Chorleywood Magazine Bovingdon Brickworks Video
There has been a brickworks in Bovingdon since 1880, constructed on the site because of the natural abundance of soft clay in the area. Originally one of many around, it is now the last traditional brickworks in Herts. The clay is still in ample supply and dug daily then transported in trucks from one side of the road to the other where it is formed in moulds by hand or machine ready to be dried for 3/6 days in heated drying sheds then fired in kilns for another 2/3 days at 1000 degrees C.
“BB use traditional Scotch kilns with fire holes at the side” adds MD Graham Irving, “There are no stains or colourings used to achieve the brick tones, the final colour depends on where the bricks are stacked in the kiln, the ones in the centre and the top where it’s hottest get darker than those on the edges. They are all rich tones but vary considerably in colour ranging from orange through red and purple to a dappled greyish finish.
The colour can also depend on the way the wind is blowing, although we have more control now with natural gas and oil fuelled kilns rather than wood which used to be used in the kilns.
Once the bricks are fired they are stacked by hand then painstakingly sorted into similar colours. It’s a skill taught to newbies by longer standing employees, led by Graham Snowdon, aka Snowy who has worked at Bovingdon for 35 years and whose eye for colour sorting is second to none.
As well as turning out 100,000 machine made (Berry) facing bricks a week, moulded handmade bricks are thrown by eight craftsmen who can make around 1000 a day (or 576 bigger shaped specials made by Bill.)
The multi-coloured characterful handmades blend well with old bricks, making them ideal for restoration work and Bovingdon Bricks can be found in British institutions like the Tower of London and Hampton Court.
BB pride themselves in being a niche business.“ We offer something more unique and mostly sell to builders, architects and clients working on self build projects. The hand making gives the flexibility to offer a bespoke service making non-standard shapes and sizes.”
Mick Andrews of Chorleywood Builders can’t rate Bovingdon Bricks highly enough. “Their expertise is second to none and the quality excellent. They understand the building industry and what we require and are specialists in period properties and listed buildings with extensive knowledge of traditional brick patterns and arch construction – we get all our arches cut by them. Their whole attitude is brilliant too, they are relaxed but know their job.”
Architect Tony Mealing who designed the barn at Micklefield Hall favours Bovingdon Bricks for many of his projects. “We used imperial sized handmade bricks from Bovingdon Bricks to construct a brick plinth in the Micklefield restoration, all laid in traditional lime mortar and mixed with original salvaged bricks.The company is acknowledged nationwide for their quality handmade bricks. They use a similar clay to that cut into in Roman times and the bricks have a stunning characteristic red glow when the sun sets.”
The brick character is also a result of the cracks, creases and folds that evolve when the brick forms,
“ Bricks are not happy unless they are laid frog (indentation) up” smiles Graham, “The frog holds the mortar and increases the surface area that is bonded and maximizes the strength of the wall. You can see the clay naturally forms folds in slight upward curves. If bricks are laid the correct way the ripples resemble a smiling mouth.. making them very happy bricks!”
Happy bricks from the happy brickworks – doing a grand job of keeping our country’s buildings solid and in character.
Bovingdon Brickworks Ltd, Ley Hill Road, Bovingdon, HP3 0NW Tel: 01442 833176 www.Bovingdonbricks.co.uk