Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar, East Lothian


Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar, East Lothian aka Belhaven Brickworks.

Noted on the OS maps and working throughout the period 1841-61. It was begun in the early 19th century by Bailie David France, continued and developed by William Brodie and passed to his daughter Marion Brodie Sherriff before closing in the 1890s. At the height of his powers, Brodie was renowned for his innovation and skill; his enterprise led the family firm into the management of a suite of brickworks including Aberlady in East Lothian. Source

1841 – Census – The following males were working as brick makers at the Seafield Brickworks, West Barns, Dunbar.

John Gray (30), David Mason (25) residing West Barns Gardeners house and David Janer? (49) residing West Barns Cottage.

1841 – Census – The following males were working as brick makers at the Seafield Brickworks, West Barns, Dunbar.

John Rea (40) and David Tugh (15), both tile makers.

Below – 1850 – The History of Dunbar by James Miller (1859) – William Brodie takes over the tenancy of Seafield Brick and Tileworks sometime in 1850.

08/08/1850 – Stirling Observer – Highland and Agricultural Society’s Grand Show in Glasgow – For the best machine for making drain tiles and pipes from clay, 5 sovs to William Brodie, Airdrie. (Note – SBH – The reference to Airdrie is confusing but I do believe this is William Brodie, Dunbar). (Info from Ian and Jill Green – William Brodie – aged 27 in the 1841 census, living at Annfield, Lanark with his family, including Marion aged 3, born in Lanarkshire. William’s occupation is transcribed as “Mason”. In the 1871 census, the family are at Battleblent. William’s occupation is transcribed as “Brick maker proprietor and ship owner employing 38 men”. Marion’s birthplace is given as Airdrie, Lanarkshire – This solves the Airdrie reference!)

Below – 23/01/1851 – Falkirk Herald – Airdrie Great Exhibition.

1852 – David France, brick and tile maker, West Barns, Dunbar.

Below – 1853 – Seafield Brickworks Dunbar.

OS Map 1853 - Seafield brickworks Dunbar

1853 – 1854 – ScotlandsPlaces – An extensive brick and tile manufactory in the vicinity of Belhaven and on the west side of the road that leads to Edinbro’. (Edinburgh).

07/08/1854 – Caledonian Mercury – The Highland Society’s grand show at Berwick.

For the best machine for making drain tiles or pipes: 6 sovereigns to Wm Brodie, Seafield, Dunbar.

For the best set of tiles and pipes for field drainage: 1 sovereign to Wm Brodie, Seafield, Dunbar.

Below – 1856 – Illustrated Berwick Journal – Advert – William Brodie, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar


Below – 27/10/1856 – The Builder – William Brodie patents a roofing tile.

04/09/1858 – Aberdeen Herald – Highland Society Show – William Brodie, Seafield Tileworks, Dunbar exhibited articles in the ’tiles and pipes for field drainage’ section.

04/08/1859 – Edinburgh Evening Courant – Highland and Agricultural Society Show. Best ’tiles and pipes for field drainage 1. John Robson, Glasgow £2. Second – William Brodie Dunbar, bronze medal.

04/12/1860 – Banffshire Journal and General Advertiser – Launch at Banff – Launch at Banff.-On Tuesday last, there was launched from the building yard of Mr John Watson, a fine clipper smack of 37 tons register, ad which will class 7 years A 1 at Lloyds.  The vessel is named ‘The Brick’ Her length is 56 feet keel; breadth of beam, 16 feet; depth of hold, 7 feet.  She is expected to carry 70 tons ‘dead weight,’ and is intended to trade between Dunbar and London during the winter; carrying coals for Blackpots and Culloden Tile Works during the summer.  She is owned by Mr Wm. Brodie, brick and tile maker.  A considerable number of people collected to witness the launch of the vessel, which is no less creditable to the builder, that it promises to be remunerative to the owner,  The vessel is commanded by Captain Sheils.

