Wherstead Red bricks / Brickyards in Ipswich
"The sites not only made bricks. They also made roof tiles, chimney and flower pots."
Wherstead Brickyard,
'The Potteries',
Brickmakers Wood,
The Grove
The Dales
Bloomfield Street
Howard Street
The Valley
Suffolk Road
Broom Hill
Over Stoke Brickyard

Wherstead Brickyard
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wherstead red 42014 image
Des Pawson, who ran his Museum of Knots & Sailors Ropework (see Links) from 501 Wherstead Road in Ipswich, sent this intriguing piece of lettering, impressed into the 'frog' of a red house brick. He writes: "Here is a piece of lettering that will be hidden in the older buildings of Wherstead Road. Wherstead Reds, were bricks made at the brickyard which operated [half-way between Bourne Hill – now blocked at the top, because of the A14 – and The Strand by the river*]. Our house, built 1924, used Wherstead Reds throughout. It is a nice thought that one's house is built from the local earth...

[*Information in square brackets is an update after consulting the Suffolk Heritage Explorer website (see Links).]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wherstead red 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wherstead red 2
... For good measure the name of our house from the same year in stained glass over the front door." (Des also points out the all-important full stop in the leaded light sign.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Wherstead red 3Photographs courtesy Des Pawson
The brick itself definitely does not looks as if it has been turned out by the million in a factory. It may not be particularly ‘public’ (even though, as a piece of lettering, it surrounds many local people in their homes), but it’s certainly historic lettering. It's a little like one of those conceptual puzzles: you know it's there a thousand times over, but is completely invisible, unless you have one or two spares, like Des. Our thanks to him.
More from
Suffolk Heritage Explorer: 'Brick Yard' shown on OS 1" map of 1838. Operated by Clifford Theobald in 1909; W Meadowcroft in 1910; William George Gardiner from 1912-1925; Albert Abbot from 1926-1930 and Herbert Abbot from 1931-1943.
Note: our page about Bourne Park and the section about Stoke Park Mansion which shows a map from the early 1930s locates another (perhaps related) 'Brick Yard' south-east of the parkland (part of which is now Bourne Park) and next to the railway.

English brickmaking
“It is generally accepted that the English lost the art of brickmaking after the Romans left and the Dark and Middle Ages were characterised by other materials as well as some re-use of Roman brick. Brickmaking continued on the continent and with the proximity of East Anglia to the continent it is always possible that bricks were imported, notably from Flanders. Some of the earliest English-made bricks can be found at Little Wenham Hall c.1270.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Suffolk and Norfolk were the most prosperous industrial counties in Britain. Wealth poured into Suffolk, first  from wool and then from cloth. Suffolk has no building stone but until Tudor times was rich in oak forests. Thus the need for bricks was driven by a lack of other materials and the wealth to afford them.
As well as the familiar red bricks, the heyday of white bricks was the C19th century, when an important centre of production was Woolpit; a great many can be seen in the Ipswich neighbourhood.
By the middle of the nineteenth century the brickmaking industry in Suffolk had achieved a more than local significance, because with the advantage of convenient water transport and later by making use of the railways, some of the County’s larger brickmaking concerns played a large part in supplying the needs of builders outside the region.
Brickworks made good use of the railways… the Grove Brickworks at Ipswich and Dukes Brickworks from a line at Westerfield (Dukes was in production until 1959).  Valley Brickworks in Foxhall Road (later Celestion and Bull Motors, now residential) also had sidings of its own.” [Information extracted from Suffolk Pevsner website; see Links.]

In the 19th century many more Ipswich brickyards are recorded:-
1. 'The Potteries' at the eastern end of Rope Walk.
2. Trinity Brickworks (named after the nearby Holy Trinity Church) was situated between Fore and Back Hamlets; its claypit was later the site of Ransome's wartime aircraft works, 'the White City'. See our Plough Street page for a 1902 map of this brickyard and the surrounding area.
3. A brickyard where Myrtle Road is now.
4. A brickyard in The Grove off Henley Road.
5. Bolton's Brickyard in The Dales was one of the biggest in Ipswich.
6. Orwell Brickyard on Hog Highland, between the east bank of the Orwell and Sandy Hill Lane ('The Lairs') in the area now called Greenwich.
7. A brickyard in California, situated close to Bloomfield Street.
8. A brickyard between Woodbridge Road and Spring Road, near Howard Street.
9. Valley Brickworks in Foxhall Road, opposite Henslow Road.
A brickyard is marked in Suffolk Road, off Cemetery Road.
11. The Broom Hill brickyard east of the Norwich Road.
12. Another yard existed, accessed via a lane beside the Maypole public house on the old Norwich Road (an area also, confusingly, called 'The Lairs').
In Over Stoke there was a brickyard abutting Rectory Road on the site of the later Hartley Street (which still exists). It is shown on the 1867 map detail on our Stoke Hall page. A nearby modern housing development called Brickfield Close (off old Wherstead Road) must be a reference to this.
14. Wherstead brickyard (see top of page), on a site between Bourne Hill and The Strand.

