Brick-making on Ebbisham Common

1663 - circa 1867

Brick Making Attributed to Nicholas Condy
Brick Making possibly in Enfield
Attributed to Nicholas Condy
Image via

On 14 October 1663 the lord of Epsom manor
'by the steward with the consent of the tenants of the manor did grant licence to George Parsons to dig and make bricks and tyles in the common or waste of this manor near the place called Somersgates for the term of five years, John Parsons to pay 5s per annum to the churchwardens of Ebesham for the tyme being to the use of the poore of the parish of Ebesham and provided also so as the said George Parsons or any other do not make bricke and tyle or digge above the quantity of ten rods of ground in any one yeare of the said terme, and so as he fill up all such pits as he shall digge for the earth, when and by use cattell [cattle] shall receive wrong by reason thereof, and it is further provided and agreed that the lord of the manor aforesaid shall at any time during the said term have for his own proper use as many tyles and bricks made of the said earth as he pleaseth at the rate of 10s per 1000 for bricke and 12s per 1000 for tyles well burnt and merchantable'.
From later evidence it appears that the land to be used as a brick-field came into the hands of Thomas Rogers of Epsom, carpenter, and passed to his widow Alicia who married secondly Samuel Dendy.

In 1680 Samuel Dendy in the right of Alice his wife formerly Alice Rogers held one cottage, one stable, one garden' one orchard and one close of land, one and a half acres in Ebbisham common near Ovells Wood'.[Lehmann's Residential Copyholds of Epsom, 11A8] A licence for Samuel Dendy of Dorking, butcher, to let this copyhold for 21 years was granted on 31 October 1681. The death of Samuel was recorded on 23 October 1689 and his widow, Alicia, gained further permission to let the property for another 40 years.

Beer Barrel
19th Century Brick Making
Image source Les merveilles de l'industrie, ou, Description des principales industries modernes

John Houghton, an apothecary who dealt in tea, coffee and chocolate, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1680 and became a promoter of its history of trades projects. His Collection of Letters for the Improvement of Trades published in parts between 1681 and 1683, contained a detailed description of brick-making at Ebbisham in Surrey. Dated to 16 June 1683, it is quoted at length in Nathaniel Lloyd's A History of English Brickwork.

John Houghton's Letter Page 1
John Houghton's Letter Page 2
John Houghton's Letter Page 3
John Houghton's Letter Page 4
John Houghton's Letter Page 5
John Houghton's Letter Dated to 16 June 1683

'Case bolton' could be a corruption of 'Carshalton' known to have had extensive brickworks near Wrythe Lane.

The meaning of the term "hasel" as applied to soils is to be found in J. O.Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, 1889, where a hazel brick earth is defined as a kind of loam.

Beer Barrel
Brick Making shown in a mid 15th Century Flemish Bible
Image via Wikimedia

The complicated descent of the property near Summersgate from Mrs Alicia Dendy was detailed by the late Hans Lehmann in his Residential Copyholds of Epsom under 11B8 and 11C8. On 20 March 1694, the messuage, garden, brick-kiln, and a parcel of land about 2 acres, called and known by the name of the brick-kiln, had been held by Thomas Michell of Epsom, bricklayer. Following his death, the widowed Mrs Elizabeth Michell was licensed to let the premises for 21 years from 28 October 1695. In 1755 William Harrison of Colchester, Essex, victualler, held for life a cottage, sheds, outhouses, brick-kilns, a garden, an orchard, and a close of land, 2 acres upon Ebbisham common and near the lands of the Rev. Mr Parkhurst called Ovalls [otherwise Ovals Wood]. During 1762 the messuage and close of one and a half acres was occupied by Robert Browne, brick-maker.

Under the Will dated 3 March 1791 of Lashford Willett the 'copyhold messuage in two tenements with brick and tile yards and sheds thereunto belonging' was left to his son James Willett.

In 1834 William Andrews in partnership with his sons, John Craddock and William Chase Morrish Andrews, had been granted a licence to dig on Epsom Common for clay and brick earth for the purpose of making bricks.