Below – 1861 – Advert – Machinery for the making of drainage and roofing tiles. Improved pug mills, bruising rollers, screening and drain pipe and tile machines, patent roofing tile machines, and every other class of machinery suitable for drain tile and brickworks together with steam engines and agricultural machinery. Manufactured by William Brodie, Engineer, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar.

1861 advert william brodie seafield brickworks dunbar

10/05/1862 – The Berwickshire Advertiser – A supply of roofing tiles may now be had at Seafield Brick and Tile Works, near Dunbar.

06/03/1863 – Illustrated Berwick Journal – Marriages – At Belhaven, Dunbar, Feb 26, by the Rev Robert James Craig, Mr Thomas Sherriff, Glasgow to Marion, eldest daughter of Mr William Brodie, brick and tile manufacturer, Belhaven. (No cards).

05/08/1864 – Illustrated Berwick Journal – Severe gale. At Dunbar, on Sunday night, a tremendous gale commenced about ten o’clock and continued all night from the west. Upwards of fifty boats were by this time at sea, all to the east, intending to fish near St. Abb’s Head. Some of them succeeded in again making the harbour, but the great majority had either kept to sea or made for the Cove or Eyemouth. On Monday morning, about nine o’clock, five of the boats were seen rounding the Head, and much anxiety was felt for the safety of the others, but on Tuesday they were reported to be all safe. At twelve o’clock the schooner Williams, of Dunbar, laden with coal, belonging to Mr William Brodie, Belhaven Tile Works, in attempting to make the harbour, was caught by a severe gust and driven against the back of the pier, losing her bowsprit, which went to shivers and damaged in the forefoot. Her stem was laid upon the rocks, and her stern was in deep water. She was got off on Tuesday afternoon, slightly damaged.

Below – 02/02/1865 – Mr Brodie, Belhaven Brickworks (Seafield) and workmen involved in the rescue of a ship’s crew off the nearby coast.


25/08/1865 – Illustrated Berwick Journal – At West Barns, Dunbar on 19th instant, William Brodie, son of Mr Brodie, Seafield Brickworks aged 23. Friends will please accept of this invitation.

24/10/1865 – Dundee Courier – To proprietors, builders and contractors – for sale – 300,000 dry stock bricks of very superior quality, can be forwarded by rail or shipped at Dunbar Harbour. For particulars apply to William Brodie, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, near Dunbar. October 1865.

30/03/1866 – Kelso Chronicle – Drainage Pipes of first-rate quality to be had at Seafield Brick and Tile Works near Dunbar. For particulars apply to Wm Brodie.

21/05/1866 – Invoice – William Brodie, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, near Dunbar.

Below – 1867 – Advert William Brodie, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar “let agriculture flourish”

william brodie seafield dunbar 1867

14/02/1868 – Edinburgh Evening Courant – Gun accident. An accident of a serious nature occurred to young lad named Robert Frame, son of Mr John Frame, Seafield Brickworks, on Wednesday. The lad had taken a gun for the purpose of shooting birds in the neighbourhood of the works, when in firing the barrel burst, and his left hand was shattered in such way as to necessitate amputation, which was performed by Drs Dunlop and Turnbull, Dunbar. His face and head were also marked by the charge, and it was feared that it might have penetrated to some depth. This, however, was not the case.

Below – 20/04/1868 – Seafield Brick and Tile Works receipt – William Brodie.


10/10/1868 – Oban Times – Wreck of a Banff vessel.  ‘Peace and Plenty’ … The sloop was on her return voyage from Hamburg with a cargo of Oilcake for Aberdeen, having left Hamburg on 11th September … the sloop was first observed about 5 am on Friday when the sea was washing over her. The wreck lying below Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Mr Willam Brodie, of these works, and owner of the brickworks of Whitehills near Banff, along with other gentlemen, made attempts to reach the shipwreck on horseback but failed …

09/09/1871 – St Andrews Gazette – Material for the Tay Bridge. The screw steamer ‘Thames’ arrived on Wednesday in the Tay Bridge, laden with 40,000 bricks, being a portion of 120,000 contracted for at Dunbar. The number of steamers, sloops, and pontoons at the bridge jetty landing bricks, stone, and iron made the small harbour which has been extemporised look very busy.

