John Gilchrist Stein, fire brick manufacturer – History

This should be read in conjunction with other relevant pages including pages on the Manuel, the Milnquarter, the Anchor and the Castlecary Works. Please click on the tags at the bottom of the page to assist site navigation.

A huge empire in its day, making a myriad of different bricks which were shipped all over the world. The Manuel plant was second in size in the world only to the A P Green Refractories plant in Mexico Missouri USA.

John Gilchrist Stein – Born 01/08/1862 at Clackmannan and died 16/10/1927 at Castlecary. (Timeline below courtesy of Pat Greaken )

Age 0 – Birth

01 Aug 1862 – Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire, Scotland
Age 9 – Residence
1871 – Kirkliston, West Lothian, Scotland
Relation to Head of House: Son
Age 12 – Death of Mother Janet Hall Hunter (1835-1875)
8th May 1875 – Kirkliston, Linlithgow, Scotland
Age 19 – Residence
1881 – Kirkliston, West Lothian, Scotland
Relation of Head of House: Son
Age 20 – Death of father John Stein (1835-1882)
6 October 1882 – Kirkliston, Linlithgow, Scotland
Age 21 – Marriage
23 Nov 1883 – Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
495/15 witnesses John Stevenson and Agnes Henderson
Annie (Ann) Cleland (Clelland) Bulloch Henderson (1861-1939)
Age 22 – Birth of Daughter Christina (Chrissie) Bulloch Stein (1884-1972)
3 Oct 1884 – Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Age 23 – Birth of Daughter Dr Nettie Hunter Stein (1886-1965)
abt 1886 – Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Age 24 – Birth of Daughter Annie Henderson Stein (1887-1966)
abt 1887 – Greenhill, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 25 – Birth of Son Alan (Allan) Stein OBE, MC, TD (1888-1954)
6 Sept 1888 – Greenhill, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 27 – Birth of Daughter Jessie Henderson Stein (1890-1966)
25 Feb 1890 – Greenhill, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 29 – Residence
1891 – Denny, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Relation of Head of House: Head
Age 29 – Birth of Son Norman Alexander Stein (1892-1954)
abt 1892 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 31 – Birth of Son Colin Hunter Stein
abt 1894 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 32 – Birth of Daughter Minnie Stein (1895-1969)
abt 1895 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 34 – Birth of Son Maitland Stein (1897-1900)
1897 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 38 – Death of Son Maitland Stein (1897-1900)
1900 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 39 – Residence
1901 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Relation of Head of House: Head
Age 39 – Birth of Daughter Elsie Stein (1902-1984)
1902 – Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland
Age 52 – Death of Son Colin Hunter Stein (1894-1915)
24 May 1915*Ypres, Flanders
Age 65 – Death
16 Oct 1927- Castlecary, Cumbernauld, Nth Lanarkshire, Scotland


Information below taken from a Stein brochure located within the Falkirk Archives.

Nettle is one of the high alumina firebrick (42.6%) series possessing properties of high refractoriness,  good resistance to slag penetration and high hardness at high temperatures. It is especially suitable for furnace parts which are subjected to particularly high temperatures, the abrasive of hot high-velocity dust-laden gases and the corrosive action of alkali fumes and fuel gas. Nettle successfully passes the British Ceramic Research Association test for resistance to disintegration by carbon monoxide.


Two works visits were arranged for the first day of the Convention. One was an all-day trip to the Manuel Works of John Stein & Co. Ltd., at Bonnybridge, the other people who preferred to lunch in Edinburgh to Colville’s slag cement works at Tollcross, near Glasgow. ( for Colvilles see Clyde brick examples)
The Manuel works started production in 1930 to develop the 42  – 44 per cent alumina fireclay seam.  Production of basic bricks commenced in 1938 and shortly afterwards a range of high alumina refractories was added.  These three types are made on separate production lines.  Covered floor area now totals some 18 acres and the works employ approximately 1,000 including mine workers and staff.  Fireclay is obtained from the 608 ft seam in the Manual mine, working at depths ranging from 300 to 600 ft.  The raw materials for basic refractories are Britmag and various imported magnesites, and chrome are from Greece, the Philippines and Turkey.  High alumina refractories are made from sillimanite and bauxite.
The burning temperature for firebricks is over 1400 deg C., for alumina over 1500 deg C.  There are five tunnel kilns ranging in length from 530 to 600 FT., and kiln time varies from 5 days for firebricks to 3 1/2 days for high alumina and basic refractories.
The Convention party visited the firebrick press any and the by No. 3 and 4 kilns to the loading bank.  They saw the machine stop for servicing presses with moulds, the new high alumina materials preparation plant, recently completed, and finally the new No. 6 basic brick kiln.  In addition, visiting members were kindly entertained to lunch at Stirling by the company.


