The discovery of vast quantities of high quality Etruria Marl
clay in the Ruabon area in the 19th Century heralded the beginning
of tile and terracotta production on a vast scale. By the
turn of the 20th Century, several factories employed roughly 2,000
people. Workers produced massive amounts of terracotta,
earning the village of Ruabon the nickname Terracottapolis. But it
was for the distinctive red bricks that the area became
famous. The material was so popular it was used to build
schools, hospitals, universities, law courts, pubs and other key
buildings in cities across the country.
The "Tatham Brick & Tile Works" or "Afongoch & Tatham Tileries" - at Afongoch, on the west side of the Ruabon-Wrexham road, off Tatham Road. Henry Bowers was operating from this site by 1854 producing glazed stoneware pipes, firebricks and white facing bricks. The business flourished until his death in 1902 but then declined and was liquidated in 1912. The brickworks site was quarried away by Rhos Fireclays Ltd in the 1970s.
All three photographed on the seashore at Crosby, Merseyside.
The most famous of the industrialists in Wrexham in the late
19th Century was Henry Dennis, who founded the company in 1878
that would later become Dennis Ruabon Tiles Ltd. Dennis,
born in Bodmin, Cornwall, studied civil engineering and travelled
to Wales to supervise construction of a tramway at a slate quarry
near Llangollen. After a stint in Spain at a lead mine, he
later returned to Wales after amassing a considerable personal
fortune. Dennis became managing director of the Hafod Colliery and
by 1878, had established the Hafod Brickworks. By 1893, a new
factory which became known as the "Red Works", was constructed on
the site where the present-day building still stands. There,
workers produced ridge tiles, chimney pots, tiles and other
products using 24 coal-fired "Beehive" kilns.The business
flourished at a time when demand for the red bricks and terracotta
was high. By the time of his death in 1906, Dennis had
established himself as a giant of the industry, ensuring that his
firm - and the name of Ruabon - had been forever cemented in
British architectural history. He also had interests in
collieries, lead mines and water and gas, and is thought to have
employed up to 10,000 people. Under the control of his son,
Henry Dyke Dennis, the Hafod brickworks became a private limited
company in 1934 - Dennis Ruabon Limited - and continued to produce
materials including tiles, chimney pots and ornamental
terracotta. In 1944, Dennis's grandson, Patrick Gill Dyke
Dennis, took control and launched a modernisation programme.
By the end of the 1970s, brick production had largely ended, and
the company concentrated its efforts on making quarry tiles.
The entrance to J.C.Edwards works near Ruabon - the rest of the plant has been demolished.
Found in Worksop by Martyn Fretwell.
Found by Gordon Hull at the estate cottage of the Cwm Elan mine, in the upper Elan Valley in Powys. The cottage was built after the valley was flooded in the 1890's.
The company of J. C. Edwards (Ruabon) Ltd, was based in Ruabon,
Denbighshire, and was active from 1903 to 1956 as a brick, tile
and terracotta manufacturer from its works at Tref-y-Nant,
Acrefair, Albert Works, Rhosllannerchrugog, and Pen-y-bont,
Newbridge, Denbighshire. James Coster Edwards (1828-1896) founded
the company; it was sold in 1956.
A small brickworks in the village of Rhosllanerchrugog. Operating as early as 1860 and owned by a local builder. Later owned by Messrs Kaye & Hirst, the works had disappeared by the end of the 19th Century.
Found on the seashore in Crosby, Merseyside. The Garth Brickworks at Trevor was a small site when taken over by Charles Mason around 1870. Following turbulent fortunes, he left the works in 1889 to take over running the brickyard at the Vron Colliery in Coedpoeth.
"Monk & Newell" was situated on the east side of the Ruabon-Wrexham road. It closed in the 1920s and the site was later used for housing ('Newell Drive') and the adjacent flooded claypit (Monk's Pool) is now used by a local angling club.
This is believed to be an early example from this brickworks. The R has been stamped onto the brick after it came from the machine. Found in a reclamation yard amongst a lot of other Monk & Newell and Dennis bricks. Photo by Martyn Fretwell.
From the Imperial Hotel at Douglas, Isle of Man, which was built in the 1890s. Photo and information from Nigel Megson.
The largest of the Rhos brickworks, it was originally a colliery and ironworks until it became the North Wales Coal & Fireclay Co. around 1860. It later became the Pant Coal, Brick & Fireclay Co. and was eventually taken over by the industrialist Henry Dennis in 1866. He turned production over to glazed firebricks and made it one of Britain's most important producers of this product, Gwersyllt Silica Brick Co. bought the works in 1921 after glazed bricks went out of fashion. Closure finally came in 1971.
Although only a small and short lived country brickyard north of Acrefair, the works was connected to the G. W. R. by a branch line. Owned by various parties during its lifetime, it was derelict by 1900.
From the village of Ponciau between Ruabon and Rhosllanerchrugog. Poor quality clay beds never allowed this brickworks to develop much. Begun in 1866, it finally became a pottery works owned by a member of the Dennis family. It had ceased production by the end of the 19th Century.
Photo by Martyn Fretwell.
Part of the Andrew Connelly collection
Powell Brothers opened their works at Llwyneinion in 1891 and in 1924 ownership passed to the Llwyneinion Shale Brick Co. After 1929 until closure in 1957 it was owned by the Hartley Family who also had the Ruby Works at Rhydymwyn. Photo and information by David Kitching.
Roberts and Maginnes.
The 'Ruabon Brick & Terra Cotta Ltd." or "Jenks' Terracotta
Works" (or "Gwaith Jinks") was situated on the west side of the
Ruabon-Wrexham road (off Tatham Road) but with its original clay
pit to the east of the Ruabon-Wrexham road, separated from the
Monk & Newell clay pit by the Afon Goch. Founded by the Hague
family of the Gardden in about 1883 and managed by Henry
Jenks. It was taken over by Dennis' in the 1960s but closed
in the mid 1970s.
The 1881 census for Wem describes the occupants of a house called
Bodwyn in Noble St. as 'Thomas Harrison Seacombe, aged 51, a
brickmaker employing 46 men and 22 boys'. His wife Francis, two
daughters. A governess and two servants were also resident.
Thomas Seacombe founded his brickworks at Delph Quarry, Acrefair near Ruabon in 1868. The brickworks were taken over by Wyndham and Phillips in 1883. Following closure in 1995 the site became an opencast coal and clay quarry.
Photo by courtesy of the Frank Lawson collection.
Thomas H Seacombe founded the Delph Brickworks in Acrefair in
1868, this became the property of Henry Wyndham in 1883.
After closure in 1955 it became an opencast coal and clay quarry,
using the biggest mechanical excavator then to be found in
Wynnstay Colliery Limited. This colliery near Acrefair was part of a vast and complicated industrial holding, including brickworks and ironworks in the district. The colliery became one of the most prestigious in the district and was visited by Princess Alexandra.