27/02/1872 – Shields Gazette – Built at Blyth – There was launched on Saturday from the shipbuilding yard of the Co-operative Shipbuilding Company, Blyth, a very fine high-classed, wood twin screwed steamer, built for Mr Wm. Brodie, of Battleblent, near Dunbar. Her dimensions are as follow:Length, 127 ft 7in; breadth, 25ft 2in; depth of hold, 1ft 2″; register tonnage, 231 74 100.(?) She is intended for the coast trade. In order to enable her with safety go to dry harbours, she has been built unusually strong. The ship is calculated to carry above 300 tons of cargo, in addition to her machinery and coals for furnace consumption. Being the first screw steamer which has been built at Blyth, she has been the object of general interest during the whole course of her construction and we believe, that much satisfaction has been felt with her that the builders are about to lay down the keel for another steamer of similar size and structure for a shipowner at Newcastle. The vessel was christened the ‘Fire Brick’ by Miss M. Brodie, youngest daughter of Mr Brodie, as she glided into the sea amid the cheers of a large concourse of spectators. The vessel is to be propelled by compound engines, made the owner himself upon the most improved principles. Each engine is 30 horse-power nominal and is expected to work up to 200 horse-power effective upon a small consumption of coal. As soon as she is ready to leave Blyth, she will proceed to Dunbar to receive her engines and boiler, which are now nearly completed for fixing in the ship.

02/05/1873 – Invoice – William Brodie, Seafield Brick and Tile Works, near Dunbar.

04/07/1874 – The Scotsman – United East Lothian Agricultural Society’s Show, Haddington. William Brodie, Seafield Tileworks, Dunbar, bronze medal for pipes and tiles for field drainage.

28/10/1874 – North British Agriculturist – … Telegraphing later in the evening, our correspondent says the smack ‘Brick’, of Dunbar, which had entered Fraserburgh Bay, was fast drifting towards the shore, where the schooner Margaret Potter lies beached and will become a total wreck. The crew, consisting of three men, were saved by the lifeboat. The ‘Brick’, which was bound from Dunbar to Wick with a cargo of drain tiles, had been within an hour’s sail of her destination when the storm came on and drove her to Fraserburgh Bay. She was in command of Captain Thom …

03/02/1876 – John O’Groats – Loss of a schooner bound for Wick – The steamer Osterjoen, Bergen, arrived Lerwick from Boulogne on Sunday last, and landed the master and crew of the schooner ‘Brick’, of Dunbar, belonging to Mr Brodie, tile manufacture, having picked them up at seas, sixty miles off Aberdeen, on the previous Friday morning. The ‘Brick’ was on a voyage from Dunbar to Wick with a cargo of bricks, tiles, & Mr Alexander Sinclair, auctioneer, and left Dunbar Monday the 17th curt., experiencing such bad weather during Tuesday and Wednesday as to dismast the vessel and throw her on her beam ends, in which position she remained for a considerable time, the crew suffering severely from exposure and the want of water, which had been previously washed away. The Osterjoen tried to tow the ‘Brick’ after rescuing the crew but had to give up the attempt on account of the heavy sea running. The crew left Lerwick for the south on Monday evening by the steamer St Nicholas, which arrived at Granton on Wednesday. The cargo was covered by insurance, but the vessel was not insured.

Below – 20/11/1877 – Berwickshire News and General Advertiser – Marion Brodie or Sherriff takes over Seafield Brick and Tile Works following the death of her father.

Below – 1878 – Advert William Brodie, Seafield Brickworks, Dunbar.