This is a very interesting article from The Refractories Engineer 2007.

This year 2007 marks the 80th anniversary of the building of John G Stein’s Manuel works near Linlithgow which opened within a few months after his death the same year.

From the air, the site of Manual works today looks much as it must have done in its heyday in 1967 when the company was acquired by General Refractories Ltd and Manuel became the jewel in the crown of GR. Stein Refractories Ltd.

On the ground, however, things are a bit different from what anyone visiting the site at that time would remember.  For a start, there are no longer 150,000 metric tons of refractories per annum pouring out through the gates to destinations all over the world.

As you drive into the site the same long low buildings are encountered each with its own distinctive signage such as Canteen, Export Department, Laboratory and Works Office.

When a closer examination is made however it is clear that a number of these buildings are unoccupied and several of the others are let out to a number of companies to form what is in effect a small industrial estate.

In the good old days if indeed that is what they were the plant and equipment were immaculate.  The General Manager of the time Matt Dick under Alistair Stein ran what was probably the tidiest brickworks in the world.  It is said to have been Matt’s background in naval engineering but the burners and pipework on the tunnel kilns were polished and gleaming with everything in its place.  Now there is no general air of coordination with each company responsible for its own little area and many using outside storage for raw materials and equipment so that the site has only the ghosts of the Scottish refractories industry lingering in the mists.

Manuel Works was one of the two main plants operated in these days by John G Stein, then GR-Stein Refractories, which became Hepworth Refractories, then Premier, and the company which is now Vesuvius a member of the Cookson Group at the time of writing. It was the centre of their huge export operations which imported raw materials to and shipped sophisticated bricks and monolithic refractories around the globe from the UK.  The name Manuel which has Latin connotations actually came from an old railway station near the plant site but this, in turn, was named after the ancient Manuel Nunnery which stood nearby on the banks of the gorge of the River Avon which is itself steeped in refractories history through the Birkhall mines and plants.

Before his death, John G Stein and his two sons set in motion a train of events which started with the opening of a small clay mine and culminated in what was in its day one of the greatest refractory plants in the world.

Only A P Greens Mexico Missouri plant was eventually bigger.  Mr Alan P Green and Mr John G Stein knew each other personally, were on good terms and co-operated in trials of firing Scottish fireclay in Missouri which led eventually to Stein buying the first American Harrap tunnel kiln in Europe.

The first tunnel kiln had its own gas producer on-site and launched into full production in 1930 to be followed by six other kilns including one which could fire detect bonded basic bricks to over 1700 degrees centigrade.  They were all lined with Stein’s own products such as Bluebell Silica and Stein Mullite bricks.

The origins of this plant and indeed the refractories industry in Central Scotland however go back further, much further to before the Jurassic age … During this time one of many folds in the earth’s crust formed what are now the Ochil hills.  These hills today are the northern boundary of the Forth River valley and stretch from roughly Gleneagles in the west towards St Andrews in the East.

It seems fitting therefore that the original John Stein was born in the year 1795 in a small village called Clackmannan which lies at the foot of the southern slopes of the Ochil hills.

John who was a weaver to trade married Isobel Morrison of Bankhead farm in 1834 and the following year a son who was also named John junior was born.

Young John became a brick maker and eventually rose to become a partner in a small building brickworks in Alva.

Below – The following entries are relevant and refer to the Alva Brick and Tile Works, Clackmannanshire.

