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List of Brick and Tile Works in East Lothian

A scan of historic maps and census data has revealed that brick and, especially, tile works were widespread in the East Lothian countryside. There follows a list of sites, some of which are better documented that others and some of which can be placed only tentatively. Yet others will have been missed off as they were too transient or out of the way to have been remarked on in the two main sources consulted. In the later census entries job descriptions tend to be more informative. Thus, brick and tile makers are differentiated from labourers, ‘burners’, ‘can makers’ and the management is indicated by the appearance of clerks, managers and some named owners. Women workers are noticed for the first time. The information assembled here is just a brief summary – there are more sources to consult and local knowledge that could usefully be added to this account of a lost industry of East Lothian.

Each notice gives a location, cross linked to the HER (where possible), known dates and associated names (again, where possible).

Ballencrieff (Aberlady) Brick & Tile Works (NT472787). Noted on Forrest’s Map of 1799 and thereafter in the OS maps; working c1841 – c1861, latterly under the management of William Brodie of Seafield Brick & Tile Works.

Bankpark Pottery (Bankpark Fireclay Works) (NT398732). Noted in the OS maps, work commenced after 1841 under the management of John Grieve. A vast range of bricks, tiles, and other forms were produced, principally in fireclay obtained from Birsley Brae workings.

Coalston Tile Works (NT532703). Noted in the OS maps and operating c1851 under the 17 year old Thomas Stevenson.

Dirleton (Fenton) Tileworks (not located). Workers were based at East Fenton in 1841, although it is suggested that the works lay to the west of Fenton Barns, in near association with a works operating on a neighbouring farm.

Dunbar “Brick Work” (NT671790). A ‘former brick work’ is recorded on a hand drawn plan c1804 and located on the Belhaven Road to the west of Sailor’s Park & Gallows Green.

Eaglescairnie (Bolton) Tile Works (NT510694). Noted on the OS maps and working in the 1840s and 50s.

East Fortune (Athelstaneford) Tile Works (NT557799). Noted on the OS maps and owned by Bell of Kilduff, this works made both bricks and drainage tiles.

Gladsmuir Brick & Tile Works (& Brickfield) (NT463732). Noted in the OS maps and operating through the 1840s – 60s. It operated, for at least a period, in association with iron works at Macmerry under the Christie family. There are hints that the Gladsmuir facility has a longer history: to the south of the mapped site the placename ‘Claybarns’ is intriguing.

“Humbie Tile Works” (not located). Three tile makers are recorded in the Leaston – Bankhead area in the 1861 Census.

Rentonhall (Morham) Tile Works (NT543718). Noted on the OS maps very close to what appears to be a former coal working site this works operated in the 1840s and 50s under the ownership of Kenneth McKenzie.

Prestonpans is treated as a special case: two 18th century brick and tile works are identified in the Old Statistical Account; further to the west the county’s largest works developed out of the old pottery and glassworks site at Morrisons Haven:

Morrisons Haven (Prestongrange) Brick & Tile Works (NT373737). On the site of the 17th century glassworks and 18-19th century pottery an extensive brick and tileworks was developed in the second quarter of the 19th century, perhaps on a lease from the Grant-Sutties estate of Prestongrange. John Gilbert was described as ‘brick and tile manufacturer employing 9 men and 5 boys’ in the 1861 census; he was also associated with the site in 1841 but, although it was working, is not present in 1851. It is possible that by 1874 the brickworks were subsumed into the newly established Prestongrange Coal & Iron Company; this was certainly so by 1882 and the establishment of the successor Prestongrange Coal & Firebrick Company. It thereafter operated as part of the Summerlee Coal & Iron Company (from 1895), National Coal Baord (from 1947) and Scottish Brick Corporation (from 1969 to closure in 1975). At its peak the works listed almost 500 different products in a catalogue. Prestonpans Tile Works (& Brickfield), west (NT 383742). Described in the Old Statistical Account (1793) as ‘there is another tilework by the seaside’ a ‘little to the west’ of a Brick & Tile Works (east) ‘adjoining to the old churchyard’ on the south side of the road.  The former had an annual output stated at c80,000 tiles and the latter 130,000 with 107,000 bricks. The longevity of these sites is unknown; both seem to have been used for other industrial purposes, including potteries. In this context, it is worth noting that Belfield’s Pottery also made drain tiles. Lastly, the Second Edition 6″ OS map lists ‘old brick works’ at the site of the former Dolphingston Colliery (NT377727).

Ormiston Brick Kil (Kiln?) (NT418672). On Forrest’s Map (1799), south of Ormiston Hall, a field name may indicate the site of a former brickworks.

Pencaitland Tile Works (& Brickfield) (NT446693). Noted on the OS maps but indications of staff are absent in the usual census returns.

Pinkie (Levenhall) Brick & Tile Works migrated southwards as it worked its seam of clay. Earlier OS maps show it at NT361730 and the later at NT361726. This was a large works in operation over an extensive period; in 1851 Henry Fergus employed a staff of 31.

Saltoun Tile Works (NT476673). Noted on the OS maps and working over the period 1841-61; proprietor Alexander Muirhead, farmer of 300 acres, Limeburner & Tile Manufacturer.

Seafield Brick & Tile Works (NT659783). Noted on the OS maps and working throughout the period 1841-61. It was begun in the early 19th century by Bailie David France, continued and developed by William Brodie and passed to his daughter Marion Brodie Sherriff before closing in the 1890s. At the height of his powers Brodie was renowned for his innovation and skill; his enterprise led the family firm into the management of a suite of brickworks including Aberlady in East Lothian.

Smeaton Brick & Tile Works (NT349690). Noted on the OS maps its working span has not been confirmed.

Soutra (kiln, mill & claypit) (NT460607). The first Edition OS 6 inch map records a kiln, mill and claypit but no workforce has been traced.

Tynninghame (Whitekirk) Tile Works (NT595804). Marked on the OS maps and working at the time of the 1851 census.

Wallyford Brick & Tile Works (NT370721). Marked on the later OS maps, the brickworks was developed at Wallyford Colliery from the middle 1920s. It was inherited by the National Coal Board in 1947 and devolved by the Board to the Scottish Brick Corporation in 1969. Closed 1972.

Yester Tile Works (NT535673) and Yester (old) Brick (& Tile) Works (NT511648). The former appears on the OS maps, the latter on Forrest’s map (1799) but is represented by ‘Clayhole Wood’ on the OS maps. George Hay, 8th Marquess of Tweeddale, developed the estate of Yester after the Napoleonic Wars. He took an interest in drainage and is believed to have designed, built and patented an innovative tile press.

3 thoughts on “List of Brick and Tile Works in East Lothian”

  1. JAMES brown says:

    Doz any collectors by old bricks

  2. BillW says:

    Dear John,

    If you have a look at the List of Brick and Tile Works it mentions at the Seafield Brick and Tile Works that the business was started by Bailie David France then William Brodie and passed on to his daughter Maria Brodie Sherriff (MB Sherriff). Hope that answers you question.

  3. John says:

    Hi I came across this red brick with the inscription MB Sherriff, Dunbar, I looked on your website but couldn’t see it listed, do you have any more information?

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