GIHS Meeting on 19th - next Tuesday - we are welcoming David Cuffley who is going to speak
about Discovering history of a house -case study Salutation Alley Woolwich
David works hard for the North West Kent Family History Society - and is a big expert on brick manufacture. He is a big support to GIHS and has helped us with many queries about bricks and buildings over the year
Recently he was asked about bricks and Placentua Palace in Greenwich. I thought you should see his reply. (which I've edited a bit).
"Approximate locations of brickworks used to supply bricks to Placentia Palace.
You ask if ‘bricks were manufactured in East Greenwich and transported by barge and cart’. The location East Greenwich is not one I recognise for a brickfield,. You should see John Musty’s article ‘Brick Kilns and Brick and Tile Suppliers to Hampton Court’ published in The Archaeological Journal 147, 1990, which wikll give you some help understanding the brickmaking industry in the 16th century.
Musty refers to RICHARD RECOLVER (sometimes RECULVER) of Greenwich working on Hampton Court, Greenwich Palace and St John’s College. My interpretation of the of ‘Greenwich’ is either he was from Greenwich or that he acquired that suffix from having worked on Greenwich Palace for such a long construction period rather only a season (April to October). My best guess that he was an itinerant brickmaker who came to projects to make bricks rather having his own kiln and transporting the bricks to the site. If Richard Reculver was an itinerant brickmaker I would expect him to be clamp burning bricks rather than have a permanent kiln structure. One small problem is the terms ‘clamp’ and ‘Kiln’ are frequently mixed/misused in old records. However clamps were widely used in this part of Kent right up to Dawson’s brickfield in the late 19th century at East Wickham.
The Hampton Court records note some brickmakers delivered their bricks to the site and Musty says these were local brickmakers with some others as far away as Sawbridgeworth in Hertfordshire; 40 miles. My rule of thumb for brick transport by cart is 5 miles out loaded and then back in a day. Part of the reason for lots of rural brickfields that are difficult to precisely locate, except by parish name.
Greenwich had one major advantage for brick transport and that’s the river. As an example Vanburgh Castle next to Greenwich Park in the 18th century used bricks from as far away as Fulham and Maidstone on the Medway. These were delivered by barge and then carted up to the site from the river. The accounts give names and details.
If you look at Nathaniel Lloyd’s ‘English Brickwork’ and his table of Brick measurements you will notice his c1520 Hampton Court –East side of clock tower were 8 7/8”-*1/2” x 41/2”-4” x 2” thick and were laid 4 courses to 10”, Deep Red in colour. He also records St Johns College- gateway tower as late 15th century 81/4”x41/2”x21/4” with 4 courses to 111/2 the authority for this he gives as Sir R Blomfield, (Hist. Renaiss. Arch. England p351).
Two things you might like to check firstly is the brick sizes in the college you are interested in. If Richard Reculver made the bricks at both places I would expect them to be the same size, although different clays might dictate otherwise. Secondly the quality of the brick as the wide 4 course height and bed joint thickness may indicate a more irregular brick shape. If your research shows similar quality and size bricks then perhaps Richard Reculver was the main brickmaker and this would be the type of brick you should be finding at Greenwich-Placentia Palace.
None of the excavation reports I have managed to find since receiving your email record the bricks found. If you have any details I would love to receive them.
You also ask if Kentish Rag could have been used. If this is so then the river would have been the transport method fromt the aidstone area via easy access on the Medway. There are still Ragstone quarries at Barming, Kent providing ragstone for roads etc.. My experience in the construction industry; over 40 years; is that stone arrived on site cut and shaped with only adjustments made to ensure each section matched properly. Now stone being heavy I would expect worked sizes were easier to move but could be subject to damage especially in the pre industrial age. In large historic projects I have seen where a stone masons yard was set up adjacent to the building. Raw material was brought into the yard and shaped stone lifted into position. At one repair project I worked on in Brighton I spent a day watching the stone mason shape a new section to match the adjacent stones. A really magic piece of work and gave me a lot of respect for their trade.
To the best of my knowledge there were no Architects in this period, the designers were the builders/building contractor. The brickmaker would have undertaken to make bricks for the project and be paid per 1000 bricks made and burnt. For this he would have employed a team of moulders and labourers he paid out of his money.
A practice that continued into the 19th century was where a berth or stool of six people worked as a team and bwere paid by the brickmaker/moulder. The setting out and laying of bricks is done by the trade of Bricklayer which is not the same and should not be confused with the brickmaker. Building to a set pattern is not a surprise because that’s the tradition of timber frame buildings, i.e. Weald House. My understanding is most of the work was done by rules of thumb the sizing of piers, walls etc. were all done by trade and previous experience. I also expect but have no proof or reference that the stone supplier for the window reveals would offer styles and sized members/elements he and is workers were familiar with and knew the stone spans could withstand.
All itinerant workers lived on site up to the early 20th century. Sydney Twist in his book about Faversham Brickmakers talks of brickmakers living on site in hovels formed with un-mortared brick structures. There are stories in newspapers of brickmakers who found tramps in their hovels pushing the structures down on top of them, killing those inside. Brickmakers were a rough lot, of which some of my ancestors are included.
You ask if Dutch bricklayers involved. I don’t know but I do have brickmakers in the early references in my index with surnames such as ‘Flemyng’, ‘Docheman’, ‘Holland’, ‘Tiler’ and ‘Brykeman’ all 13th to pre 17th century.