1878 advert William Brodie, Seafield Brickworks, Dunbar

Below – 08/01/1878 – Banffshire Journal – Alexander Brodie, Broxburn, Dunbar takes over Blackpots Brick and Tile Works from his late father, William Brodie.
20/02/1878 – The Scotsman – Extensive sale of engineers plant, iron shafts, timber at Seafield Brick and Tile Works near Dunbar. On Saturday 23rd Feb 1878 at 12 o’clock noon. A list of articles can be had on application. James Brand, auctioneer. Dunbar 18/02/1878

06/01/1880 – The Scotsman – The Tay Bridge catastrophe. Erroneous clerical statement by the Rev Dr Begg.

Seafield Brick and Tile Works, near Dunbar, Sir, – In your notice of pulpit references to the above calamity, the Rev. Dr Begg says “We will build again; the bricks have fallen down, and we will build with hewn stones.” From the official inspection by the members of the Court attending the inquiry, and such authorities as Mr Gilkes, Mr Waddell, and Mr Wilson, “the brickwork was ascertained to be perfectly intact in every pier, but on four of the piers, the stone coping was found to be a good deal damaged. In the case of the ninth pier, the heavy masses of stone have been strewn about as if they had been sticks. As the bricks were supplied from here, and the majority of Scotch people being prejudiced against bricks, including Dr Begg who nails with scripture, you are inserting this letter will greatly favour. I am, &c. M Brodie Sherriff.

07/06/1883 – Fifeshire Journal – St Andrews … Trade at the harbour remains quiet … The boat ” Peter Buchan,” of Dunbar, discharged a cargo of twenty-seven tons of brick from that place. The brick is being used in building the Good Templar’s Hall in North Street. (Note – SBH – These are likely to be bricks from the Seafield Brickworks).

17/08/1883 – Haddingtonshire Advertiser – Border Agricultural Show, Kelso – A new feature in the show yard was the display of brick and tiles at stand no 12 shown by Mr M Brodie Sherriff, brick and tile works, Battlebent, Dunbar. These useful articles were of the finest quality and variety and presented a very fine surface. They comprised of draining tiles from 1 1/2″ to 30″ in diameter, roofing tiles, solid and perforated bricks. To judge from samples on view, the quality of the work was highly satisfactory.

16/11/1883 – Haddingtonshire Advertiser – Mr John Dawson, farm steward, Seafield Brickwork died suddenly on Monday within his own house. He attended church on Sunday. Death is supposed to have resulted from a natural cause.

Below – 1886 – Advert for MB Sherriff.

1886 brodie sherriff seafield dunbar westbank portobello

06/08/1886 – The Berwickshire Advertiser – Annual show at Kelso. Exhibitors … Mr M Brodie Sheriff (Mrs M Brodie Sherriff), brick and tile and pottery maker, Dunbar and Portobello …

Below – 31/07/1886 – Alloa Advertiser – Brick manufacturing business for sale. Apply A. Brodie, Broxburn, Dunbar.

07/11/1888 – The Scotsman – Seafield Brick and Tile Works, as formerly advertised to let. The time for receiving offers is extended to the 15th of November. J & J Milligan, 13 George Street, Edinburgh.

26/07/1889 – The Berwick Advertiser – Greenlaw small debt court. Messrs W. Brodie Sheriff, (M Brodie Sherriff) Seafield Brick and Tile Works, Dunbar sued John Monaghan, contractor, Duns for payment on an account of £3 8s 9d for pipes and on the motion of Mr Gibson, a decree was granted with expenses.

Below – 30/05/1890 – Haddingtonshire Courier – Reference to Clayknowes, Westbarns and Mrs Sherriff and Mr France.

Below – 1893 – The Seafield Brickworks only exist per an old kiln and waterlogged claypits.

22/12/1903 – Berwickshire News – The funeral of Mr John Frame, for many years manager of Seafield Brickworks, took place last Saturday to Portobello cemetery and was largely attended by East Lothian gentlemen.

31/12/1920 – Southern reporter dated 06/01/1921 – Deaths – At Battleblent, Dunbar on the 31st ult, Marion Brodie widow of Thomas Sherriff of Westbarns.