1839 – McElroy’s Philadelphia City Directory – John Stein, brickmaker, Aspen al ab Spruce, Philadelphia, USA. (Note – SBH – Can anyone show me Aspen al ab Spruce on a map. I think the area is no longer called by that name. I can see Spruce Street and Aspen Street only).

Below – 16/05/1868 – Messrs Bayne and Stein lease the Alva Brick and Tile Works.

Below – 20/06/1868 – Alloa Advertiser – Messrs Bayne and Stein lease the Alva Brick and Tile Works.

He was a very ambitious young man however so much that he took what in these days was the very bold step of emigrating to America.

He initially settled in Philadelphia and immediately set up small brickworks which did so well that he sent for his three brothers to join him in the business that he had set up.  The business went from strength to strength and this encouraged John to send back to Alloa in Scotland asking to be joined by a girl called Janet Hunter the daughter of the local harbour master.

They were married on August 12th 1859 in America.  During the next two years, however, the storm clouds of war gathered over America and just before the Civil war erupted in 1861 John Stein and his wife Janet returned to Scotland where their son also called John was born.  America’s loss was Scotland’s gain however so we should thank the Rebs and Yankees for their little squabble in helping to set up Scotland’s refractory industry.

John senior became manager of Winchburgh brickworks in West Lothian and started his son John junior as an apprentice as soon as he was old enough to work.  John senior died on October 6th 1882 and young John who was only twenty at the time offered to take his father’s place as manager.  This offer was declined by the owners who appointed an older man.  Undaunted John Stein married Anne Clelland in November 1882 the same year that Robert Louis Stevenson was writing Treasure Island. (*****Anne Clellands full name is Annie Clelland Bulloch Henderson – thank you to Pat Greaken for this correction******)

John quickly moved on to a clay pipe works in Cumbernauld.  This plant was bought over by James Dunnachie the owner of Glenboig Union Fireclay.

Although he did not know it at the time Glenboig Union Fireclay Company was to become one of his main competitors during his business career.  They were also to become a part of the large General Refractories Group which would eventually buy this business from his successors many years later.

When he joined John Stein bought a few shares in the company but did not last that long within the company and in 1886 is said to have had a major falling out with the Plant Manager.

John had the audacity to ask him for an increase in salary to reflect his expertise in making burning and glazing pipes.  When this was refused he declined to disclose new technology for salt glazing pipes during the firing operation.  He was sacked on the orders of James Dunnachie himself and left to set up in opposition vowing to show Dunnachie who was the better man.

When he left the pipe works he first obtained a position as a sales representative with Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company owned by the Griffiths family.  This allowed him to gain a broader experience of the business as well as earning him the princely sum of twenty-seven and sixpence per week which in today’s money would be £1,375 or about two dollars seventy-five cents.

After 5 years with the help of his in-laws who were weavers and exporters of Paisley shawls, he scraped together 3300 pounds and bought a mining lease on two acres of ground in Bonnybridge.

So it was in that 1887 that John Stein and 6 other men started driving a mine shaft at Milnquarter Farm High Bonnybridge in Stirlingshire.  Records from the first wages book show that Stein’s worker friends worked 10 hours 7 days a week for very little.  After 3 months of mining, they struck seams of ganister, fireclay and coal.

By the autumn of the year 1888, the first kiln was built and John G Stein was in business. In those days refractories plants were built on top of the clay seams that provided the raw materials to make bricks. The entire Bonnybridge area straddled some of the richest clay seams in Europe.

Nature was indeed kind to Central Scotland and not only laid down some low iron high alumina clays but usually overlaid them with rich coal seams.  Because of the geology of the area, these seams were either close to the surface or frequently came to the surface at numerous locations in the Forth Clyde Valley.

Stein soon became a name that was recognised not only in Britain but throughout the commonwealth and many other emerging industrial nations which needed firebricks to make iron, steel, glass, cement, copper, aluminium and utilities such as gas and power.  To celebrate his burgeoning success JGS awarded himself another half a crown a week on his salary which took him up to £178 pounds per year.

At the same time, Stein diversified and opened the Anchor building brickworks on the banks of the Anchor Burn in Dunipace some ten miles from where he first started.  In its heyday production peaked at 150,000 bricks per week although this fell back on the outbreak of the first world war in 1914.

