I come from a long line of bricksetters or bricklayers as some term these talented men. The man standing on the scaffolding in the picture on the right with white gloves is my grandfather, Robert Holland. The dude with no shirt on is my father. (inserts blush) My grandfather was a bricklayer, and I’m pretty sure each of his four male sons knew how to lay bricks, though they didn’t keep the profession for the long term.
My grandfather’s father, Robert Holland, was also a bricklayer. His father Thomas Holland was a bricklayer (my second great grandfather); and, of course, his father, Henry Holland was a bricklayer. Henry Holland’s sons, Henry and Robert were also bricklayers, and they had sons who were bricklayers. I think that about builds the family tree with bricks.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, I know nothing about bricklaying. However, writing this series has thrown me into the mix of the mortar, and I’m learning not only how to put a brick on top of another brick but that I’m only getting paid 30 shillings for working 54-1/2 hours a week! Geesh, where’s the neighborhood pub?
While writing and researching my little heart out, I’m also learning the history of Manchester and the unions that my family members joined. Surprising, there is an abundance of studies done in the mid-Victorian era about trades that are filled with a wealth of interesting tidbits. The writer geek in me squeals when I find something.
The first time I went to Manchester, I got off the train, stepped outside, and my senses were assaulted by a city of bricks. I took the picture above outside the Picadilly train station, and couldn’t help but wonder how many of my ancestors had a hand on one of those buildings. I have actually found some locations my second great uncle’s company worked on so these creations are still standing.
I’ll try not to bore you to death about brickmaking in the Leighton Family Saga. Nevertheless, book one needs to build that foundation for their livelihood from rags to riches. What may shock you, and I’ll post it in the future, is the violence that the union perpetrated in Manchester to protect the trade in the 1860’s and decades afterward. It’s an eye-opening look into a city filled with cotton mills, industry, terrible poverty among the lower class, and people building buildings with bricks. Think Mr. Thornton and North & South if you’re into period drama and Richard Armitage. You may get a taste of how it began for my family in, “Toil Under the Sun.”
Stay tuned as I keep writing and blogging. I tell myself that my success will be built one brick at a time. Sounds good to me.