Brickyards in Ipswich (we'll add more detail about further brickyards when they become available)
1. 'The Potteries'Ipswich Historic Lettering: brickyard map 1610
"The largest number of [Anglo-Saxon] kiln sites [producing Ipswich Ware] has been found just inside the eastern section of the late Saxon rampart and ditch which ran down what is now Upper Orwell Street. From there, outside the rampart and across what was open countryside a lane, later called Rope Lane or Potter's Lane, lead towards St Helen's parish where the ground rises steeply – a scarp in fact which forms today the boundary between the site of Suffolk College and Alexandra Park, a public recreation ground. At the base of this scarp, during the 1980s, site clearance in preparation for the building of a new Art School for the College took place, and large drills probed deep down into the subsoil. What the core of these drills brought up was quantities of pure white clay. In 1850, John Glyde, the Ipswich antiquarian and historian, had stated that beneath as he called it the 'St Helen's pottery ground' the stratum of clay was thirty feet thick. It is very likely that here was the source of raw material for the making of Ipswich Ware in the Saxon town. The scarp itself may therefore be man-made not natural, the result of centuries of use in this way. On his pictorial map of 1610 John Speed has drawn, on the ground in this location, a number of small mounds which could arguably represent spoil heaps, and in 1674, some thousand years after Ipswich Ware was first made, John Ogilby's plan shows at that exact point two fields marked 'Pasture'. In one he has added  'Claypitt for Brick and tyle' and in the other marked the site of a large 'Clay pitt'. Joseph Pennington's map of 1778 similarly picks out a clay pit, on 'Brick Kiln Yard', slightly to the north of Ogilby's location which is logical assuming that extraction would have shifted across the open site. A plan of 1803 of an adjacent property to that same site names it 'Mr Gooding's Pottery', and the Tithe map of St Helen's in 1884 confirms the position of the 'Pottery Ground' and its associated workshops."
Frank Grace: Rags and bones (see Reading list).

The London clay found in the Ipswich area makes excellent bricks for building. In 1589 the late Henry Wiseman was described as 'a brickstriker' denoting the action of cutting off, or striking off, of the excess clay from the top of a brick mould. Among his effects were burnt and unburnt bricks and paving bricks with logs, brushwood and whins (gorse), presumably for kiln-firing. Perhaps Wiseman had been working the brickyard in east Ipswich shown on Ogilby's 17th century map as 'Claypitt for Brick & tyle' (see detail below).  William Robinson in 1771 advertised 'Pots for the Cure of Smokey Chimneys, adapted for 9 to 12 and 14-inch Funnels, as good as any in London; also fine Rubbing Bricks and black Cornice, red Pantiles and glazed ditto, and all sorts of Bricks
and Tyles'.  'Rubbers',  despite the same name as erasers, were actually fine-textured bricks which could be rubbed and shaped into decorative features which would have been difficult to achieve using a mould. See the Ipswich coat of arms on Gatacre School as an example. (Information from Malster, R.: History of Ipswich.)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rope Walk brickyard mapDetail of Ogilby's map 1674
Our Ropewalks page contains a larger detail of this area from the 1674 map. Working south from the Church of St Helen (upper section), we cross St Helens Street (then called 'Great Wash Lane' to the west and 'The Road to Woodbridge' to the east) past the houses and yards lining the street, through some orchards and thence to 'Claypitt for Brick & tyle'. It is notable that 'Rope Lane' (today's Rope Walk) disappears off to the west, with 'Rope yards' below it. So, two of the oldest manufactories (rope-making and pottery) operated side-by side. Clearly it made good sense to build your kilns close to the place the clay was dug.

