Working conditions, wages and social activities – brick and tile manufacturing industry.

17/06/1820 – Caledonian Mercury – The brick s making business is now extremely flat. There are thirty-five brick manufactories within about it two miles of Glasgow, of these only 10 are working and twenty-four are totally idle. Every field is supposed to produce 500,000 bricks yearly, consequently, there has been a falling off of 12,000,000 in the demand this year. The former summers making used to be all sold off by this time, but there is still on hand an average surplus of 100,000 to each field, though the bricks have fallen from 30s to 25s a thousand. The workmen’s wages have also been reduced from 1s 3d a thousand to 10d, the rate at which the making was paid about 24 years ago …
29/04/1829 – The Scotsman – Bricks – Monday the manufacture of bricks for the season commenced at Glasgow. The moulders wages are 11d per 1000 – a penny higher than last year. Good old brick brings 25s per 1000.
Below  – 24/11/1830 – Glasgow Free Press – The brick-making season is now finished.  Owing to the variable weather, there was a great diminution of the usual make; and the number of tables were fewer than formerly.  This year they amounted to 20, and the average make of each was 4000,000.  The moulder was paid 9d per thousand; the rates of former years ran from 1s to 13d.  Public works have, during the year, required double the ordinary quantity of repairs, and other buildings have been going on very spiritedly; and the brick-layers are well employed at 2s 6d a day.  Bricks have advanced five shillings a thousand; the current rates are from 25s to 30s.  From the quantity of building in agitation, tradesmen and builders are anticipating that the spring trade will be more lively than for several years past …
25/11/1863 – The Scotsman – An article on the employment of women … He had seen in the fields work allotted to women by the men, coolly and deliberately, which ought not to be thrown upon women. And there were other departments of labour in which the same held true. He supposed that everyone who had looked at the operations of a brickfield must have been struck with this. The man stands on a platform of wood, high and dry, comparatively comfortable, and makes the bricks. While the poor women have to carry the clay to the kiln, generally in her arms, through all the manner of sludge and mud so that in the course of a day she is a moving mass of mud …
Below – 23/04/1864 – Glasgow Herald – The advantage of temperance V beer drinking by manual labourers including brick makers.
Below – 03/08/1867 – Glasgow Herald – Article regarding Scottish Trade Unions and a letter from John Hurll brickmaker which was presented by Mr Harrison – Please see link for the full article.
Mr Hurll also states that in 1867 Glasgow was producing around 3,000,000 fire bricks annually. 2,000,000 were being exported to Europe and 800,000 to Valparaiso (Chile) and the balance to the British Colonies with very little to the USA.
letter re brickmakers wages 1867
letter re brickmakers wages 1867.
01/07/1871 – Dundee Peoples Journal – Mr Mundella has brought in a Bill for the purpose of bringing under the operation of the Factory Act of 1864 persons employed in the manufacture of bricks and tiles, not being ornamental tiles. It proposes to prohibit the employment in such works of females and children under ten years of age and to allow the employment of males above the age of sixteen between March 31 and October 1 in any year, from six a.m (0600) to nine p.m (2100). on three days of the week, with an additional half-hour for meals on such days of extra employment. It is designed that the measure (in the event of its passing) shall come into operation on the Ist of January next.
11/07/1871 – Lords Debate -contains graphic descriptions of the conditions and practices of the brickworks at this time. Brickworks having been excluded from the earlier reforming Factory Acts.
… The average wages which a workman received in the brickyards were sufficient to maintain him and his family in decency and comfort if he was only steady and sober. But working men in these yards were in the habit of working only to a certain number of days in the week and spending Sunday in “fuddling.”

As a consequence, they were unfit to go to work on Monday, and very often they did not return to work on Tuesday, and even on Wednesday, there were many absentees.
The wretched children were constantly kept at such work as could be entrusted to them in the absence of the adults, and the men after returning to work in the middle of the week had to make up in the last three days for the time they had lost by drunkenness and this re-acted upon the children.

