Previously shown on site as: ‘Ceramic Workshop’ we are now aware that it could not be the Loftus brickworks (where bricks were made from about 1830 to 1870s’) it is believed to be the workshops of the brick works at Commondale. In 1861, a Stokesley printer called John Pratt who owned land around the Commondale area did just that and set up his Cleveland Fire and Brick Company. The short-lived Commondale Pottery was set up by John Crossley, a retailer of building products from Stockton-on-Tees, on the site of a former brickworks which Crossley had acquired in 1872. The manufacture of art and domestic pottery was begun in April 1880, as an addition to the manufacture of bricks, tiles and pipes. The Commondale Pottery produced a wide range of domestic wares in both red and buff terracotta, some with elaborate painted and glazed decoration. After a short cessation in production and trading. The Commondale Brick & Pipe Works traded again from the late 1880s or early 1890s until 1947, when it closed. The brickworks site is now occupied by a Cleveland Scout campsite.
Image courtesy of the Pem Holliday Collection.



But which brickworks, was it Loftus?  Following a comment from Tony Lynn this is now believed to be a pre-cast concrete works, but where? We are also told by Eric Johnson of a Thomas Eaton who in 1891 was a manufacturer of tiles and bricks in Loftus, but obviously on a smaller scale than shown in this image. The search continues.  

(photo courtesy of Neil Suckling, thanks to Tony Lynn  and Eric Jonson for the update.)

Brick Wheel – Skinningrove Iron & Steel Works

Brick Wheel - Skinningrove Iron & Steel Works

Taken in 1933 this shows the brick wheel and the work force on the steel works.

The purpose of the brick wheel was to make bricks from molten blast furnace slag, many of these bricks can be found in most back alleys. Eic Jonson supplies the following brief description of brickmaking: ”the slag was brought from the furnaces in slag ladles adapted with a tap hole. a chute was placed between this and led down to the wheel moulds. the making of slag bricks was a very labour intensive operation, once started was continuous, hard hot work. the wheel was a steel circular construction, with the steel moulds round the perimeter they had a hinged bottom held with a catch. this can be all be seen in the photo. the wheel was driven by a geared electric motor with hand operated backup. as the slag ran down the chute into the moulds, the wheel rotated, the filled moulds cooled down and at a point near the kilns, the catch was struck the hinged bottom opened the hot brick fell to the ground. It was picked up with the large “gripes”. some of the men can be seen holding in photo, carried to the kilns and stacked inside, when full the kiln was closed. as the kiln was already hot from the previous batch the working conditions for the men can be imagined.”

Second man front right is Harry Dack from Carlin How anyone know any more of the men here?

(photo courtesy of Derick Pearson and updates from Robert Proctor and Eric Johnson)

Ceramic Workshop

This looks like a photograph of a finishing shop – a place where clay or ceramic objects are cleaned up and checked for defects.  I could suggest a date of 1903 – judging by the plaque being held to view at the nearest workbench, but that could be a red herring! We have said clay or ceramic because most of the objects in the image look like ceramic pipework, chimney pots and urns. The reason it looks rather gloomy is that it was shot in natural light – no flash. Behind the little table in the foreground can be seen some small moulds; like boxes in two halves. We have been told by Gavin Purdon: “The 1903 plaque with a letter N on its shield shown in this photograph can be seen today in Commondale village mounted on the gable end of Ness Terrace nearest to Commondale railway station. This would suggest the photograph has a strong connection with Commondale Brick Pipe & Tile Works.”

Many thanks to Gavin Purdon for that update.