Tag: Brickmaking

Patented Brickmaking Machines  

The fear of men losing their jobs because of automation has continued since the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Even in our lifetime, robotic counterparts are replacing human workers and jobs are being lost.

Can you imagine the fear this must have instilled in the man of 1860 who made his life hand-molding bricks?  An inventor comes along and makes this huge monster machine that threatens his usefulness and income as a laborer in Victorian England.  No wonder he hates it — no wonder he wants it destroyed.

Progress, however, continues whether humans like it or not, and such was the case during these turbulent years when the union fought against industrialization in brickmaking.  Attacks were regularly made on master brickmakers who purchased these devices.  Owning one meant it took jobs away from other able-bodied men who once worked in the clay fields and hand-molded bricks like craftsmen. There were various patented machines from different inventors introduced throughout the years as early as 1859 and many newer versions introduced in the subsequent decades.

Owning one of these contraptions is a point of contention in Toil Under the Sun.   In 1865, the Manchester Bricklayer’s Union would not allow machine-made bricks to be used in the district.  It wasn’t until many years later that they changed the ruling, but even afterward there were instances where union members would attack businesses and attempt to destroy the machines out of anger.

How many more jobs will be lost in the decades ahead from machines being invented to take our place?  I dare say many more, which will have the same effect on the human counterpart–loss of income and a sense of uselessness.  Like the brickmakers of the past, workers learn to adapt or starve.  Sometimes it’s a hard lesson.

From: The Mechanics’ Magazine: Journal of  Engineering, Agricultural Machinery, Manufactures, and Shipbuilding, Vol. 2, No. 50, Dec. 9, 1859.  Source: Clayton’s Patent Brickmaking Machine (Thanks to the Brickfrog Blog for posting this article information. https://brickfrog.wordpress.com/)  Excerpt below:

The Production of solid bricks has of late received much of the attention of engineers and architects, with a view of their being produced more economically, of a better quality, and with greater facility, than by the time-honored means known as “hand-moulding;” and although many mechanical contrivances for making bricks have been introduced, not one has realised the requirement practically, or been considered worthy of adoption, until Mr. Henry Clayton, of the Atlas Works, London, produced and patented his brickmaking machine. On an average 20,000 to 25,000 good bricks are made daily by each of Clayton’s large machines with the attention of two men and four boys.

Your latest historical tidbit!

Pass Me the Mortar

img029I 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?

London 027

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.



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