When production was again boosted after the war Stein obtained a massive order to supply all of the bricks to build the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel near Auchterarder in Perthshire.  When viewed from the long entrance drive between two of the world-famous golf courses this is an incredibly impressive building.

Years later when the company held their first bi-annual export conferences at Gleneagles it must have been a source of immense satisfaction to Mr Colin Stein the Chairman to know that his ancestor had supplied the bricks to build the edifice that they were all lodging, working and in the evenings making merry in.

Sadly the Dunipace plant is no longer in existence having been demolished and the ground landscaped so that modern sheltered accommodation dwelling houses could be built on the site.

The talk in the local Anchor Inn pub, however, was that Stein fired bricks and foremen.

He had actually got through about six foremen in a relatively short period of time when the position of Foreman was offered to Charles Taylor.  Taylor initially refused but Stein prevailed on him by offering him a junior partnership mainly because of his engineering skills.  The success of this plant however and the appointment of Charles Taylor who played a large part in the running of the company provided the springboard for further expansion.

This expansion initially comprised the setting up of the new head office, laboratory and plant at Castlecary in 1903 on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal.  It also nestled between the two main railway lines of the London Midland and Scottish and the London and North Eastern Railway companies so that a rail spur into the plant was easily established.  As well as being at the centre of Scotland’s transport infrastructure the plant was built in the shadow of Castle Cary a fort on the roman Antonine’s Wall which bisected Scotland from west to east.

The Castlecary works had, at one time, the longest kiln in the world, at over 300 metres long.

Stein Castlecary depicting roadway between kilns

The offices and laboratory sat amongst lawns and landscaped gardens which made it a very pleasant environment to work in.  This, in spite of the occasion when a customer’s helicopter landed on the lawn and did considerable damage to the carefully tended plants.  Let’s hope Stein added the cost of the damage to the invoice rather than involve insurers.

This plant which was funded by the Stein family, local investors and Scottish banks grew to be one of the foremost refractory plants in the UK before the death of JGS in 1927.

One of their principle products Nettle firebrick was the envy of competitors one of whom launched Docken firebricks as the answer to Nettle in an attempt to gain market share.

During his life JGS had been planning another enormous expansion and shortly after his death, the family opened the Manuel works near Linlithgow in West Lothian in 1928.

At its zenith, the plant had seven tunnel kilns firing bricks to over 1700 degrees centigrade.

During his life JGS visited the A P Green Mexico Missouri USA plant as a personal guest or Mr Alan P Green and the two men became friends do that JGS visited the USA several times between 1910 and 1927.

While in Mexico Missouri JGS was often a guest of Mr Alan Green but not in the new Green family residence which eventually became the company guesthouse in 1958.

Winston Churchill and Harry S Truman were invited to be Greens guests in March 1946 when they attended Westminster College in Fulton Missouri for Churchill’s presentation of his Iron Curtain speech.

Green went so far as to construct a large ornamental gateway on the estate naming it the Churchill Gateway.

Unfortunately, it is reported that Churchill and Truman were prevented from taking up the offer of hospitality due to “logistics” but whether this was due to weather, the pressure of business or the secret service is not known.

Like Mr Churchill, the writer was never a guest of Mr Green but unlike Mr Churchill did stay on several occasions in his house after it became the A P Green guest house for use by company officers, important customers and senior staff.

The guest house was a porticoed Georgian mansion, whose dining room was based on the dining room of the famous historical Governors Mansion in Williamsburg Virginia.

The largest function ever held there was said to be a black-tie dinner for company officers and spouses at which the waiters and waitresses were all employees children coached for the event by Mrs Harry Stover.

The dining room was never a personal favourite however since more informal meals could be arranged in the Library and breakfast was usually served by the caretaker in the large kitchen.

Perhaps best of all however were the snacks and drinks which were freely dispensed at the bar between the big screen TV and the pool table in the basement den of the great house.

The Empire Club on the shore of Teal Lake was also a favourite spot for barbecues and one could end up sitting between Bob Macintosh an ex-president and Art Shulz a mover and shaker in their construction facility each with a plate of steak and a glass of red wine.

