Rosyth Brick and Tile Works, Inverkeithing, Fife

Much of the following information has been generously supplied by Martin Rogers – a local historian to the Rosyth area.

(Note – SBH – I am still looking for a Rosyth brick. Has anyone seen one lying around!)


Rosyth Brickworks and Prisoner of War Camp – Plans to build the new Garden City of Rosyth led to borings being taken at the end of 1913 in an area of clay to the east of Rosyth at Belleknowes.  A company was formed in 1915 (the Rosyth Brick and Tile Company) to establish a brickworks and produce bricks and tiles using the clay deposits.  The location of the works and the clay pit are shown on the map on page 10.  It was expected that when the works were in full production between 40,000 and 60,000 bricks of a rich red colour would be produced per day.  In a report in June 1916, it is stated that the output was about 10,000 bricks a day and the full output could not be realised until other works (including a railway siding) had been completed.  The brickworks did not have a monopoly in supplying bricks for the Rosyth houses.  A press report in April 1917 mentions that 8 million bricks had recently been delivered to Rosyth from Townhill.

Rosyth brick works chimney - Copy

A prisoner of war camp was established near the site of the brickworks in March 1917.  It appears that a row of huts (known as Haig Terrace) owned by the Rosyth Brick and Tile Company were taken over by the army and supplemented with other huts to form the POW encampment.  The huts were on the opposite side of the road from the football ground.  In June 1917, there were reported to be 72 German prisoners of war in the camp.  They did a lot of the manual work such as digging out the clay and transporting it to the factory, operating the machinery to make the bricks and placing them in the furnaces.  British workmen looked after the firing of the bricks.  The output at the time had increased to about 25,000 bricks a day.  We are fortunate in having a number of good quality photos of the brickworks in operation in August 1918.  These are in the local history collection in the Dunfermline Carnegie Library.

A report in the Dunfermline Journal of May 1919 referred to 42 prisoners from the camp being released with the remainder being employed on removing the barbed wire defences.  Presumably, the camp closed down within a short time after that.  The brickworks continued in production after the war.  A report in the Dunfermline Journal of September 1919 stated that the works were turning out thousands of bricks per week and, it was understood, would be supplying bricks for most of the municipal housing schemes in Scotland.  An article in the Press in 1959 gave a potted history of the brickworks.  From that, it would appear that the brickworks closed during the general strike of 1926.  In another Press report in September 1934, it was stated that John Sommerville, public works contractor and builder, had purchased the dismantled brickworks along with an adjoining field which was rich in clay deposits.  He had also purchased the mansion house at Middlebank with 50 acres of land which was also rich in clay deposits.  The Press of August 1936 reported that the work of rebuilding and reconstructing the works was proceeding steadily.  Plans were being considered to bring clay from the high ground at Middlebank by means of a narrow-gauge line crossing the main LNER line.  The Press article of 1959 states that the attempt to resume production in 1938 had failed as the railway authorities had refused permission to build a bogey line over the railway to convey clay to the works.  The brick stanchions to support the line had already been built.  The Admiralty used the site for storage purposes in the Second World War.  The Press article of 1959 arose from plans by a Kinross man, Gordon Dye, to develop the site as a sawmilling and sectional building establishment.  The twin chimneys and 40 kilns were planned to be demolished the following week.  The site has been used for various industrial purposes over the years.


Rosyth brickworks claypit - Copy



The seventy-two combatants held at Rosyth in Scotland and working 9.5 hours per day in the local brickworks in June 1917 had access to a “sports field outside the camp…every evening, where the prisoners have a bowling alley and a football ground.” Source

Below – 24/04/1915 – Fifeshire Advertiser – New brick and tile works for Rosyth. Clayfield near Middlebank. The object is to manufacture non-porous bricks and tiles of a rich red colour.

24/04/1915 – The Scotsman – Rosyth Brick and Tile Company Limited ( Private Company), 55 Queen Street, Edinburgh to carry on the business of manufacturing bricks, tiles, pipes and pottery. Capital £40,000 in £1 shares. Subscribers – William Bonar, Company Architect, 51 Braid Avenue, Edinburgh and George Wishart, Iron Merchant, 18 Picardy Place, Edinburgh.

Below – 01/06/1915 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – Authority given to erect brick kilns at Rosyth.

09/06/1915 – The Scotsman – Clerk or clerkess wanted immediately. Thoroughly capable of bookkeeping, shorthand and typing. Apply with references to Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing, Fife.

29/04/1916 – Hull Daily Mail – Brickworkers – wanted, 2 or 3 first-class clayhole men. Constant work, good wages. Railway fares for self and family paid for. Apply Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing, Fife.