The  comparative map details shown below from Ogilby (1674), Pennington (1778), White (1867) and from the 1902 map show the area of land south of St Helen Church in St Helens Street.
Each map is bracketed by the curve of St Helens Street at the top and the roads at the bottom.
1674 map. The short lane to the south-west of the church is identified as today's Dove Street with its junction with Rope Lane (today's Rope Walk). The rise in the land to the east is indicated by the image of a windmill atop a hill. Note also that St Helens Street is labelled 'The Road to Woodbridge' and Back Hamlet to the south is 'The way to Brightwell'.
The 1674 
'Claypitt for Brick & tyle' close to and south-east of this junction, along with the oval 'Clay pit' in one of the pastures below it, indicates the site of the earlier workings.
1778 map. Formal gardens and orchards are more prominent with 'Long Lane' (today's Long Street) delineating the line of the boundary to the west of the 'Brick Kiln Yard'. The contour of the escarpment of the future Brickmakers Wood is delineated to the east of the site.  St Helens Street is 'St Helen's Wash' (due to the water flows from the springs at Cauldwell Hall; Back Hamlet is 'Wyke's Ufford Hamlet' (see our St Clement Church page for an explanation).
1867 map. The density of streets and housing of 'The Potteries' area now hem in 'St Helen's Pottery'. Woodhouse, Regent, Mount, Alfred, Arthur and Hill Streets all encroach on the former Brick Kiln Yard and the workings have moved south with a very noticeable contour of the clay-digging cliff. The tree-lined Hill House Estate and home of the Byles family, who owned the park for more than 100 years, is visible to the east.
1902 map. As the centuries pass the brickyard moves further south until, on the 1902 map, we see it close to the St Clement Congregational Church (the legend reads 'Cong. Chap.') with two kilns and other features shown. The northern sites, orchards and fields have been heavily built on by this time, often with low-grade housing with poor or no sanitation.
The area to the east owned by the Byles family of Hill House became Alexandra Park 1903-5. The 'cliff' of Brickmakers Wood, rising from the lower lying yard, has been gradually created by the digging of clay.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rope Walk brickyard maps
We can insert a map into this sequence published 1883-4 (containing data collected 1881) which shows the area clearly labelled (captions here enlarged and in red): 'Old Pottery' and 'Brick & Tile Works'. Other features in red are those which still exist after the clearances of the slum housing in The Potteries: Milner Street at top right (which today has Kings Avenue at a right angle leading east), Back Hamlet at bottom right and Holy Trinity Church nearby. The two tiny specks of red above the caption 'Brick & Tile Works' each denote a 'Kiln'. Alexandra Park has yet to be created by the Borough and parkland of Hill House is at right with contour lines showing the steep scarp which at this time was still being dug for clay. At bottom right are the gardens of  Trinity Lodge, with Trinity Brickworks (see below) dropping down a hundred yards or so to the south-east.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rope Walk brickyard map 18841884 map
The Fisk family of Ipswich
[UPDATE 10.2.2021: 'Dear Borin, I have been looking at my family history which includes the Fisk family of Ipswich. Francis Fisk (my 3rd great grandfather) born 1789, died 1871 is recorded as being a brickmaker, who in 1841 lived in St Helens, and 1861 is recorded as living in St Helens Street. His son, Francis (1819-1903) is also recorded as being a bricklayer and plasterer and brickmaker. In 1841 he lived in Potter Street; in 1851 43 Old Brickyard; in 1861 Rushmere (Road?); in 1871 Spring Cottage, Spring Road, employing 4 men;  in 1881 38 Spring Road; in 1891 Cambridge Villas, Spring Road and in 1901 536 Spring Road. The son of the first Francis, my great grandfather (another Francis) left England in 1853 as a 14 year old to come to New Zealand, where he must have had a very hard life as a labourer/farmer in one of the most desolate areas of Wellington. I guess brickmakers were not uncommon at that time in Ipswich but I am wondering whether you have ever heard of this family of brickmakers or whether you might be able to refer me to a place or publication where I can find out more about them? Many thanks, Sheryl Boshier, Wellington New Zealand.' Thanks to Sheryl for the enquiry. Frank Grace in Rags and bones (see Reading list) describes the way in which the Fisk family played a major part in the story of The Potteries slums. Sheryl has ordered the book. If anyone has further information about the Fisks, please contact this website using the 'Contact us' link at the foot of this page.]

Brickmakers Wood
Below: a 21st century aerial view of the Potteries area, now largely occupied by Suffolk New College and University of Suffolk buildings. The area marked 'Brickmakers Wood' is the treed area of the steep scarp between Alexandra Park and the lane running between Milner Street and Back Hamlet. The
Brickmakers Wood project (see Links) is run by the Eden-Rose Coppice Trust was founded in 2007 with the purpose of providing a safe and highly beneficial natural urban green space, with essential facilities, for people with a life-limiting illness such as cancer and for the development and skill acquisition of young people with disabilities. This is a very positive development of a much neglected and abused former industrial site. The site includes Romney buildings (like large Nissen huts) which were built by the War Ministry during the Second World War  to house vehicles and supplies for the servicing of the barrage balloons in the area.
Note just above the green rectangles of the all-weather, five-a-side football pitches at the left the two Pylons by Bernard Reynolds casting their shadows. They mark the original entrance to the 1960 Civic College block designed by Birkin Haward, which was demolished around 2008.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rope Walk brickyard aerial
Below: the contemporary aerial view overlaid with the 1902 street map (in red). In 1902, Hill House, home of the Byles family, stands in an uncluttered area towards the eastern end of Back Hamlet – today, the site of Hill House Road. Devonshire Road is not cut through and the housing on either side of Grove Lane doesn't exist. However, dense housing in the Potteries area crowds the left side of the image. Today's Alexandra Park was originally the parkland of Hill House. The scarp of Brickmakers Wood (see Links) which slopes down from the western perimeter of the public park, was named after the activities of clay-digging and brick and tile kilning which took place in the immediate area. In digging the steep slopes, the Eden Rose Coppice Trust volunteers confirm that they are, indeed, on thick London clay.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Rope Walk brickyard aerial 2
See also our page on Potteries for 'Ipswich ware'; also Ropewalks for another ancient industry in this part of Ipswich. Brickmakers Wood, a new community project, now occupies the 'cliff' created by the extraction of clay – now covered with trees. For a lettered bottle fragment dug out of Brickmakers Wood in 2021, see our page on The Unicorn under Talbot Mineral Water.

2. Trinity Brickyard
Trinity Brickworks was between Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet, named after the adjacent Holy Trinity Church.
The site can be seen on a 1902 map of Plough Street and Cavendish Street, off Fore Hamlet. In 1874 John Morgan & Co. was producing chimney pots and drainpipes for agricultural and sanitary puposes', as well as bricks in the yard, which was taken over 1890 by Joseph Bird & Son, who had earlier been coal merchants at Stoke Bridge. Bird owned it until 1910. Joseph is listed in Kelly's 1892 & 1896. The website Old Bricks - history at your feet (see Links) has a photograph of one of their named bricks. This yard closed around 1910.
Ransomes Sims & Jefferies had premises erected in the brickearth pit of the Trinity Brickworks which, after World War I, was used as the firm's new lawnmower works. The White City, as this works became known, turned out 790 aeroplanes for
the Royal Flying Corp before production ceased.