Although Messrs Stein and Green were for a time contemporaries the AP Green Company was not incorporated as such until 1910.

It did however later take over Remney Refractories which was claimed to be founded around 1735 n New Amsterdam on a site which is now close to City Hall New York.

The men were never really competitors but their companies were to some extent especially when Green bought Liptak in 1932 and later set up A P Green Refractories in England.

Green exported some Kruzite D to the cement industry which was a forerunner and competitor of Stein 70 D.

They also manufactured Sairset wet cement which for a time competed with Macsiccar and Kastsel which vied with Steins 1300 Castable for a generation of end-users.

In April 1967 General Refractories of Sheffield effectively acquired the shares and the company was renamed GR-Stein Refractories.  Subsequently, after other changes in ownership, it became Hepworth Refractories then Premier and ultimately until it was closed Vesuvius Refractories a division of Cookson PLC.

Vesuvius completed their detailed study of the site in 2000 and progressively ran down the plant transferring the production of monolithics to England and bricks to Poland.

This was completed before the end of 2001 and effectively ended the Stein family’s direct involvement in refractories after almost 200 years in the industry.

Mr John H M Stein will still be remembered by many in the industry however as a champion of Stein’s export business in the seventies and eighties.  After joining the company he spent a number of years living and working with Stein’s major agents in Europe polishing up his language and business skills.  He then gradually assumed responsibility for export first for Stein on the retrial of the export manager and then for GR-Stein.

One day in the early seventies “young John” as he was then, was invited to a society wedding.  He, however, decided to go to the office first.  So it was that he turned up in his Triumph sports car in full grey topper hat and tails, waistcoat and tie.  This is in itself was different enough but it happened that the company was entertaining visitors from communist Eastern Europe to a plant visit that day.  They were astounded to be introduced to Mr Stein and assumed that he was the sole owner and mega Capitalist.

A previous Russian inspector had turned up at the plant in 1939 just before the war to inspect an order for 2 million bricks.  He arrived by foot from Glasgow about 20 miles west.  He was less than amused to find that the bricks were mainly being produced at Manuel works which was another twenty miles east.  When he reached it however he worked, ate and slept in the plant for three weeks until the order was completed and checked.

A P Green Refractories Ltd also did well but was absorbed first by Harbison Walker Company in 1998 then by RHI and is part of ANH at the time of writing.

Sadly Liptak Bradley Limited which was originally founded as Bradley and Lonsdale in Manchester in 1882 predated A P Green by nearly 50 years in the UK but was wound up in 2002.  At that time Liptak Bradley was 120 years old and was the oldest refractory engineering organisation in the UK.  Although some of its senior staff took retirement others are still very active today in other organisations where they try to continue the best traditions of furnace construction.

1887 – Headed notepaper dated 11/06/1931 states John Gilchrist and Co Ltd were established in 1887.

23/05/1896 – Falkirk Herald –  John Gilchrist Stein, brick manufacturer residing at Annieslea, Bonnybridge was charged with having on Thursday 30th April, suffered dirty water containing offensive matter to run up the highway at Waverley Place, Bonnybridge from a block of dwelling houses belonging to him. He pleaded guilty and was fined 2s 6d with 15s expenses. The fine was paid at the bar.