William Brodie took Seafield to new heights by innovating in both machinery and also scale: under the Brodies, it became the centre of a suite of brickworks scattered over Scotland. The Brodies also invested in their own shipping line.

The Fishermen’s Monument is a Grade B listed structure that stands in the south corner of the innermost basin of Dunbar Old Harbour. The monument was erected in 1856 by a local benefactor, William Brodie of Seafield.  It was dedicated to the fishermen of Dunbar and also housed a useful weather forecasting mercury barometer which was installed by Adie and Sons of Edinburgh.

Fishermans monument dunbar

David France “dubbed” the man who beat Canute by James Miller in 1830 – Because at Seafield Brickworks he erected an extensive sea dyke wall to hold back the waters of the Firth of Forth.

Bricks from Seafield brickworks were  shipped from Dunbar to the Tay Estuary in 1876 as they were used in the building of the Tay Bridge

Seafield Pond was once the clay pit for brickworks, built by Bailie France and later owned by William Brodie, who had both property and shipping interests in the town.

At one time the port at Dunbar had thirty trading craft, crewed by over 150 sailors, registered to it. There was a ship called ‘Firebrick’ and re-calls the trade in drainage pipes from the Seafield Brickworks at West Barns to Holland. The return cargo was red pantiles, which still roof many of the farm steadings around the town.

Below – 1859 – The History of Dunbar by James Miller –

1894 – Reminiscences and notices of ten parishes of the County of Haddington 1894 (page 124) … The late Bailie David France reclaimed from the sea a good portion of Belhaven Sands at Seafield and established a brick and tile work, which he left to Mr William Brodie in 1850, who carried on an extensive trade in bricks, drain and roofing tiles for many years. The clay below the sand is of first-rate quality. The work is now silent. Mr Brodie built a very unique mansion house at Westbarns which he named ” Battle Blent.” He was a man of great intelligence, scientific attainments, indomitable perseverance, and public spirit. He made his manufactory one of the largest -of the kind in the country. The quality of his bricks and tiles, owing to the use of superior machinery, was first-class. He was an eloquent lecturer on the abstruse science of biology, to which he devoted much study and attention. He was the means of getting a valuable barometer erected at Dunbar Harbour for the benefit of fishermen and seafaring folk, to which he contributed over forty pounds. A large agricultural implement manufactory has been long established at Westbarns. It was long carried on by the late Mr Thomas Sherriff, and latterly by his successors …

Seafield Brick & Tile Works (NT659783). Noted on the OS maps and working throughout the period 1841-61. It was begun in the early 19th century by Bailie David France, continued and developed by William Brodie and passed to his daughter Marion Brodie Sherriff before closing in the 1890s. At the height of his powers, Brodie was renowned for his innovation and skill; his enterprise led the family firm into the management of a suite of brickworks including Aberlady in East Lothian. source.

Infomation from Dr Pat Simpson – “The West Common was prone to flooding at seasonal high tides.  David France built a wall, the Divvy Dyke, to prevent this. This allowed him to build a brickworks, the Seafield Brick & Tile Works on the land.  The house at the entrance gate to the Belhaven Bay Caravan Park was once part of the brickworks.  The lake there is a result of the extraction of clay to make the bricks. The brickworks then became the property of an established brick manufacturer, William Brodie, in 1855. Initially, he lived in Rosebank, now called  Rosebank House.  His new home, Battleblent, was built in 1860, with its distinctive three wings.  He lived there with his wife and one of his daughters, Marion.  She married Thomas Sherriff, a son of a local agricultural instrument manufacturer, but sadly he died young.  Marion Brodie Sherriff took over the brickworks after her father’s death, until its closure in 1890, and continued to live at Battleblent until her own death in 1920”.

Below –  This is believed to be a photo of the Seafield Works c. 1880. Many thanks to Richard Grahame for forwarding the same.


Similar articles