Below – 05/08/1871 – Fife Free Press – British slaves.  Lord Shaftesbury was in his right place the other evening when he stood up in the House of Lords to plead for thirty thousand English slaves. The present generation has almost forgotten the battles which were fought thirty years ago on behalf of the children of the manufacturing districts. The story of the miseries which were inflicted on them in the days when the iron wheels went onward “grinding their souls down in the dark,” and when the legislature was still doubtful of its right to interfere on their behalf, comes to us now like a tale of little meaning. When we hear how Gerald Massey in his infancy danced with joy when he saw the flames devouring the mill where his young body was bent to the rack of the loom, or when we read the pathetic cry which Mrs Browning sent up to heaven on behalf of the children, we are accustomed to think that these things belong to the past of English history and that the horrors which existed before the Factory Acts were passed are now as completely extinct as are the miseries of negro slavery in the United Stales. But sad the thought, it is not so, there being still more than thirty thousand young children daily undergoing hardships which are not less in severity than those the revelation of which roused the public to so fierce a heat of indignation more than thirty years ago. It is in one district of merry England—the boasted Land of freedom—that these thirty thousand young slaves are to found, namely, the Leicestershire brickfields. By some curious technical flaw in the Factory Acts, it would appear that the young persons engaged in the manufacture of bricks and drain-pipes have hitherto been excluded from the protection which those measures afford to most children employed in daily labour. How such an exception was ever made, it is not easy to understand. Certain it is that there are few industries in which the watchful eye of the Government Inspector seems to be more needed than in this. have stretched the rights of the legislature to the furthest extent in our endeavours to protect the young employed in workshops, mills, mines, and manufactories of all descriptions. It is only those very young children who have the misfortune to live among the brickfields who are still left without any protection whatever. The consequences of this legislative oversight have been truly deplorable. It seems that of the thirty thousand boys and girls of from three and a half to seventeen years of age, engaged in making bricks, the large majority are females. are not told how many of those are really under ten years of age, but the many statements of thoroughly impartial and unbiassed persons show that the number who have not reached even this tender age is very considerably. Whatever their age may be, however, these children are kept hard at work for from ten to sixteen hours a day for six days in the week. And what is their work? Mr Smith, of Coalville, who was himself employed as a child in the brickfields gives us the clearest indication of its nature when referring to his own case, he tells that at nine years of age his employment consisted in continually carrying about forty-pounds weight of clay upon his head from the clay heap to the tables which the bricks were made.  This labour had to be performed almost without intermission for thirteen hours-a-day. In one of the yards recently visited, many children of nine years of age were found who had to carry between forty and fifty pounds of wet clay in the same manner, and whose daily journeys under this intolerable load averaged twenty miles, and the neighbourhood of London have the testimony of the Bishop of London to the facts that infants —for can call them nothing else—of six and seven years of age have been kept this work for sixty hours per week. Let any of our readers, whose hearth is made happy the presence of young children, think of the tenderness, the weakness, the immature frame, the constant need of nourishment and care, which distinguish a child of nine years of age; and let him also ascertain for himself, by practical experiment, what 431b. weight actually is. He need do nothing more in order to convince himself of the unutterable cruelty of employing these young children to carry such a weight almost constantly upon their heads or in their arms, for ten, twelve, or fourteen hours during every working day in the year. Lamentable as the physical consequences of labour like this necessarily must be, they are, we need hardily say, surpassed by the moral evils resulting from it. The more than half-naked girls who, almost from the time when they are able to walk alone, are sent into the brickfields to spend their days, and frequently a great part of their nights also, with some of the roughest specimens of the other sex, suffer – just might expect them to suffer. They become degraded, and hardened, impure in speech, and indeed —in one word—savages. And whose is the fault it these tender, brickyard children are found in after-life preying upon society as thieves and prostitutes? Is there anyone who will lay the sole or the chief part of the blame upon these girls themselves! We can hardly conceive that stronger case for immediate legislative interference could have been made out, and are thankful to find that the Government is resolved to act at once, in order to mitigate, if it cannot altogether remove, the intolerable evils of which complaint has been made. We know but too well that there are many other social problems, connected with the fate of the young among us, pressing for solution. We have not yet settled the fate of our Ginx’s babies we are still busy with our high politics, our amusements, our political factions, while the broad river of sin and misery flows through our streets unchecked and almost unheeded. But the case of these brickfield children is an exceptional one. In this matter at least there are certain principles in which the nation has agreed, and immediately applied for a protection of those neglected little ones. The sooner they are applied the more it will be to our credit nation.

