The Humble Brick

Until 2018, just like the average person, I would walk about town and village, not giving a second thought to the history of the individual bricks that made up the buildings, not even knowing that hidden from view were names on bricks that were metaphorical keys to a vault of industrial and social history!
It was an afternoon in mid 2018 that I was walking down a back street in my home town of Consett, that I chanced upon a fenced-off excavation by a utilities company. In addition to the excavated hole behind the fence, was a pile of rubble, in which I noticed a brick with a name and place on it! I recognised the place name as being local to Consett and was attracted to the brick’s visual appeal, as well as its potential historical appeal.  That was to be the beginning of what became an obsession to find as many different northeast of England bricks!
I would study old maps for pit villages that had succumbed to the bulldozer and then cross-reference the location on Google Earth, to see what now occupied the site. If it was now woodland in particular, I would pay a visit on foot to investigate.  My investigations have taken me to most compass points of the North East: from West Hartlepool, to Staindrop, to Haltwhistle, to Berwick-upon-Tweed and scores of locations in between!
At the outset of my brick collecting, I couldn’t have imagined the large number of brick-makers that had operated in the region over the centuries: some of them were in operation for many decades, resulting in many variations of how the company brick stamp appeared.
A couple of years into collecting, I heard of a book that had been compiled and published in the mid 1980’s – Bricks and Brickworks of the North East – but I couldn’t find out where a copy could be bought or browsed until I discovered in 2022 that Gateshead Libraries held copies that could be borrowed or browsed.  At that time, unbeknown to me, Val Scully was in the final preparations of republishing Peter Davison’s updated book and it was to be available for purchase, at a very reasonable price. When I heard about it, I enquired if Path Head had its own collection of northeast bricks, and that lead to me donating in the region of 200 named bricks and recycling several hundred more for the pillars of the monumental heritage wall which my son Mark volunteered his skills to build.