04/10/1902? – Falkirk Mail  –  J. G. Stein, Bonnybridge – ” Who’s who in the Clay-worker’s Institute” in The British Clay-worker for August appears the following sketch of the career of Mr J. G Stein, Bonnybridge :-” One of the oldest and foremost supporters of the Institute of Clay-workers is Mr John G. Stein, sole partner in the firm of John G Stein & Co, of the Ganister and Fireclay Works, Bonnybridge, N.B. Like many other brick makers of his race, he was not born in the purple, his earliest recollections being connected with the grime of the brickyard in the pungent odour of the kilns.  It was in 1882 that Mr Stein first saw the light in a cottage on a brickworks at Clackmannan, where his father was employed.  It was only natural that he should take to brick-making like a duck to water.  When 14 years of age he was engaged in the carrying of bricks from a moulder’s table at the Winchurchburgh Works, Linlithgow, where his father had the contract for the whole output of the works for some 13 years before his death in 1892.  Being fired by customary ambitious to do something for himself, he applied for and obtained a situation with the Glenboig Union Fire-clay Company, Ltd., and in six months became a foreman at their Cumbernauld works.  At this time he was 21 years of age and immediately added to the responsibilities of foremanship those of a wife, two years later having mastered the practical part of brick making he joined the Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company as salesman thus adding commercial experience to his valuable practical knowledge already gained.  In 1887 he started a business for himself and with the courage and pertinacity of youth, he contrived to exploit the erection of a brickworks with a total capital of £250.  Mr Stein tells us that he would, at the present, moment scruple about taking so serious responsibility, but at 23, when everything is possible, he did not hesitate to “put a stout heart to a steep brae,” with a result which more than fulfilled his most ardent expectations.
Beginning with 1 kiln, holding 5000 firebricks, and burning it about three times a fortnight, his works have rapidly increased until his present kiln capacity is 700,000, with an output of 17.000 firebricks and some 33.000 common bricks daily.  His productions are well known in the principal Iron and steelworks in Scotland, and he is also a manufacturer of ganister bricks, stoppers, nozzles, sleeves, and all special requirements for furnace work.  At Denny, where he has a common brickworks there are three Bradley and Craven machines at work and three continuous kilns for the manufacture of common bricks from “blaes bing” or pit spoil bank. Both works are lighted by electricity and we think we are right in saying that the installation at Bonnybridge led the way in Scotland in this form of lighting for brickworks. To provide accommodation for his men he erected some 40 houses, 20 of which are lighted by electric light, the number of workmen employed being 150.
Not content with his present success, Mr Stein has recently leased the mineral in the Castlecary Estate from the Marquis of Zetland and he will erect further plant with a possible output of 100,000 bricks per day, immediately communication is effected. Firebricks, blocks, gas retorts etc will be here produced. Mr Stein is a life long abstainer and a great traveller, having visited Denmark and France in company with fellow clay workers. He is very fond of the French but strongly objects to being ‘sat upon’. He is one of the pillars of the Clayworkers Benevolent Fund and what time he can spare from the increasing demands of the business he gives to the domestic heart where encircle a family of 6 daughters and 3 sons.
Below – c. 1907 – Millfield House, Polmont –
11/07/1925 – Falkirk Herald – John G. Stein. Millfield, Polmont, president of the Scottish Employers’ Council for the Clay Industries, was entertained on Wednesday by the Council at a complimentary luncheon held in the Central Station Hotel, Glasgow. Mr John H. Hurll, the vice-chairman, presided, and among those present were James Hamilton, Lothian Coal Company; ex-Provost Frew, Airdrie; Mr T. W. Howie, Roughcastle; Mr G. Dunsmuir, Bonnybridge Silica and Fireclay Company; Mr William Douglas, Kilwinning; Colonel Alan Stein; Mr Norman Stein, and Mr G. Wink Wight, secretary. Mr William Douglas, in presenting Mr Stein with his portrait in oils, painted by Mr J. H. Middleton, referred to the invaluable services rendered by Stein for a number of years as president of the Council.
Below – 05/09/1925 – Falkirk Herald – Mansion house fire – £500 damage caused at Millfield, Polmont belonging to John Gilchrist Stein.

Below – 22/10/1927 – The Falkirk Herald – The late Mr J.G Stein of Millfield.