Below- 01/08/1906 – Kirkintilloch Herald – Messrs John G Stein & Co Ltd, brickmakers, Castlecary were in court for employing to women to work at 0300 in the morning when women were not permitted to start work until 0600.
Below – 12/07/1918 – Linlithgowshire Gazette – Brick and clay workers demands for a wage increase.
19/03/1937 – The Scotsman – Brickworkers wages dispute – There was a further development last night in connection wages dispute at Blantyre Ferme Brickworks. Officials of the Transport and General Workers Union met representatives of the brickworks employers on Wednesday and yesterday when a proposed agreement was drawn up. This introduced uniform rates of wages covering ten brickworks in Glasgow and Lanarkshire, on the understanding that where higher rates of wages are at present in operation these are to remain without being interfered with. The agreement provides for an increase in wages to a large number of workers, and it also provides for a further, conference between the employers and the officials of the Union in June. These proposals were put before a meeting last night of the brickworkers employed at Blantyre Ferme Brickworks and were unanimously rejected. Union officials advised the workers to remain at work pending negotiations, but they decided to stop work at once. The men demand an 8-hour shift on night-shift work, with an increase in wages.
19/10/1946 – The Scotsman – Building materials such as bricks, roofing slates and dinitro-ortho-cresol preparations cannot be exported from Britain on and after Monday next without a Board of Trade licence.
Below – 27/04/1946 – The Scotsman – Servicemen for brickworks.
Below – 29/10/1948 – Motherwell Times – On the spot welfare helps brickworkers. … Clay Works (Welfare) Special Regulations 1948 which came into operation on 01/10/1948 …
The relationship between employers and workers in Glenboig.
Who prospered from all the innovation and improvements to working practices in Glenboig Brickworks?  Not the workers themselves, although it could be argued that they were lucky to be in employment. Their work was hard, their houses were over-crowded and of a rudimentary standard which wouldn’t be tolerated today.  Their employer was also their landlord with all the insecurity of that situation, and many of them were Irish immigrants who had been forced to leave their homeland and their culture behind to find work and enough money to survive.  How did they fare in the hands of the Dunnachies and Hurlls?

Throughout most of the Glenboig Union Fireclay Company’s history, and certainly, in the era of the Dunnachies, the relations between employers and workers at Glenboig were said to be very much of the master-servant type, an attitude of benevolent despotism on the part of the management and of necessitous acceptance on the workers’ side. Born at Pollockshaws, son of a Renfrewshire bleacher, James Dunnachie came to Glenboig at the age of 28.  He was a striking figure, of greater than average height, with a reddish-brown flowing beard, and he always wore a Glengarry bonnet.  A drive-way ran from his house (Glenboig House), down through the works to Glenboig station, and each morning there was something of a ‘royal procession’ of one, with the 8.15am train unloading workers who touched their forelocks as he passed them by.

 Anecdotes exist of summary dismissals from job and house for non-compliance with a managerial order, or even for so simple a matter as requesting a pay increase. However, there is evidence to suggest some benevolence on the part of the Dunnachies in that both James and Thomas Dunnachie lived in the village, with Thomas lecturing at ambulance and other classes attended by the workmen, and both men being very active in the Temperance movement.
There are a good few occasions where Glenboig is mentioned in the Airdrie Advertiser.  Although the articles are obviously selective of what was deemed ‘newsworthy’, they do however paint the only picture we can have of what life may have been like at this time for the people of Glenboig as far as  ‘organised entertainment’ went.  It appears to have meant entertainment dominated by the influence of their employers.