Brickworkers – Engine and machine man required, do own repairs. Regular work for a good man. Railway fares for self and family paid for. Apply Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing, Fife.

Below – 13/05/1916 – Fife Free Press – A labourer at Rosyth Brickworks was killed when part of a chimney top fell on him.

19/10/1916 – Belfast News – Brickyard hands required at once, all kinds. Wages 35s per week, regular employment. Fares paid. Apply Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing, Fife.

Below – 01/11/1916 – Dundee Evening Telegraph –  Works foreman sues Rosyth Brick and Tile Co for wrongful dismissal.

27/12/1916 – The Scotsman – Clerkess wanted immediately. Capable, reliable, cashier, typist, shorthand etc. 30s per week to suitable applicant. Apply with references to Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing, Fife.

07/03/1917 – Dundee Evening Telegraph  – The Dunfermline District Executive Committee for food production, at a meeting held in the Royal Hotel, Dunfermline had under discussion breaking up land at Rosyth belonging to Rosyth Brick and Tile Co.

06/09/1917 – The Scotsman – Pulleys (2 pairs split) wanted fast and loose, 39″ x 6½” or 7″. Face for shaft 3½”. Rosyth Brick and Tile Co Ltd, Inverkeithing.

11/10/1917 – The Scotsman – Clerk, typist and bookkeeper wanted; a discharged soldier or ineligible. Apply with references Rosyth Brick Co, Prisoners of War Camp, Inverkeithing.

10/12/1921 – Fife Free Press – Fife war compensation claims – The first report of the war compensation court, dealing with their proceedings from August 1920 to August 1921  was issued on Monday – Rosyth Brick & Tile Co Ltd – claimed £4375 and £26 expenses for the occupation of the brickworks – awarded £2870 and £26 expenses.

Below – 1925 – Rosyth Brick and Tile Works (The Works are not present on the 1913 map).

Rosyth brick and tile 1924

Below – 24/09/1926 – Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review – Bricks from Montrose and Rosyth are being used to build houses in Dundee along with a few from Wemyss.  Rosyth was in a more favourable position with regard to coal and were in fact now buying foreign coal due to the home coal miner’s strike.

Below – 03/04/1928 – Dundee Evening Telegraph – The Central Hotel. An article regarding the erection of a new hotel on the corner site at Ward Road and Court House Square, Dundee. It was apparently built with, where used, bricks from the Rosyth Brick Co, Inverkeithing.

17/10/1928 – The Scotsman – For sale as a going concern by private treaty, the valuable freehold property and works belonging to Rosyth Brick & Tile Co Ltd., at Inverkeithing, Fifeshire, with practically an unlimited supply of excellent plastic clay.

The machinery comprises the following:- one 9ft. Wootton Plastic pan over two pairs of crushing rolls, 27 in. by 27in., with 24 in. pug. Expressing chamber and two mechanical cutting tables; sand-faced belt-driven press, two hand presses, and a small pug for special bricks; one 30ft. by  8ft. Lancashire boiler for 150lb. pressure, complete with Hopkinson’s mountings, Weir feed pump and all necessary steam piping, &c.; one 18 in. by 36 in. Robey horizontal engine with two dynamos for electric light for the whole works and power for two 4 in. centrifugal pumps to keep the pit free from water; one 14 ft. by 6 ft. vertical boiler for 100 lb. pressure, as a standby during holidays &c.

The output of the works is between 6/7,000,000 bricks per annum, and ether is a large drying floor capable of this output, together with one 20-chambered Dean and Hetherington Staffordshire Kiln of equivalent output, complete in every way with Belfast roof and coal-handling equipment and two 18 ft. down-draught kilns.  All the buildings are exceptionally well built, and the roadways around the kilns and loading banks are all laid with steel plates. The property includes an office with three rooms and 11 houses for workmen. The works are in first-class running order.

There is an endless rope haulage from the clay pit, which is conveniently situated, and there are the usual engineer’s shop and workshops.

The works are connected to the London and North Eastern Railway, with sidings conveniently situated capable of handling the whole output.

Further particulars may be obtained from Martin Currie & Co., C.A, Secretaries, 29 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, with whom offers may be lodged.


19/01/1929 – The Scotsman – The brickworks are still for sale.

14/05/1929 – Edinburgh Gazette – Rosyth Brick and Tile Company in liquidation.

Below – 17/05/1930 – Fife Free Press – Rosyth Brickworks plant for sale.