It is with sincere regret that we have to record the death of Mr John G. Stein Millfield, Polmont, which took place at a nursing home in Glasgow early last Sunday morning. Mr Stein, a leading figure in the Scottish brick manufacturing industry, and head of the well-known firm of Messrs J. G. Stein & Co., Bonnybridge, was in perfect health until three weeks ago, when he met with an apparently minor mishap, that resulted in his death. While walking in the brickworks at Castlecary he trod upon a loose brick, which sprung and inflicted a light bruise on the front of his leg. The injury appeared to be of so little consequence that Mr Stein really gave it no thought but, later, blood poisoning set in, which, despite every effort to save his life, including the amputation of the leg, proved fatal. Mr Stein, who was 65 years of age was born Clackmannan, where his father was the manager in a brickwork. The family removed to Winchburgh, where Mr Stein himself started work at an early age, but, after saving some money he went to Edinburgh for a short time to improve his education, attending Gillespie’s School there. At that time he had to live very simply and spent no more than sixpence per day on food. On leaving Winchburgh he obtained employment in the brickworks at Cumbernauld and later became foreman there. It was while he was employed as foreman at Cumbernauld that Mr Stein was married, he being then only 21 years of age. From Cumbernauld, he went to Bonnybridge and worked for a short time in a fire brick work there. At Bonnybridge on 17th November 1887, Mr Stein started business on his own account as a brick manufacturer, having only one kiln to begin with. The business prospered steadily and in time another works was opened at Denny, while later the Castlecary works, the largest and most important of the three owned by the firm, were added. In the employment of the firm, there are now 650 people, and the average weekly output approximates one million bricks. The productions of Messrs J. G. Stein & C0 have won a deservedly high reputation at home and abroad. Always progressive in his ideas, Mr Stein was quick to adopt improved methods of production, and never hesitated to scrap old plant. He was the first in Scotland to make fire bricks by machine, and he had to overcome a weighty prejudice before the machine-made fire bricks were accepted as an improvement to the hand-made article. He was also a pioneer in the use of coal fire continuous kilns for fire bricks. Maintaining always a close personal touch with his employees, he was proud of the fact that his relations with them were ever of the most harmonious kind, and that there was a complete freedom from disputes. In the planning of improvements to render the working conditions as easy and as healthy as possible, Mr Stein spent much time and thought. At the Castlecary works a large football field has been provided while there is also a commodious hall for use during the day as a canteen and for social gatherings at night. In more than anything else he took a very practical interest and pride in the good housing of his employees. He considered it a matter of the greatest importance that his workers should have the best possible houses to live in, and all the houses he has built have been of a much higher standard than the average. Mr Stein was chairman of the Scottish Employers’ Council for the Clay Industries from its inception in October 1917, and two years ago was presented with his portrait in oils by his colleagues in the Council. A lifelong abstainer and non-smoker, he had breakfast every morning before seven o’clock and was at the works before eight o’clock each day. He took very few holidays, and for some years had none at all. During the last five years, he took a keen interest in angling, and his only holiday had been about two weeks in the year salmon or trout fishing. He was very fond of his garden and fed the birds there regularly. So tame were the birds that they answered quickly to his whistle, and fed from his hand. Mr Stein was a man of powerful and dominating personality compelling admiration and respect, while his affectionate disposition endeared him to all who knew him, Mr Stein is survived by Mrs Stein and a family of six daughters, two of whom are married, and two sons. The two sons, Lieutenant-Colonel Alan Stein and Norman Stein are both engaged in the business established by their father. To the surviving widow and members of the family, much public sympathy has been extended in their sad and tragic bereavement. The Rev. Thomas Millar, at the communion service held in High Bonnybridge U.F. Church Sunday last, made appropriate reference to the loss the community had sustained by the death of Mr John G. Stein and expressed the sympathy of the congregation with Mrs Stein and family. A service took place in the Glasgow Crematorium on Wednesday, after which the casket containing the ashes of the deceased gentleman was conveyed back Millfield, from where the funeral, which was of a private nature and attended only by relatives, took place on Thursday to Cumbernauld Cemetery. At the cemetery gate, the cortege was met by an assembly of 300 of the firm’s employees, who had gathered to pay a last tribute of respect to their late master. Three special ’buses conveyed the employees from Allandale, while many also travelled from Denny, Bonnybridge, and the surrounding district. The works owned by Mr Stein were closed for the day. Along the route traversed by the cortege, there were many manifestations of public regret and sympathy, including the drawing of blinds in shops and dwelling-houses. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev. John Maclellan, Polmont U.F. Church.

Below – 11/1927 – The British Clayworker – Article on the death of John G Stein.

Below – 07/04/1928 – The Falkirk Herald – John G Stein Limited. Progress of brick manufacturing firm. A relic of Babylon.








11/06/1931 – Headed notepaper – John G Stein and Co Ltd.

Silica and Fire Brickworks – Castlecary. Banknock, Headoffice.

