Fire Clay Seam, Culross, Fife

06/08/1791 – Caledonian Mercury – Culross Fire Clay.  The discovery of a vein of clay at Culross, 11 feet in thickness, similar in properties and equal in quality to that of Stourbridge, has led to the proprietor for some time to turn his attention to applying it to niche other uses, exclusive of the manufacture of glass-house pots, as at the same time that it will extend the sale of his clay with the material benefit to several branches of manufacture.

Fire bricks and indeed bricks of every kind made in Scotland have long been complained of. A want of proper shades or houses for drying bricks undercover in this variable climate, with a want of skill or rather a proper method in burning them, has been more the cause of the inferiority of the common bricks made in this country to those made in England, than any imperfection in the clay of which the bricks were made. As to the manufacture of fire bricks, it is but of late date in Scotland. They are made of a kind of fire clay called in this country DAAK, which accompanies the strata of coal. These veins of fire clay or dank (daak?), are thus forming, for the most part, the roof or pavement of a vein of coal and are frequently mixed with particles of coal and of iron. The sort of clay here described, according to the managers of the glasshouses, has not, in any one instance, been found to reflect the heat of a glasshouse furnace without either melting away entirely or suffering such a degree of fusion as to become porous and unfit to retain liquid glass. The reverse of this is the case with Culross fire clay and bricks made of it must, of course, be preferred for the construction of glasshouse furnaces, air or reverberatory furnaces and other purposes wherein fire bricks are required to stand the higher degrees of heat.

The best Stourbridge clay having for some time sold at the extravagant price of 40 shillings per ton, exclusive of freights and other charges, manufacturers of bricks could not afford to purchase it. They were therefore obliged to supply themselves with the inferior kinds of fire clay to be had at the collieries and which could be purchased for as many shillings as an equal quantity of Stourbridge clay would cost of pounds. The proprietor of the vein of Culross clay having fully considered this matter and the prejudice occasioned to certain trades by their not being supplied with the best materials, proposes therefore to promote the establishment of a manufacture of fire bricks on his estate, to be made of his best fire clay. He has every accommodation requisite for the manufacture, such as mills for grinding and preparing the clay, with a very large supply of water, shades and extensive buildings for drying the unburned bricks and for protecting the burned bricks from injury by weather together with coal in the greatest abundance. adjoining to where the works are intended to be carried on. He will engage to deliver at a fixed price, any quantity of coal or clay necessary for the works.

He has been blamed by some uninformed but well-meaning friends, for having at once dropped the price of his clay for the manufacture of glasshouse pots to one half of the price of Stourbridge. They say that it will be believed that the reduction of the price proceeds from a known inferiority in the quality of the clay offered for sale; but this is by no means the case, and indeed must appear to anyone who has read with attention the late advertisement, wherein the quality of the clay is warranted at the risk of its price.

The conduct of the proprietor of the Culross vein of clay in reducing the price, preceded from a knowledge that the price of Stourbridge clay must fall in consequence of a competition, that it was better for him to reduce the price at once to what he knew it ultimately would come to, than to haggle with the consumers of the article or to fight the proprietors of the Stourbridge vein of clay by repeated reductions of a few shillings at a time in the price. Beside he was convinced that a less price on a great trade was to be preferred to a great price on a small trade and was at the same time, more profit worthy.

Proceeding on these ideas, the proprietor means still to make a very comfortable farther reduction in the price of his clay for such part of it shall be used for the manufacture of bricks on his estate. By what is proposed, the consumers of fire brick will be supplied at a cheap rate with an article made of best materials and manufactured to the highest perfection and which will obviate the necessity that they are under of making use of clays of an inferior quality. This proposed farther reduction in the price of the clay is only intended for such clay as shall be manufactured into bricks on the proprietor’s estate. A manufacturer of fire bricks of a clay of so superior quality, so favourably situated must have the advantage over all the other establishments of that kind in this part of the kingdom. Those who engage in it may reckon on an extensive fall to the glasshouses on the east coast of the island, for bricks for the construction of their furnaces instead of the firestone now used.  There are other uses, on a very extended scale to which Culross clay may at the reduced price be applied. They will be communicated to those who enter into terms with the proprietor who, besides engaging to supply them with coal and clay at a stipulated price, will take a share in the proposed undertaking. There is an excellent dwelling house adjoining the works for the manager, with a kitchen garden, office-house and every accommodation for a family. None need apply but persons of character, activity and able to conduct and carry on the intended branch of business. Culross Abbey. August 3rd 1791

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