Excursion of workmen  

An excursion of the workmen employed at the Glenboig Union Fire Clay Company Works, Glenboig and Cumbernauld, took place last Saturday under most favourable auspices, both as regards excellent weather and a good turnout of the workmen with their wives and families.  The party numbered over 400 including fifty of a contingent from Cumbernauld.  The place chosen to visit was Ayr, “The Land of Burns”.  Considerable interest was taken in the event, as the trip, last Saturday was the first that has taken place in connection with the works for the last twelve years. The committee that was appointed to make the arrangements wrought assiduously to make the trip a success.  They also received every encouragement from Mr James Dunnachie, managing partner of the firm, who gave a handsome donation that helped to reduce the price of the ticket, also silk material for a fine new flag which was painted in a fine new style by Mr Andrew Sneddon, painter of the works.  Previous to leaving in the morning, the excursionists, headed by the village brass band and the new flag, proceded to the residence of Mr James Dunnachie, when upon the motion of Mr James Jack, three hearty cheers were given to Mr Dunnachie for the interest he had taken in the trip.  The excursionists left Glenboig in a special train at 7.55 a.m.  The route taken was by Muirkirk, though much longer than the route by Paisley, the journey was very much enjoyed.  The fields from Muirkirk to Ayr were ripe with the golden grain, far in advance of anything in this quarter.  Ayr was reached at 10.50, where everyone took their several ways, some to the seashore, others drove to “the banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon”, and for the first time saw Burns’ Cottage, the Monument, the Auld Brig o’ Doon, Alloway’s Auld Haunted Kirk, and ‘the thorn abune the well where Mungo’s mither hang’d hersel’, alas but “nae man can tether time nor tide” the oor too soon approached when all had to wend their way to the station for the return journey, which was fixed at 5.55 p.m. Home was reached safely after nine o’clock, everybody being satisfied with the day’s outing, and hoping it will not be the last.  The behaviour of the excursionists was all that could be desired, very few having tasted too much of the ‘barley bree’.  Source: Airdrie Advertiser Sept. 1890

Worker earnings.

The company had formed a Workmen’s Compensation Fund of 10s per £100 of wages paid which equated to £125 per year in the Fund. However, there was some reluctance to dispense the fund.

The agreed expense for a fatal accident in 1884 was £50 plus funeral expenses, but a similar situation in 1885 was disposed of for only £10 plus expenses while the same meeting allocated £100 for a billiard room for James Dunnachie’s home.
If men wanted a wage rise a ‘deputation’ was sent to make the request, and the result depended on market forces.  The ‘master’ complex was in evidence in 1889 when there was a strike for a wage increase which was handled by James Dunnachie reporting to the Directors that ‘others had been employed and the matter was now finished’.  Despite the attitude of absolutism within management, there was some desire for amicable relations. In 1897 the men were given a holiday with pay for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
A Pay Book kept by James Dunnachie in 1876 (James Dunnachie & Company, Star Works) shows that there were deductions from the workers’ earnings for the doctor and the schoolmaster.  Many workers may have paid into this system of deductions if James Dunnachie brought it with him when he amalgamated with the Hurlls.  There was no Welfare State at that time, and it wasn’t until 1911 with the introduction of the National Insurance Act, and it’s setting up of workers’ contributions for unemployment and health benefits, that there was any vestige of real security for people.  Employees would have been entirely dependent on the benevolence of the Dunnachies, and they would always be mindful of how easily they could lose their jobs and consequently their homes.