Fire Brick Works, Manuel, Linlithgow.

Ganister and Fire Brick Works, Bonnybridge.

Common Red Brick Works, Denny.

1937 – Certificate issued to John Stein and Co by their employees on their 50th anniversary of the company.

20/11/1937 – Falkirk Herald – Works jubilee. Bonnybridge firm celebrates 50 years of existence. Bonuses for employees. On Wednesday last the well-known firebrick manufacturing firm of Messrs John G. Stein & Co., Ltd., attained its jubilee, and by way of celebrating the auspicious occasion, handsome bonuses were paid yesterday to every worker who had completed more than one week’s service with the firm. The firm, which is one of the foremost of its kind in Europe today, was founded at High Bonnybridge on 17th November 1887, by the late Mr John G. Stein, and has steadily grown from modest beginnings until now it boasts a weekly output of more than a million high-grade firebricks. During the first year of his enterprise, the founder, always keen, progressive businessman, possessed of all the qualities that make for success in the world of commerce, applied his tireless energy, perspicacity and dauntless spirit to the promotion and expansion of his business. Himself an expert experienced salesman, it was no wonder that his efforts met with success. To meet the demand for his bricks, Stein established another brickwork at Denny, where common building bricks were produced until a short time ago when the cessation of activities in that quarter completely severed the firms’ long connection with the building trade. The next step in the progress of the company was the laying down at Castlecary, about thirty-five years ago, of what was for many years afterwards the longest semi-continuous kiln in Europe. The output of the Castlecary works grew steadily to gigantic proportions, which, nevertheless, failed to meet the demands of an extensive market for high-grade refractories. Then came the untimely death of the founder, bringing to a close a life full of commercial adventure, which had won the unconcealed admiration even of his keenest competitors. The directorship of the now flourishing concern passed to Mr Stein’s sons, Colonel Alan Stein, M.C., D.L., Millfield, Polmont and Mr Norman Stein, Langarth, Stirling, with the elder brother, Colonel Stein, as chairman and managing director of the private Limited Company embracing only the founder’s widow and family. The same progressive policy was maintained by the new directors, who, about eight years ago. laid down at Manuel, Linlithgowshire, one of the most modern plants in Europe. An elaborate research laboratory was also built at Castlecary and staffed with highly skilled chemists and physicists. From the windows of this symbol of modernity and efficiency can be seen an interesting paradox in the shape of a grinding mill, the first erected at High Bonnybridge fifty years ago. It still performs its daily grind of raw material, and the many visitors to the works are intrigued by its efficiency after half a century’s continuous work. An inscription plate gives the year of its installation. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary, every employee with over one year’s service with the firm yesterday received a bonus of one week’s wages; those with over six months’ service, three days’ wages; and those with over one week’s service, one day’s wages. Naturally, such generosity on the part of the directors was deeply appreciated by all recipients.

1940 ?” Advert Bluebell – This brand is burned at a high temperature which ensures that the expansion is practically all taken out in manufacture and results in exceptionally low after-expansion in use. It is also noted for its high degree of mechanical strength. We would particularly refer to the value of this brick for the lining of By-product Coke Ovens in which salty coals are to he coked. Silica bricks have a much higher resistance to the corrosive action of salty coals than either firebricks or semi-silica bricks. The higher thermal diffusivity and mechanical strength at coking temperatures are factors of considerable importance to the coke oven user. A separate pamphlet, 14 Notes on the Use of Silica Bricks,” may be had on request. ”

14/11/1949 – Headed notepaper – John G Stein and Co Ltd. Manufacturers of high-grade refractories. Works, Castlecary, Greenhill and Manuel, Linlithgow and Bonnybridge.

Below – 1951 – Directory for the British Glass Industry – John G Stein advert.

20/01/2016 –  Vesuvius – Vesuvius ultimately took over the Stein empire but a look at their website today shows they still manufacture refractory bricks, albeit abroad, bearing the trademark Stein, Nettle, Alro and other recognisable JG Stein brands.

Source for the table below – note Stein and Alro
vesuvius 1
Source for the table below  – note Nettle
vesuvius 2


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