3. There was also a nearby brickyard where Myrtle Road is now.
Perhaps significantly, there is a steep scarp leading up to Holywells Park behind the terraced houses on the east side of Myrtle Road. This resembles the scarp at The Potteries in St Helen's ('Brickmakers Wood') so would almost certainly have been a source of clay-diggings.

4. The Grove &
5. The Dales Brickyard

Another well-appointed brickworks was also the last to close in the town, in 1958: Bolton's in The Dales (which we have seen referred to as 'Dukes Brickworks'). This and The Grove brickworks on the other side of Henley Road, which closed much earlier had been served by a railway branch from the East Suffolk Line near Westerfield Junction. The parapet of the bridge which carried Henley Road over the branch line can still be seen near Henley Grove – today signed 'The Grove'. [Information from Malster, R: Wharncliffe companion to Ipswich see Links]

This detail from the Ipswich map 1930 shows the branch railway line which went under Henley Road and Dale Hall Road, deep into The Dales workings – a quarried area which is now a public park. By the date of this map the line was marked 'Disused', as was the Grove works, but not so the 'Brick & Tile Works' in The Dales. By that date the bricks would have been transported by road. (Incidentally, some of the Victorian houses called 'Grove Cottages'  in The Grove, off Henley Road, are brickmakers' cottages, presumably made from the products of their own brickyard.) Another feature of note is Dale Hall, still standing in 1930 left-of-centre on this detail, with the East Suffolk Line trimming the edge of its gardens.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks map1930 map
"It has been referred to as 'Ipswich's forgotten railway'. Rail enthusiast David Barton of Sunningdale Avenue, Ipswich, has sent information about the rail line, which took a route through what is now mainly a residential area. The narrow gauge line linked to the main East Suffolk line between Westerfield Road and Henley Road. It served the Grove Brick Yard at Grove Farm at the end of the cul-de-sac off Henley Road. Three cottages, which are still there today, were built in 1880 for the employees. The manager of the site lived at Boulder House which was where June Avenue is now.
The line carried the products of the works to be stacked for reloading onto the main line. On the return journeys the train carried coal to the kilns. The largest brick works was where Dales Road and the modern roads around are now. The rail line passed under Henley Road where the entrance to the sports club is today. One parapet of the bridge is still beside the road. The line then passed under Dale Hall Lane and through where Baronsdale Close is now.
The line then dropped down the hill to the brick works operated by Rosher and Company until 1901 when it was taken over by Bolton and Laughlin. The Grove Brickworks had closed a century ago, but the Dales Brickworks, then trading as A. Bolton and Company, worked until 1959 when the last batch of bricks were fired.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks 2Bolton & Laughlin's brickyard
I have not been able to find out exactly when the rail line stopped working, but it seems it was soon after the First World War when driver Joseph Patterson retired and after decades of work the locomotive was probably in need of expensive work or replacement. This, combined with the fact that brick works now had better access to Norwich Road, might have brought the end of the rail line. It must have been an impressive sight as the little locomotive puffed its way up the hill from the works, to take the bricks to be loaded onto the main line trains.
There were several brick making sites in Ipswich. Most bricks for the expanding town over the centuries were made in the town or surrounding villages. Most of the houses built before the Second World War in and around Ipswich were built with local bricks.
The sites not only made bricks. They also made roof tiles, chimney and flower pots. Over two hundred years ago there was a kiln in St Helens making chimney pots, tiles and bricks. The area of Ipswich where the Suffolk College is now was known as 'The Potteries' because of work in the area. Trinity Brickworks was between Fore Hamlet and Back Hamlet. This works closed around 1910 and hangers were built by Ransomes Sims and Jefferies in the pit and aircraft were built there for the Royal Flying Corps. There were also brick works where Myrtle Road is now. Also at the Orwell Brickyard at Hog Highland, now Cliff Quay beside the River Orwell (see the 1930 photograph below) and between Woodbridge Road and Spring Road. In the Victorian period there was also a brick works where the recreation ground in Sherrington Road is today. The Valley Brickworks in Foxhall Road also had it own railway sidings.
Other sites included Cemetery Road/Suffolk Road [see brickyrd no. 7, below] and Spring Road. A reminder of this lost trade is the public house 'The Brick Makers Arms' on the corner of Howard Street. The clay for making the bricks and tiles was dug from pits. Those now living around where the brick works once were will often find that if they dig down a little in their gardens that they are on heavy clay soil." [Extracts from Kindred Spirits (see Links), David Kindred's excellent local history and recollections resource.]

