiln car and when filled held 4,000 bricks.  Each pack held 500 bricks, 8 packs per kiln car.  They then went into the dryers.  These blew hot air onto the bricks to help dry them out, otherwise, if you put them in the kiln as they were they would just burst because they would still be quite wet.  After they were taken out of the dryers by transfer car they were then put into the kilns.  This was done by taking them to the kiln entrance, the door came and the kiln by the transfer car.   The kiln only did half a push and this meant only half of the kiln car was being pushed into the burning area of the kiln at any one time.
The temperature at the front of the kiln started off about 250 to 350 degrees, the further they were pushed into the kiln the hotter it got.  The centre of the kiln could register a temperature of around 900 to 1100 degrees Celsius.
As they approached the exit of the kiln, the bricks were beginning to cool down.  They were now ready to go down to the unloading section.  Again this was done by transfer.  After this was done: each pack of bricks was now ready for unloading.  Unloading was automatically completed by hydraulic grabs.  They then travelled along by belt to the outside bay for unloading by forklift, either to lorries or put into stock in the yard ready for when needed.  The stockyard could hold 8 million bricks.
It was very well set out and completed automatically if there were no hitches.
If two kilns were in operation the output of bricks for one week was just under one million.

(Note  – SBH – Please also see this page which is the later Aberhill Brickworks as owned by the Methil Brick Company)

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