A bit of Rural Life Museum: Brick and Tile Making

Humber Museums Partnership - A bit of Rural Life Museum: Brick and Tile Making

About the project

In my previous post I wrote about some of the plans to improve the Rural Life Museum. I have been working on improving the object handlists. I am making them shorter by focussing on a smaller number of highlighted objects in each display. This seems like a good way of having a more detailed look at the displays and learning more about the objects.

One of the displays that I never really warmed to is the brick and tile display. It feels a bit messy. Though a brick and tile yard would not have been clean, I do not think it would have been messy! This is not a display to recreate a yard, but it is possible to slightly recreate the feel of one.

Before I started sorting it. Very busy and not very organised.

I started to dismantle the display brick by brick (and tile by tile!). I inspect each object for an accession number or other clues. This can sometimes lead me to more information. Unfortunately, sometimes this information is minimal. It has happened several times now that all the collections database can tell me about a brick, is that it indeed is a brick. Sometimes it gives me a bit more than that by naming a specific kind of brick, like a double bullnose brick or a facing brick.

A double bullnose brick can be used on the top of freestanding wall.

A facing brick is used on facades, the front of a building.

Other information that has been revealed to me is that a tile was made by a specific yard or that a brick was part of a North Lincolnshire building. For example: we have a small collection of bricks that came from Old Hall Farm of Winterton. A building that was sadly demolished c1972-1979. The Old Hall once stood along Park Lane and was built in the 17th century.

Three bricks from Old Hall Farm at Winterton.

Old Hall Farm at Winterton, c1930.

Some objects will not make it into the renewed display, like an unaccessioned roof tile from Marseille, France. I have a brick that was found near Tattershall College and a brick from a cottage in Nottinghamshire. Interesting, but not for our collection. Something a bit different is a handmade clay object. I think it might be an iron stand, inscribed with lovely handwriting. It was a present to Jane Louise Lincoln. Made by John Andrew Marmay (?) on the 18th July ’46. And this unfortunately is one of those objects that is not on the database, so we do not have any extra information on it. Who were these people? Did they live in North Lincolnshire? What happened to them? All the questions to which we will most likely not get an answer. So, I just imagine the answer, a love story of course!

The iron stand made for Jane Louise Lincoln.

In our collection we have locally made bricks and tiles. The clay from the river Humber is very good for tile and brick making. Over the years there have been many of these yards along the banks of river. But there were also yards along the Trent and the Ancholme.

The stars on the map indicate where brick and tile yards were located (They are not on the exact location of the yard)

What has become of the North Lincolnshire brick and tile industry?

Some of these brick yards have left their impression on the landscape. Where the clay was extracted ponds were formed. Like the brick yard at Burton upon Stather, once owned by J. Frank & Sons. Here the old brick ponds are now a fishing lake. The lakes at Far Ings and Waters Edge Nature Reserves at Barton upon Humber are also reminders of the brick and tile industry.

William Blyth Tile Works in Barton-upon-Humber is still going strong. The tile yard was opened by William Blyth in 1840. Besides handmade roof and floor tiles, they also produce garden pots. Which can be seen and bought at their site at the Old Tile Works.

J. Frank & Son brick yard at Burton upon Stather, 1926.

The renewed display

At the time of writing this blog, the display is still not finished. I have sorted most of the loose bricks and tiles. They are sorted into a basic yes and no section. After this I will start on the tools. It will be quite difficult to choose only 5 objects to highlight for the handlist.

One day when the Rural Life Museum is back open to the public, you can come and see the result of this re-display.

Sorting the objects, using the bar in the pub display.

Work in progress, but the display is looking a lot less cluttered already.