The Dales brickyard was operated until 1901 by F. Rosher & Co., who also had lime works and a cement factory in Kent, and from that year by Bolton & Laughlin. In 1959 the last batch of 40,000 hand-made bricks was fired at the end of that year and the brickyard closed.
[UPDATE 26.5.2021: 'I’ve really enjoyed reading your pages on the Dales Brickworks the last couple of years. Our house backs onto what would have been the quarry in the Dales Park. We have lived here for about 28 years and, while my parents haven’t had quite the same enthusiasm, it’s always interested me that the park I loved so much growing up had some history to it, and I always hoped I’d find something cool in the garden. Today, whilst gardening, we’ve turned up the brick in the attached photo, we’re pretty sure it’s marked B&L although it’s pretty worn! This would make sense in terms of the quarry as we found it at the top of our garden close to the fence with the park. If you could perhaps shed any light as to perhaps whether it is from that quarry I’d be really pleased! If it is then we shall put it somewhere to display in the garden. Lauren Page.' Many thanks to Lauren for finding/sending this; the impressed letters 'B&L' in the frog of the brick makes perfect sense as it relates to Dales brickmakers Bolton & Laughlin (mentioned above). We found a similar example on the ‘Old Bricks – History at your feet’ website, see Links which provided the information below.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks 32021 image courtesy Lauren Page
'Bolton & Laughlin operated the Dales Brickworks on Dales Road, Ipswich from 1901 to 1959. Kelly's 1912 edition records B & L at the Henley Road Brickworks, Ipswich. Originally this works was accessed off Henley Road as the road leading to the works had not been named, when it was it was named Dales Lane, then Dales Road later. Kelly's 1916 & '25 editions now list the company as A. Bolton & Co. Ltd. Dale Lane Brickworks, Henley Road, Ipswich. It appears from a web article that this works was always locally known as Bolton & Laughlin. The brickworks had originally opened in 1880 & is shown on a 1881 map. Rosher & Co. are listed as owning this works in Kelly's 1892, '96 & 1900 editions until B & L took over in 1901. Info by Martyn Fretwell.' [from
the ‘Old Bricks – History at your feet’ website]

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks 4
2022 photographs courtesy of Peter Sutcliffe
[UPDATE 30.8.2022: 'We were rebuilding our garden wall in Gainsborough Road and found bricks and copings marked B & L. Thanks to your excellent web site we could identify where they were made. Our house was built in 1908. I have attached photos of the bricks. Regards, Peter Sutcliffe.' Thanks to Peter for the excellent photographs showing a range of Bolton & Laughlin bricks (operating from 1901 to 1959) in the Dales.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Dales brickworks 5
Above: the close-ups of the Bolton & Laughlin
initials (complete with ampersand), from the crisp on the coping to the rough-and ready. After all it's going to be lost in a wall.

Jen Greatrex has supplied a fascinating article about the Dales brickyards, published in 1981, particularly interesting given Jen's family connection to the local industry and the Dales light railway – her great great grandfather was driver Joseph Patterson.

Richard Adderson and Graham Kenworthy's excellent book Ipswich to Saxmundham (see Reading list) has useful information about the light railways which served industries in the area. The 1928 map of the Westerfield Junction track layouts (below) clearly shows the Great Eastern Railway running east-west with the stations and junction to the east of the level crossing. Incidentally, the lines into the station terminus closest to the Railway Hotel are serving Colonel Tomline’s Felixstowe Dock & Railway Company. The tracks here were eventually lifted but that station building, weather-boarded and with a characteristic roof, is now a private house beside the present ‘through’ station and reached by a curving, hedged drive from the road. The small detail which interests us here is at the west where 'the branch to the brickworks left the yard in the bottom left-hand corner, but had been removed by the time the area was surveyed for this plan.'
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Westerfield Jct.map1928 map
The photograph caption reads: “Looking west over the level crossing in 1911, the photographer has captured a quiet morning in Westerfield yard, although the crossing gates are open and the signal is cleared for the passage of an up train. By the gate, a horse waits patiently while its owner unloads coal from a railway wagon. At the far end of the yard we obtain a rare glimpse of the line which served the Dales Road brickworks, a mile or so distant, Another little-known industrial line [the book also deals with the industrial branch serving industry around the Hadleigh Road bridges, today site of the new ‘Bacon Curve’], it was lifted in 1927 after some years of disuse.”
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Westerfield Jct.1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Westerfield Jct.1 detail1911 image 
The close-up shows the light railway which served the brickyards leaving the
Westerfield Junction yard to the left, just before the furthest wagon.

Geology and archaeology of the Dales brickyard
"Fossiliferous Oldhaven Beds at Ipswich
In the “Geology of the Country around Ipswich, Hadleigh, and Felixstowe” Mr. Whitaker drew attention to the probable existence of Oldhaven Beds at Ipswich. On p. 11 he gives particulars of a section in Stoke brickyard. Below the London clay at this spot occurred fine buff sand separated from the Clay by a thin pebble-bed containing fragments of shells. The buff sand was doubtfully referred to the Oldhaven Beds, while it was thought that the pebble-bed should also be included with these rather than regarded as a basement-bed of the London Clay. Below this doubtful Oldhaven sand occurred sands and mottled clays of the Reading Series. It was shown in the memoir that this pebble-bed occurred over a great part of this district with an outcrop along the valleys of the Gipping and the Brett. As a rule it rests on sands referred to the Reading Series, and is classed by Mr. Whitaker sometimes as basement-bed of the London Clay and occasionally as Oldhaven Beds.
Recently in Ipswich I came across a very clear section of these beds in one of the brickfields, and as they here show a rather unusual facies it seems worth while to draw attention to the section, especially as the beds contain many fossils at one spot. The section occurs on the north side of Messrs. Bolton & Laughlin's brickfield between the Norwich and Henley Roads. The brickfield is situated almost due north of Brook's Hall, and about 100 yards south of the railway line, but apparently at the time of the Geological Survey there was no brickfield at this spot; the pebble-bed, however, was shown in another pit (which still exists) a little further westward, and was included in the basementbed of the London Clay by Mr. Whitaker."