The 1876 Pay Book shows that James Dunnachie employed 18 miners and 74 others including six women, fourteen boys and five tradesmen at The Star Works.  There would also be some ‘drawers’ or miners’ assistants who were not paid directly by the firm.  A Millman worked 137 hours for £2 3s 6d at a rate of 3s 2d over a two week period.  Another Millman worked 143 hours for £2 9s 6d.  A woman helped at the kilns for 1s 10d per day, working 132 hours for £1 4s 2d.  A boy brick carrier carried 25,950 bricks for 17s 4d, and the post-boy worked 90 hours for 9s 5d. Moulders, or brick-makers, were paid 2s 1d per thousand bricks and made, on average, about 2,000 bricks each per day.  Miners’ earnings were based on output and their earnings ranged from £3 9s 10d to £6 6s 4d for two weeks, less the cost of their own ‘drawers’.  By 1881 the workforce totalled 157 including 29 miners and 24 drawers. There is no record of James Dunnachie’s salary in 1876, but six years later, in 1882 when he had set up the Glenboig Union Fireclay Company with John Hurll and others, his salary was £600 per annum with a free house and fuel, plus £20,000 and 2d per ton royalties for three patents of his inventions which then became the property of the company.  In 1888 after the Hurlls left the Company and James Dunnachie assumed control, his salary rose to £800 per annum.

Wage reductions and strikes.

The years 1882-1895 saw the company struggling and wages were reduced in 1884, 1885 and 1892.  But the company came through it and were in a healthy condition by 1895.  They suffered a recession in 1901 partly due to the fact that there was a general recession in the country, but also as a result of a breakdown in labour relations.  In November 1900 the clay miners began a four day week instead of a six-day week when they were refused a 10s per week increase.  After four months they began a total strike, by which time 400 men had been laid off in the yards. James Dunnachie employed a professional strike breaker, Graham Hunter, to fill the mines with men.  The Directors were reluctant, but ‘friendly efforts with the men direct’ having failed, they brought in foreign workers, mainly Lithuanian, and the strike ended ten months after the original dispute, with victory for the management but at a considerable loss in productivity, revenue and wages, and a cleavage of the former pleasant terms between management and men.  We can only wonder at the hardship suffered by the workers during their strike for better pay, and how they must have struggled to feed and clothe themselves and their families.

There was further depressed trade in 1908 and 1909 when production was lost in the Star Works and also in the Old Works.  However, 1913 saw their order books full and this carried through to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.  In 1915 sales were slow and wages began to spiral upwards.  There was a shortage of labour due to recruitment for the armed forces and the Company resolved to ask the Government to exempt brick-workers since difficulty was being experienced in meeting urgent Government orders.  Increased mechanisation was seen to be one answer to the labour shortage, but wages continued to soar along with the overall cost of production. By 1917 a new aspect of labour relations appeared in Glenboig when the National Union of General Workers held a meeting in the Free Church Hall and enrolled all miners except two, and some yard hands.  Despite unionisation, 1917 was the best year ever experienced in the firm’s history which saw them making massive profits. Profits reached their highest ever peace-time figure by 1921.
Scottish employers council for the clay industries.
Objects: — To promote and further the interests of Employers engaged in the Clay Industries in Scotland by mutual support and co-operation, and to act as their representative in dealing with wages questions and other matters of importance affecting the Industries.
President, James Rule, Callendar Coal Co., Ltd., Falkirk.
Secretary, Robert Fleming, C. A. (Fleming & Wilson), 200 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow. Telephone, 2523 and 2524. Telegraphic Address, ” Scrutators.”

29/10/1948 – Motherwell Times  –  On the spot welfare helps brickworkers – Employees in brickworks in Lanarkshire and throughout the country have now been brought into line with workers in other industries in the provision of welfare facilities which include canteen or mess room accommodation at their places of employment. These welfare innovations have been granted to the brickworkers by The Clay Works (Welfare) Special Regulations 1948 which came into operation on 1st October.

The facilities which now become available to brickworkers are washing facilities with clean towels, protective clothing and adequate accommodation for this clothing, together with laundry and canteen or mess room accommodation, a shelter for kiln workers and an ambulance room with equipment and first aid requisites.

Interviewed by the ‘Times’ reporter Mr W Scholes, district organiser for the Transport and General Workers Union said that these revolutionary changes in welfare facilities in the clay industry though long overdue, were satisfactory to officials and employees and placed the latter on the same scale as other factory workers.  Greatest benefit in Scotland through the changes will be experienced in Lanarkshire and Fife where the largest number of brickworks are in operation. Lanarkshire clay industries where the new welfare facilities will be enjoyed are

Broomhouse Brickworks.