An Encyclopædia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture, by John Claudius Loudon, 1842, reveals how little these processes changed over the intervening years:-
"1291.The Soil most suitable for making Bricks is a clayey loam. The surface should be removed from it in the autumn, and the subsoil dug up, and mixed with about one sixth part of coal-ashes, during the winter; the whole being, during this season, exposed to the weather. In spring, it is turned over once or twice, and, after all risk is past from frost, the clay is prepared or worked, either by chopping and beating it, as dough is worked and kneaded by a baker, or by passing it through a mill, called a pug-mill, which effects the same object mechanically. The mass being sufficiently mixed and kneaded, it is laid on a table sprinkled with dry sand, from which it is taken in small portions, and pressed into moulds of the shape of the brick or tile which it is desired to form. These are first dried in the sun, or in the open air, under sheds, and afterwards burned

1292. Clamp-kilns for burning Bricks are nothing more than stacks or masses, composed of bricks, interspersed with layers of coal cinders. The first three or four layers or courses of bricks are placed on edge, diagonalwise, an inch or more asunder, and the superincumbent course breaking joint; the second, third, and fourth courses on edge over them are also placed diagonalwise, and so as to leave considerable interstices for being filled up with the cinders. Thus, the lower part of the clamp, or kiln, is formed of about three fourths of the cubic contents of imperfectly burned bricks, and one fourth of coal cinders in the interstices between them. The superincumbent part of the clamp is formed of new-moulded bricks set close together on edge, every layer having a stratum of half an inch of small ashes placed under it. The size of the kiln is without limit as to length and breadth; but it is found that the weight of more than fifteen or twenty courses of unburned bricks, laid one over the other, will crush or deform those at the bottom. In placing the lower stratum of four courses of open brickwork and cinders, there is a kind of horizontal tunnel, or channel, continued through the work upon the ground, about a foot broad, and eighteen inches high, which is filled with wood and coal, to serve as the means of lighting the cinders among the bricks on each side. When the contents of this tunnel are once thoroughly lighted, its ends are closed up with brick or clay. The stack or clamp is carried up in sections, or vertical strata, of between three and four feet in thickness; and when as many bricks are put together as it is desired to burn, the whole is surrounded by a double casing of refuse bricks, or such as are imperfectly formed, for the purpose of keeping in the heat, as well as of, to a certain extent, re-burning them. A clamp-kiln generally continues burning twenty days, and is used for burning bricks only."
For the 1843 Tithe Assessment the Brick yard was noted at plot 1005 on the Lower Common, owned by Mr Sergison and occupied by Morris(h) and John [Craddock] Andrews. 'Sergison' was a reference to a former Trustee, either Warden Jefferson Sergison who expired on 16 July 1811 without an heir, or his brother Colonel Francis Sergison who inherited Cuckfield Park, Sussex, but subsequently died 30 March 1812.

1843 Tithe Map - Click image to enlarge.
1843 Tithe Map - Click image to enlarge.

The brickworks were marked on the Common for the Ordnance Survey Map of 1867, but John Craddock Andrews, surviving his brother Morrish, had died on 3 August 1863, unmarried, aged 58. Before that date Messrs Stone and Swallow had acquired land between East Street, Epsom and the railway line to establish an additional brickworks and, during 1867, the firm advertised themselves as 'Brick and tile makers, potters, and manufacturers of stoneware, socket drain-pipes and nonsuch fire bricks.'

Following the death of J. C. Andrews their premises beside Wheelers Lane ceased brick production after continuous operation for more than 200 years.

On 27 April 1882 it was reported that this messuage near Epsom Common was out of repair to be surrendered to the Lord of the Manor and seized by his bailiff, Samuel Grimshaw. Members of the Chilcote/Hardy family regained admittance, however, for the property to be enfranchised on 25 January 1919.

By the turn of the 19th century the site had become Old Brickfield Farm on Epsom Common.

Brian Bouchard © February 2016