By Henry Bassett. Geological Magazine (Decade IV) / Volume 10 / Issue 10 / October 1903, pp 453-456 [http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=5041296]

One tangential feature of the Bolton & Laughlin brickyard was its use by archeologist and historian James Red Moir (1879-1945), who lived nearby. His work on East Anglian pre-history included investigating the bed of stones at the foot of the Red Crag sand exposed in the brickyard workings. In 1910 he published his findings, conjecturing that flints found at the base of the Suffolk Crag had been shaped by early man. These included beak-like flaked flints (eoliths) claimed, somewhat controversially, by Moir to relate to the evolution of the Palaeolithic hand-axe. The 'sub-Crag' location suggested that humans able to make tools lived in the Tertiary Period: over two million years ago. It is now largely accepted by experts that Moir's eoliths were created naturally and cannot be seen as evidence of early humans here. However, Moir, and his colleagues appear to have been right about the timescale of human occupation in East Anglia: finds at Happisburgh (pronounced 'Haysboro'), Norfolk lead archaeologists to conclude that early humans lived there 800,000 to 1 million years ago… No doubt, the controversy will continue. An information board 'Legends of Broom Hill' was unveiled in May 2016 in front of the ancient 'Reid Moir Oak' on the south east triangle of Broomhill Park at Westwood Avenue at the junction of Valley Road which has information on James Reid Moir, Sir Anthony Wingfield (1488-1552), the oak tree itself and Brooks Hall.
[UPDATE 2.8.2016: "I was just reading about James Red Moir on your site. I worked, in the summer of 1991, in Ipswich Museum and Christchurch Mansion: a quite wonderful job. In the museum's archaeology section, there is a large (but mostly unseen by the general public) collection of James Red Moir's 'beaked tools'. They were given the official title of 'Rostro Carinates', if memory serves. To my (inexpert) eye, they looked natural, not worked – anyone who lives round here and who has dug a garden over can attest to the weird shapes flint can manifest itself. Best regards, Ian Luck." Many thanks to Ian for getting in touch.]

6. Orwell Brickyard (Hog Highland)
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Orwell brickworks 19001900 image
Above: the brickyard at Hog Highland with the River Orwell behind (c.1900). The kilns with the tall chimney are seen at the rear. On the river, one of the Great Eastern Railway paddle steamers arrives from Harwich, heading for its berth near The Steamboat Tavern on the corner of Felaw Street and New Cut West. The Ransomes & Rapier Waterside Works on Griffin Wharf can be seen in the left background.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Orwell brickworks 1930Image courtesy Britain from above
The image above shows the the River Orwell below the lock from the eastern bank with Stoke Bathing Place across the river at the right, on the Stoke bank. The Orwell Brickyard is central, close to the quay and to the left of the roof with the sign 'GABRIEL'S'. Britain from Above
(see Links) has a range of aerial photographs of this brickworks.

7. Bloomfield Street Brickyard,
8. Howard Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bloomfield St brickworks map1883 map
Above: within the Freehold Land Society's California estate another brickyard existed to the east of Bloomfield Street as shown on the 1883 map detail above. Areas on turn of the century maps to the east of Bloomfield Street and its northerly extension, Howard Street, are labelled 'Brick fields'. The north-south road to the right of this detail is Britannia Road. Below:
the 1902 map shows the empty space where the brickyard once operated; note also the hatching along the south of Spring Road and the north-east of Bloomfield Street indicating the fall in the land here due to extraction of clay. Incidentally, the story of St John’s Children’s Home shown at the bottom of these two maps is told on our More schools page in relation to the California Boys School in Spring Road.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Bloomfield St brickworks map 19001902 map
The following passage is taken from Gooding, A.: History of Cowper Street, Ipswich (see Reading list).
Brickfields of California
In Lot No 7 [of the sale of the Cauldwell Hall Estate in 1848] ‘Rushmere Field’, which was located between Woodbridge Road and Rushmere Road, it was highlighted that the field contained an abundant supply of brickearth. As it happened the seam of brickearth was much more extensive than was originally thought. It ran southwards along Bloomfield Street towards Foxhall Road.

Kenneth Brown in his ‘Brief History of St John’s Parish, Ipswich’ (1999, p.25) notes that the ‘… brickfields were established by Edward Gibbons in the triangle to the east of Howard Street. These were quickly worked out leaving a large pond which was later surrounded by orchard and some houses in Spring Road [see the 1902 map above, showing these features].

By the 1860s, two brickfields were established along the east side of Bloomfield Street. These two were worked out by 1890. Edward Gibbons established another brickfield on the south side of Foxhall Road ...’ This was the Valley Brickworks (see no. 6 below] and it was served by rail. It was located where Bull Electric used to be, which has since been demolished and a new housing estate built. The final brickfield established at the turn of the century was back on the original site of Rushmere Field. The bricks which were of a poorer quality were used for the building of local houses including Reading and Jupiter Roads.

Evelyn Cobner (nee Watson) whose family lived in Jupiter Road when it was first built and then at 901 Woodbridge Road could remember the pond and playing amongst the bricks on the brickfield when she was a young girl in the early years of the 20th century. The area eventually became the Recreation Ground. In Bloomfield Street the workings became a market garden before in the 1960s Starfield Close was built down in the dip.

