Northfield Brickworks, Shotts, West Lothian aka Shotts Brickworks.. (Note – SBH – I am not certain but I believe the early brick kilns at Shotts were operated by the Shotts Coal & Ironstone Co. Then in 1910 the name changed to Northfield Brickworks when the Shotts Iron Company took over the site. Can anyone clarify…
Shotts Sand-Lime Brickworks, Shotts, North Lanarkshire aka locally as the ‘White Brickworks’.
Northfield Brickworks, Shotts. (Note – SBH – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ suggests these were two different brickworks albeit they were situated very close together. Northfield – NS884600. Shotts Sand-Lime – NS884602).
06/05/1924 – The Scotsman – Electrical engineer’s visit to Shotts Works – Members of the West of Scotland branch of the Association of Mining Electrical Engineers to the number of 174 visited Shotts Works on Saturday at the invitation of the Shotts Iron Company (Ltd). The visit was instructive from the point of view. of the application of electricity to the manufacture of iron, production of coal and the manufacture of bricks. The various sections of the works visited were the furnaces, the powerhouse, Northfield Colliery where all power including winding, is electric, the ore briquette works where fine ore is made into briquettes for feeding into the furnaces and the slag brickwork where a composite brick of slag and lime is made. At the luncheon, which was later provided by the board of directors, Mr Brown presided.
1930s – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ suggests these works were operated by Shanks & McEwan during this time.
09/09/1933 – Falkirk Herald – Falkirk foundry men’s visit of inspection to Shotts Works – Faith in the Future … The visitors then had an inspection of the two brickworks and they viewed the making of composition and grey brick from the company’s? products, the two works having a capacity of nearly 60,000 per day. Adjourning to the work offices, which are built entirely of Shotts grey bricks the visitors had the opportunity of witnessing an exhibit of the company’s various products – many varieties of coal, ironstone, pig iron, limestone, bricks, hydrated lime, grit etc … Mr Matthew Brown, Managing Director of the Company.
Below – 1939 – Shotts Sand-Lime Brickworks, Shotts
Below – A very similar map with notations by Ian Roy showing the locations of Crusher 1 and 2 associated with the brickworks.
1940 – The 1985 publication ‘A survey of Scottish brickmarks’ suggests these works were demolished by 1940.
20/12/1940 – The Scotsman – Shotts Iron Company Limited – Material improvement in cash position. Chairman Mr C. Augustus Carlow. Mr Matthew Brown retiring after 25 years with the company … Brickworks – In the early months of the war, the demand for bricks was poor but in later months the position improved very materially, resulting in a total production for the financial year of approximately 14 million composition bricks in addition to which there was a substantial increase in the sale of our Shotts grey slag bricks.
Below – The Scottish Industrial Archaeology Survey published a report in 1985 entitled ” A survey of Scottish brickmarks. During the compilation of this report in which the survey officers visited working and derelict brickworks sites, many items of interest were donated or found. Many of these items were thereafter donated to the National Museum Scotland. The item below is one of these items. It is a brick, stamped very faintly with ‘Shotts’. The composition of the brick has a very sandy lime look with an additional black material. Perhaps it is a composite brick of slag and lime as referred to in the 06/05/1924 article above.
2012 – History Group Bulletin – Northfield Brickworks, Shotts.
As a young boy growing up in the High Street between 1950 and 1960, I remember it was a busy thoroughfare with heavy and light transport trundling up and down from an early hour. Similarly, there was also a steady stream of workers making their way to various jobs in the foundry, workshops, Northfield Colliery and Northfield Brickwork. My interest in Northfield Brickwork was stimulated by my dad as he started as a young lad in the ‘white brickwork’ and moved to Northfield Brickwork on his return from the army. I always looked forward to our evening walks, where the ‘Voe’ was a popular destination. The remnants of the ‘white brickwork’ were still evident at this time, as was the slag hill which provided the material to produce the distinctive finished grey brick for general building. Although Northfield Brickwork was accessed from the High Street, it was located close to the bottom of Charles Street in Torbothie. At this time, Northfield Brickwork was
still in production, making an orange coloured common building brick made from crushed ‘blaes’. Although I was never employed by Northfield Brickwork, as an apprentice electrician with the Central workshops I was involved with ongoing maintenance and repairs. Northfield Brickwork started off as a briquette work as far back as 1896 and was owned by the Shotts Iron Company. The then furnace manager saw a niche to make a useful produce from the iron ore dust, which at that time was considered waste. Subsequently, he took out a patent to process the dust and a plant was built to produce iron ore briquettes. These briquettes were then added to the furnace, in turn, increasing the yield of iron ore. Demand for iron ore decreased and thus, the need for iron ore briquettes. Modifications to the existing machinery in the briquette work were made to enable the production of building bricks. Northfield Brickwork consisted of two pan mills, three brick presses and two kilns. The process began with ‘blaes’, a pit bing waste mainly from Northfield Colliery, which was transported by railway wagons to the two pan mills. On arrival, men would then shovel the ‘blaes’ into the pan mills where it was crushed by two large rotating rollers into a fine dust. This fine dust passed through the perforated floor of the mill into a collection pit. Bucket
elevators then collected and lifted the fine dust from the pit to an area above the press machines, known as the loft. From here the dust went down into a mixer where it was mixed with oil and water before moving onto a rotating table which gave the brick its initial rough shape. The water used for the mixing process was pumped from the Voe by a D10 Mono pump housed in a small brick building next to the by-wash. Exiting from the turntable, the rough pre-formed brick was pressed to size and the ‘Shotts’ stamp imprinted. Although they were shiny black in colour, they were termed ‘green’ bricks. From here the ‘green’ bricks were taken to the kilns where workers, known as setters, built them in a specific fashion to allow the firing flame to pass through the stacks, commencing the process of turning them into the finished brick. The kilns used in this process were modelled upon the Hoffmann design. They were fired with beans of coal and access ports of the top of the kilns provided a means to control the firing of the bricks. The brick firing areas were arched in shape and controlled by dampers linked to a ventilation fan. As the kilns had no individual chambers, this firing process was continuous.
Once the bricks were placed inside the kilns, the entrance doors were bricked up and daubed with fire clay to seal the chamber. It was then up to the kiln burner, who worked above the kilns, to observe conditions and fire it accordingly. The kiln burner was responsible for ensuring the fire passed into the next kiln of bricks ready to be fired. Interestingly, the fire was lit after the Fair holidays and continued to burn until the start of the following Fair holiday. When the flame had moved on, workers, known as strippers, removed the bricks from the kilns. This task was a hot and dusty occupation. The bricks were then loaded directly onto lorries from the kilns and transported to customers in places such as Cumbernauld, Dunblane and as far afield as Campbeltown. Surplus bricks were also stored in the stockyard, which was a good yardstick for determining the state of the building industry. In the 1960s, the internal rail network delivering the raw material was replaced by road transport necessitating improvements to the established system. A pre-crusher conveyor system was installed transporting the ‘blaes’ on conveyor belts to a crusher, which reduced its size before entering the pan mills. The internal transport of the bricks was also improved by the installation of another conveyor system, which transported the "green" bricks from the presses into the kilns. As a result of an influx of finished brick from England, the demand for common brick declined and so too did the demand for Shotts brick. The production of common brick at Northfield Brickwork slowly declined until its closure in the mid-1980s. The closure of the brickwork was a great loss to the workers, not only as a means of employment, but also the loss of friendships and social status associated with working within a local production environment. It was once said that ‘Shotts lit the world’ but it might also be said that ‘Shotts built the world’ through the production of a quality brick product.