Blantyreferme Brickworks, Uddingston.

Fallside Brickworks, Tannochside.

Rosehall Brickworks.

Garrowhill Brickworks.

Airdrie Brickworks.

Stippends (Stepends)  Brickworks.

Chapelhall Brickworks.

Whistleberry Brickworks, Blantyre.

Hamilton Brickworks.

Birkenshaw Brickworks.

Auchenheath Brickworks.

Mayfield Brickworks.

Holytown Brickworks.

Auchenlea Brickworks. (Auchinlea?)

17/11/1951 – Falkirk Herald – Clay Miners required. Wages for 5 3/4 days – £7 13s. This can be further increased by piece work. 12 days paid holidays per year at 27s per day. Experience not necessary. Hostel accommodation is available. Apply Manager, John G Stein & Co Ltd, Manuel Mine nr Linlithgow.

15/10/1952 – British Clayworker Magazine – Incentives for Bricklayers. For the first time since before the war, bricklayers on a Glasgow housing scheme have laid more than 800 bricks a day-the figure shot up by more than 58 per cent. In the first week of a new incentives plan.  The basis is that men are paid a bonus of about 5s. per hundred for bricks laid in the excess of the target of 480 a day.
Different rates operate for different types of building.  The average number of bricks laid by bricklayers at Glasgow housing schemes since the war has been slightly more than 450.  In the first week of the incentives experiment the bricklayers averaged 820 a day.  In the second week the figure dropped to about 700, but last week the figure had gone up again, to about 740.

Below – 24/07/1961 – The Glasgow Herald  – Truck Acts
Garnkirk Company Store
Below – Written by Eric Flack and reproduced by kind permission.

Reporting on an inquiry into the Truck system in the Scotsman of 5th Sept 1870. David Cumming the storekeeper at Garscadden Village stated  “I don’t know of any (workers) book having been stopped during the two and a half years I have been a storekeeper. Fully the half of our trade comes from outside. The advance men are expected to come to the store, but no compulsion is used to carry out the system.”

David Anderson, Merry and Cunninghams local manager at Garscadden states “ No books have been stopped at Garscadden for the last five years, so far as I am aware.

I have no commission, but I get a 5 per cent discount when I pay my account half-yearly.

It is evident the men understood they were to go to the store because they did go regularly. I never undeceived them. The men gradually ceased to go to the store as the pressure upon them relaxed – in fact, the less the men were prepared to go to the store, the less they went. In the pay clerk’s office, there was no means of checking the men who “sloped” the store. I don’t think many of the pay-men go to the store. They get credit in the village.”


Master and Servant Act – ‘required the obedience and loyalty from servants to their contracted employer, with infringements of the contract punishable before a court of law’.

In 1844, an attempt was made to further extend (and clarify) the 1823 Master and Servant Act. The proposed reform would have made workers paid by the piece (hourly paid) subject to the Master and Servant Act, regardless of their trade.

This may account for such articles appearing frequently in the press at the time.

Adverts such as this would have formalised and publicised that a contract between the named individual and the named employer was in existence and thus making it ‘easier’ to prosecute for a breach of contract.



Thanks to Chiz Harvard for the following information he unearthed.

…. A Proclamation by Charles 1 in 1625 on London brickmaking … ‘The earth to be dug between the feast of St Michael the Archangel and St Thomas the Apostle. Second digging or turning up before the last day of February, then following. No digging or brick to be made within one mile of city gates or one mile of the Palace of Westminster. Moulding only to be done between the feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the last day of August’ …


These echo an earlier statute of Edward 4 in 1477 on tiles which referred to ‘great damage’ being done by making tiles out of season …’the Earth shall be digged and cast up before the first day of November next before that they shall be made and that the same Earth be stirred and turned before the First Day of February then next the following the same digging and casting up and not wrought before the First Day of March next following’ … It also specified sizes for tiles (as did Charles 1’s statute).


There is a Charter for tilers and bricklayers in London in 1567, but Lloyd doesn’t mention set sizes for bricks and tiles …


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