The Brickmakers Arms (now ‘The Brickies’) on Spring Road is the only reminder of this industry in the area and its old Pubmaster sign shows the techniques used in the making of bricks by hand.”

9. The Valley Brickyard, Foxhall Road
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Valley brickyard map1902 map
This article appeared in the Ipswich Society Newsletter, October 2013.
"Ipswich's oldest settlement: An evening walk on July 11 2013.
We met by the 'soldiers' gate' at Foxgrove Gardens dip, where Foxhall Road crosses the shallow valley we would follow that evening. Brick clays show that this valley was occupied by a 'lake' in prehistoric times. Robert Carr owned a brickyard here, between Foxhall Road and the Felixstowe railway to the south. It was here in 1902 that archaeologist Nina Frances Layard*** discovered flint Acheulian hand-axes of the longest lived human technology, indeed one that transgressed several hominid species. In 1903 she employed two brothers to find flints, which they did plus finding fossil elephant bones and a tooth of a rhinoceros. Brickmaking here was abandoned by the early 1920s and the site is now covered by the houses of Celestion Drive and Bull Road [Formerly the sites of Bull Electrics and Celestion louspeakers].
Walking along Henslow Road we noted 'Henslow Terrace 1902' built of red bricks, presumably from Carr's brickyard. A short diversion took us to (modern-day) Churchill Avenue, where J.V. Todd excavated in the brickearth at the former small-holding in 1957 and where I put down boreholes in 1966 - neither found any hand-axes. Further along Henslow Road a hand-axe was found in the garden of no.9 in 1942 – it is now in Ipswich Museum. Excavations at the corner of Freehold Road and Bloomfield Street were investigated by me in 1972 and by John Wymer in 1978 - again, no hand-axes were found.
Our last stop was at Starfield Close off Bloomfield Street. This was the site of a brickyard in the early 1870s, but is now occupied by new housing of 'imported' Oxford Clay bricks – what would Robert Powell, brickmaker of Bloomfield Street (1870s) think of that? We finished the meeting with thoughts on the lives of Ipswich people over 400,000 years ago – the first Ipswich Society?
Bob Markham"

This fascinating perspective by geologist Bob Markham tells us of Robert Carr's brickyard south of Foxhall Road and of Robert Powell's brickyard to the east of Bloomfield Street, as described above. The Foxhall Road yard was served by a railway spur running off the Westerfield to Felixstowe line near Derby Road station.
The Valley Brickyard lay on the south side of Foxhall Road, opposite the jaws of Henslow Road. It is shown, and labelled on the 1902 map of Ipswich (shown above), with contour lines indicating the areas of extraction. The factories of Bull Motors Ltd (formerly the foundry E.R. & F. Turner) and Celestion Loudspeakers are remembered in the street names Bull Lane and Celestion Drive on the modern housing development here. British Rola, which amalgamated with Celestion, made their loudpeakers at Ferry Works, Summer Road, Thames Ditton (while Celestion originally made theirs at the Kingston-upon-Thames factory). 'Ditton' became a brand name and is recalled in Ditton Way.  One assumes that Prentice Way is named after an early manager or boss of the business.
(***Incidentally, the 2004 book Miss Layard excavates: A Palaeolithic site at Foxhall Road, Ipswich, 1903-1905 by Mark J. White and Steven J. Plunkett is available to borrow from Suffolk Libraries. George Miller Chamberlain on Nina Frances Layard: "Who was this woman? Without question, she was one of the most remarkable English women to have lived. A great archaeologist, poet, botanist, humanist, radical thinker, and champion of the underdog. A heroine, now almost unknown outside Suffolk, unsung in the annals of English history, and not to be found in Who's Who? or other reference books of famous or significant figures.")
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Valley brickworks period1920s/30s?
Above: an evocative photograph found in David Kindred and Bob Malster's book Ipswich memories (2001) showing brickmakers in the Valley Brickworks on Foxhall Road with a large, walk-in kiln in the background and their wares stacked up high at the left.

10. Cemetery Road/Suffolk Road Brickyard
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Suffolk Rd brickworks map1883 map
Above: spotted on an 1883 map of the Cemetery Road area, this brickyard dug its clay from the rising ground leading up to the old cemetery's higher levels. At the lower left is a 'Clay Pit', with some evidence of extraction in the area around the three kilns. Suffolk Road at this time was a short link to Norfolk Road; it was extended westwards on the same line to meet what was to be Hervey Street. Tuddenham Avenue (see our Off-licences page) is a 1930s development heading uphill from the Norfolk Road/Suffolk Road junction straight across the site of the brickyard. As if to prove the point, a modern development off Suffolk Road is called Kiln Close.

11. Broom Hill Brickyard
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Brookes Hall brickworks map 18841884 map
George Grimwood & Sons are listed in Kelly's Directory 1892 to 1900 editions at the Brookshall Brick Yard, Norwich Road, Ipswich. Houses built on Sherrington Road & Westholme Road & a park (The Dales: see nos. 4. & 5. above) now occupy this former brickworks site. Information by Martyn Fretwell, who also posted a photograph of a 'Grimwood Ipswich' brick on the 'Old bricks' website (see Links).
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwood Ipswich brick2024 image courtesy Richard & Jean Attenborrow
Richard & Jean Attenborrow, to whom our thanks, sent in this photograph of one of the 'reds' from the removal of an outhouse from their 1894 house in northern Ipswich. The frog features the lettering 'GRIMWOOD IPSWICH' (image slightly enhanced).

