The Brick and Tile Story in Barton

Brick and Tile Making History

A kiln and chimneys at Hoe Hill tile yard.

Bricks and tiles have been made along the Humber banks at Barton upon Humber for many years. In 1826 there were 4 makers of bricks and tiles. By 1842 this had increased to 5 and by 1851 it had grown so much that there were 78 men and boys working full time in the industry.  of course the end of Brick Tax in 1850 would have increased the demand greatly.  By 1892 there were 13 brick and tile manufacturers along the riverbank. From west to east these were Ness End Brick and Tile Yard, West Field Brick Works, Humber Brick and Tile Works, Barton Tileries, Morris's Yard, Dinsdale-Ellis-Wilson Yard, Garside's Yard, Blyth's Ings Yard, Burton's Yard, Mackrill's (Briggs) Yard, Pioneer Yard, Hoe Hill Yard and Spencer's Yard.  When tile and brick making was at its peak clay was dug in the winter when it was wet and tiles were made in the spring (after the last frost) and summer.  Any frost damaged tiles were re-used to make bricks. It was around this time (late 17th and the 18th century) that the old mud and stud with thatched roofing buildings were being replaced with new brick and tile roofing buildings in Barton, leading in part to the explosion in brick and tile making along the Humber bank.

An advertisement for J. W. & R. Briggs Bricks from Kelly's 1889 Lincolnshire directory.

The coal was brought in by a sloop, a type of boat, and the finished bricks and tiles were removed the same way to be distributed around the country and world.  A sloop could carry 30,000 or more bricks/tiles at 3 ton/1000 or 90 tons of coal.  The industry went into decline between 1896 and 1936, choosing to stick with the traditional method of production.  The number of yards fell by 64% in this time.  Concrete tiles were introduced in the 1950's which again eroded the popularity of clay tiles.

The amount of clay needed to produce 1 million tiles was an area of about 45 yards * 45 yards * 2 yards deep. Lime is added to the clay when it is soft to stiffen it up. Clay varied in texture, some was mainly silt and some was more plastic. Different clay meant a different tile making approach.  Later in the 19th century brick and tile machines were available which could make 10000 bricks a day, making production even faster and more productive.

An advertisement for Economic Brick & Tile Machines from Kelly's 1889 Lincolnshire Directory.

There is only one tile yard still working in Barton today, Blyth's at Hoe Hill.  Blyth's 'Barco' tiles and ridges can be found on many buildings in the U.K. and even as far away as Belguim, Japan and Austrailia, to name but a few.

Types of Kilns

There have been numerous different kilns used on the Humber bank. The main ones were :-

Tile cooling shed
Inside a drying shed.

Open Top Kilns
The site of the kiln had all grass and soil removed to leave a hard clay base. It was then measured out to the correct width for the fireholes (usually 10).  Each firehole could produce temperatures of 1000 degrees celsius.  The bricks of the kiln were laid on the ground without foundations.  The corners were built first, then the outside walls and finally the inside wall. When the building was finished the fireholes were lined with firebricks. When the Burner decided the contents were properly burnt the fireholes were extinguished with pug, which was a mixture of silt (warp) and sand. The silt was collected after each tide. Pug was also used in building the kilns.  The kilns were almost always burnt from Monday to Friday.  On Saturdays the Burner (usually the Foreman) would prepare the new fires ready for Monday.  The kiln was allowed to cool for some time to prevent damage to the wares.

Downdraught Kiln
Another kiln at Hoe Hill

Arch/Updraught Kilns
These appeared about four years after the open top kilns. These were similar in design and running as the open top kilns but had two extra fireholes. They were wider at the base with the outside wall sloping inwards towards the top but the inside wall would be vertical. The burning cycle of these kilns were much the same as the open top kilns.

Downdraught Kilns
In the downdraught kiln, instead of the heat being pulled upwards as in the open top kilns and the updraught kilns, it is directed upwards into the domed roof by the bagwall. The fire from the fireholes had to be directed into the domed roof to allow the flues to pull the fire down through the wares set in the kiln with help from an outside chimney.  Downdraught kilns did not need the large amount of unwanted bricks to fill out the bottom and were cheaper to built because they were not as high as previous kilns.

Other Types of Kilns
Other types of kilns that have been used along the banks of the Humber are the large Hoffman Continuous Kilns, the Pork Pie kiln (named due to its shape - with a large diameter, high and narrowing at the top), and an Alder kiln (a German type with an arched top, flues down the middle and a chimney at the far end)


William Blyth - Hoe Hill and Ings Tile Yard

WM Blyth was established in 1840 but tile and brick making has been in production along the Humber bank before this time. However William Blyth Tileries still make tiles in the traditional way. No toxic chemicals are used whatsoever. It was owned by the same family for 150 years. It produces hand made single lap tiles, plain tiles and fittings. The age old method of producing tiles gives them long life expectancy and the edge when blending in tiles with either old or new buildings. For more information contact : Hoe Hill, Barton upon Humber, North Lincolnshire, DN18 5RB or telephone (+44) 01652 632175, (+44) 01652 660966 (fax).

Hoe Hill tile yard

Tile Yard Related Stories

Read "A Trip to a Coalpit" written by Charles Watkinson here.
Read "How Barton Exported to Tokyo - and Oz" written by Charles Watkinson here.
The memories of tile making by Charles Watkinson of Barton upon Humber captured by

Further reading: There is a 108 page document entitled "The Barton Area Brick and Tile Industry" available from The Ropewalk or the Visitor Centre at the Humber Bridge viewing area priced 5.00. In this you can find much more about the brick and tile industry in Barton.  Also The Later History of Barton-on-Humber: Part Eight - Bricks, Tiles and Bicycles in Barton before 1900.

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