Prestongrange Brick Making

Prestongrange around 1895 as seen from Morrison’s Haven Harbour. The harbour made it easy to export goods.

Prestongrange around 1895 as seen
from Morrison’s Haven Harbour. The
harbour made it easy to export goods.

From the 1700s until 1975 Prestongrange  produced bricks, tiles and salt glazed pipes which were sold across the world.  This was made possible by both technical innovations and locally available raw materials.

You can see the circular foundations of these beehive kilns to the left of the Hoffman kiln, opposite the Visitor Centre.

You can see the circular foundations of
these beehive kilns to the left of the
Hoffman kiln, opposite the Visitor Centre.

Prestongrange brick making became an integrated industry: local clay and shale was the main input, and coal from Prestongrange was used to fire the bricks, tiles and pipes in kilns made from local bricks. Salt produced locally was used to glaze pipes. Kilns are giant ovens used for baking bricks and ceramics. Up to 20 beehive kilns once stood at the heart of the Prestongrange site. The Hoffman kiln allowed the site to produce bricks by a continuous process, it replaced an earlier continuous on the same site.

The Hoffman kiln ‘burnt team’ protected their hands from hot bricks using grips cut from the soles of old leather boots.

The Hoffman kiln ‘burnt team’
protected their hands from hot
bricks using grips cut from the
soles of old leather boots.

The brickworkers had a dangerous job. Smoke from the beehive kilns contained toxic dust. Workers were constantly at risk of lung disease and heavy metal poisoning. When the Hoffman kiln opened there were new dangers – the hot bricks had to be removed by hand.

Prestongrange Brick

Prestongrange Brick

At first the brickworks were operated as a family business.

The Summerlee Iron Company built the Hoffman kiln in 1937. It increased production making the brickworks the biggest industry on the Prestongrange site between 1947 and 1961.

The Summerlee Iron Company built the
Hoffman kiln in 1937. It increased
production making the brickworks the
biggest industry on the Prestongrange
site between 1947 and 1961.

By the 1870s it had merged with the colliery. It developed from a small company supplying the Prestongrange Estate to a major heavy ceramics plant with a large workforce. After the pit closed in 1962, the Scottish Brick Corporation operated the brickworks until it closed in 1975.

This information was taken from the exhibition ‘Prestongrange: A Powerhouse of Industry’ on display at Prestongrange Museum visitor centre.  The museum is a lovely open-air site and free to visit.  The visitor centre, beam engine and powerhouse buildings are open seasonally and include much more information and objects that tell the stories of this fascinating place.




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