The 1884 map. Norwich Road runs diagonally at lower left. The road running up to the Broom Hill brickyard past Brookeshall Farm is today's Broom Hill Road. The Dales Brickyard (no. 5 on our list) lies north of this.
In 1884 the favoured spelling of the nearby hall was "Brooke's Hall", named for one of the four ancient hamlets of Ipswich (Wykes Bishop, Wykes Ufford, Stoke and Brookes, discussed on our Ransomes page). Brooke's Hall, a relatively modest-sized house, is set in gardens running down to Norwich Road which include two long ponds, fed by the local springs. An old photograph of Norwich Road shows the long roadside 'Brookeshall Pond' with its leafy backdrop. Brookeshall Farm is to the north-west and Brookeshall Road runs at right-angles to Norwich Road towards Bramford Lane. However, by 1884 we see the appearance of the spelling with which we have become accustomed: 'Brookshall Villas' and 'Brook Terrace'. Today the road is 'Brooks Hall Road'.

House names
At this time houses were known by name, rather than street number, so we see each of the scattered houses individually named on the map:-
Brook Terrace
Brookshall Villas
Honduras Villa,
Colman's Villa,
Guyndee Lodge,
The Moorings,
Bury Lodge.
Also included, on Paget Road at lower right is 'Paget Villas' which features on our Named buildings page. See our Street name derivations for Brooks Hall Road and below for the story of the dismantling of the hall to be reconstructed in Somerset.
See our Ruskin House page for a note about the way in which house-numbering came about.

Brooke's Hall and Captain Schreiber
Built in the 1700s and having a fine Queen Anne facade, four reception rooms and six large bedrooms. The estate (which comprised today's Broonmhill Park, Valley Road Norwich Road area) originally belonged to Sir Anthony Wingfield (c.1488-1552) who was a Knight of the Garter and Vice Chamberlain of the royal household (see Wingfield Street on our Courts & yards page). He also represented Suffolk in Parliament and was appointed High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk (1515-16). He was one of the most influential knights in the court of King Henry VIII and at Henry's funeral Wingfield was Captain of the Guard. The resident of Brookes Hall in the 1930s was Captain Arthur Thomas Schreiber, who had been Chief Constable of Ipswich and in 1920 was awarded the OBE and Companion of Honour in 1920. He was a descendant of several illustrious captains of the Irish Dragoons. He was clearly a man up for a fight and in the 1930s he took great exception to the plans to build an Ipswich by-pass adjacent to his property – this was to become today's Valley Road. Having lost that battle, in high dudgeon he commissioned an Ipswich builder to dismantle Brookes Hall brick-by-brick and load it onto seventeen LNER railway trucks. It was carried to Templecombe in Somerset and re-erected, presumably on land already owned by Schreiber. Dismantling historic buildings in Ipswich and shipping them off (often to America) has a long history in Ipswich, however that was usually done for filthy lucre rather than a fit of pique.

13. Over Stoke brickyard
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Over Stoke brickworks map1867 with 1840 detail
The above map dates from 1867, however it was noted that an 1840 map labelled the area to the east of the brickyard 'Brick Kiln Field'. This field hugs the edges of Wherstead Road and Austin Street and doubled the size of the brick workings here in 1840. The 'Brick Yard' is bordered by the line of small terraced housing on the north side of Station Street. In 1867 the road of railwaymen's cottages parallel to Station Street was called 'Halbert Street' – an alternative spelling of halberd: a two-handed pole weapon, see also The Halberd in Northgate Street; Halbert Street was renamed Croft Street after the vicar of nearby St Mary-At-Stoke Church.
Note also on this map: St Peter's Rectory next to Brick Kiln Field, Ipswich Union Workhouse on Great Whip Street/Felaw Street, the Blue Coat School between Tyler Street and Purplett Street, Stoke Hall next to St Mary at Stoke Church, Stoke Rectory the other side of Peter Bruff's 1846 EUR railway tunnel through Stoke Hill, Stoke Bathing Place on the river at lower right and Nova Scotia House below it on the site of today's West Bank Terminal.

Related pages:
We have a page about a lettered brick in a mixed brick wall in Ipswich...
also named bricks in a path at the Cobbold brewery.
A dedicated website, Old Bricks - history at your feet, has been compiled for the history of brick manufacture (see Links).

The Potteries and Ipswich Ware;
Ropewalks and the rope-making industry in the east of the town;

County Hall page for information and maps relating to the County and Borough Gaols and The Potteries;

House name plaque examples: Alston Road;
Bramford Road; Cauldwell Hall Road; Cavendish Street; Marlborough Road; Rosehill area;
Ipswich & Suffolk Freehold Land Society (F.L.S.); California
Street index; Origins of street names in Ipswich; Streets named after slavery abolitionists.
Dated buildings list; Dated buildings examples;
Named buildings listNamed (& sometimes dated) buildings examples.
Street nameplate examples

See also the Suffolk Mills Group document on Windmills in the Borough of Ipswich (click to open the PDF).

Please email any comments and contributions by clicking here.
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