24/05/1930 – Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian – Rosyth Brick & Tile Co Ltd. (in Liquidation). Important Sale of Brickmaking Plant and Machinery, Railway Siding, Buildings, Office Furniture, Etc. At Rosyth Brick and Tile Works, Inverkeithing, On Tuesday first, 27th May 1930, at eleven o’clock prompt. Shirlaw Allan & Co, Auctioneers, Hamilton, have received instructions from G. I. Stewart, Esq. Messrs Martin, Currie & Co., C.A., 29 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. The liquidator of the above Company, to Sell, by Auction, as above, as formerly advertised. On view To-Day (Saturday) and Monday. Hamilton, May  1930.

14/09/1934 – The Scotsman – Aug 1959 – Inverkeithing – Premises of the Old Inverkeithing Brickworks 40 kilns and chimney stack are to be raised and properly adapted to woodworking.  This ends a brickmaking enterprise which goes back to World War 1.  German Prisoners were then employed in the erection of the chimneys and on the construction of the extensive kilns which produced bricks from local colliery blaes and clay.  The brickworks closed during the general strike and did not re-open when the strike ended.  An effort was made in 1938 to resume production and prospects seemed sound but on this occasion, the railway authorities refused permission for a bogey line over the Edinburgh – Dunfermline railway track alongside the plant on the grounds of safety.  This effectively cut off raw materials and killed the revival and as a result, the one-time valuable plant has stood idle for 20 years, its final elimination has now been approved by the local authorities and alternative use approved.
Vol 68 808 Aug 1959

15/09/1934 – Fife Free Press & Kirkcaldy Guardian – Dunfermline Man Purchases Works and is to re-open them – Brickmaking developments in the Rosyth area foreshadowed in the purchase by Mr John Summerville, building contractor, Dunfermline, of the dismantled brick and tile works near Inverkeithing Railway Station. The sellers were Caldwell’s Paper Mills Company (Ltd), who acquired the works, from the Rosyth Brick and Tile Company (Ltd.), who closed down shortly after the war, after having supplied most of the bricks which were used by the Scottish National Housing Company (Ltd.) to build Rosyth Garden City.

Mr Summerville proposes to install an up-to-date brickmaking plant.  In addition to the dismantled works, he has acquired a large field to the east, in which lies a rich bed of clay suitable for brick-making.  Recently Mr Summerville purchased Middlebank mansion house, with 50 acres of land, which lies adjacent to the brickworks, and which has also been proved to be rich in clay deposit.

11/07/1946 – Dundee Telegraph – John Porteous, Dunfermline was fined £15 for theft of electrical fittings valued at £17 from H.M Dockyard, Rosyth and the brick and tile works, Rosyth between November 28th 1945 and June 29th 1946.

1948 – Rosyth Brick and Tile Works are marked as disused on this OS Map.

Phil Robinson of the Moseley Railway Trust, Staffordshire writes – a steam locomotive was bought and used by Holloway Brothers in 1917 for construction of the majority of the 1600 houses for Rosyth. The brickworks, it seems, was started up to produce bricks for these houses, and a 2ft gauge railway was constructed by Holloway Brothers to bring materials from the Northern Discharge sidings (on the 25″ map on your site, at Inverkeithing North Junction) and bring them to the Rosyth Public Park area, which was used as a staging area before materials were transported to the site of the construction work. The Holloway Brothers’ construction work lasted from early 1917 (the loco was shipped from Stoke on Trent on 23-2-1917 to Inverkeithing) and their work was completed by the end of 1918. They were simultaneously involved in housing for military and naval establishments all around the UK, and Henry Holloway was knighted for this contribution. Also includes the catalogue picture of the Kerr Stuart locomotive “Stanhope” (KS2395/1917) which is the loco in question. Currently, this loco is at our railway site in Staffordshire at the Apedale Valley Light Railway. The loco was shipped in War Office Grey, according to the Kerr Stuart records, so the picture is probably close to its appearance on delivery at Inverkeithing.

‘Tattoo’ is the design of the locomotive, and appears as such in the Kerr Stuart catalogue – the picture is actually of Stanhope (the works number on the original picture reads 2395 and 1917). There were a total of 86 built to that general design, although Stanhope was the first Tattoo to use the new type of valve gear (hence its catalogue photograph). The photograph comes from January 1917, just before the loco was shipped to Rosyth on 23 February 1917. It was damaged in transit, and some correspondence exists as internal notes regarding shipping replacement parts to Inverkeithing, and that “Holloways must claim from the railway company”

Below – Two colourised photographs of the Rosyth Brickworks. These were “coloured by” Scotty Diesel/Old Fife (facebook).


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