When did they close?

Written by Pete Day

First Published

Including interviews with Jean & Brian Towers, Yvonne Horne and John Naylor.


With different dates having been documented there has been much disagreement concerning the closure of the Burton Brickyards amongst Burton residents, friends and family. There was so much talk of it continuing on after the war ended albeit working and producing on a much smaller scale, but we just didn't seem to have dates.

After chatting with John Naylor who remembers working there in the 1960's I was prompted to look into it further. We also have knowledge of two old family friends Joss Hunt and Norman Kearsley who had previously told us of working there post WWII when they were on short time at the steel works. Norman told us of the heat of the kilns and the clogs they had to wear as ordinary soles would just have melted.

John Naylor

John from Burton upon Stather and a BSHG member told me that he lived in Flixborough at the time and used to go digging clay on Saturday mornings and helped out at the brickyards. He knew Fred, Alf and George Horne really well and also remembers Bill Bell, the Ricketts' family who lived in one section of the house and the Markham family who had lived in it previously.

Pete Day

Jean West in front of the Brickyard House.

Our father Bob (Ernest William) Day was born at Horkstow Bridge, the site of another Franks Brickyard, in 1905. Born into a family of brickyard workers it was the Burton Stather Brickyards that brought his family to Burton Stather not many years later with his parents and family eventually settling in what is now 112 Stather Road. I seem to have carried on the family brick tradition, not making them though but building with them.

I specifically remember the brickyards still in production when I came out of the Army in 1960. The Foreman at the time was Fred Horne who lived in the big house along the lane with his wife Alice and two daughters Jean and Yvonne. It was a big double fronted house that faced west, towards the big pond (see our photo of Jean West stood on the lane with the house behind her). Attached and to the back, both facing Chafer Lane, was a three bedroomed house with a smaller dwelling on the end. The middle one was lived in by Fred Cowling and his family and the other occupied by the Markham/Hall family.

Prior to one of the drying sheds being burnt down the shelving and the interior woodwork had been stripped and used to make kindling, certainly by my family and indeed many other villagers. The shelves or deels as we called them were approx 20" long and 12" wide by 1" thick. After the war the drying sheds on the south side of Chafer Lane leading to the West's home were used.

I used to take pheasants and rabbits to Fred and Alice Horne even after they moved to Darby Road and continued to do so right up until Fred and then sadly Alice passed away. I talked to their daughter Yvonne, who still lives there and she confirms all that her sister Jean has told us below.

Jean & Brian Towers

Jean's maiden name was Horne and her family were involved with Franks Brickworks for a number of generations. Her Great Grandfather being a foreman at Blyth Tile Works in Barton on Humber (approx 1851), brick and tile making definitely ran in the Horne family's blood. Jean's parents Fred and Alice came to Burton in 1947, after the end of WWII so perhaps this solves the mystery of when the brickyards began production again?

She gave us names of some of the workers there. Fred (Jean's father), Alf and George Horne all worked at the brickyards as well as Bill Bell, Ricketts, Wag Hall, Markham, Fred Cowling and the West family with Harry West eventually becoming the warden. Smiling faces to some of these names can be seen on the photo of workers from many years earlier in 1928. The Horne family, the Markham family and Fred Cowling's family all lived in sections of the large house that stood between the sandpit and the brickyards as mentioned. Jean remembers the drying shed burning down during a grass clearing exercise by George Horne which got out of control.

Jean was able to solve the argument and confirm our memories were not incorrect by giving us an approximate time of final closing for the Burton Brickyards as 1965/1966. She says this is because she knows the family moved up the hill to Darby Road shortly after closure. She particularly remembers this as it was before she and Brian married in 1968. She remembers the production over the last 4 to 5 years slowing and the gradual wind down and that the premises were still owned by Franks along with a yard at South Ferriby.

Jean's husband Brian remembers himself and his soon to be father in law Fred Horne making a mushroom out of the clay and it going into the kiln. This was the very last firing ever to take place at Burton Stather Brickyards.

Burton's Brickyard Boys Remembered

An article about the Burton Stather brickyard from the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph Nostalgia page from by .

The Photo

A 1928 PHOTO of a gang of workers from either one or both of the two now redundant brickyards once owned by J. Frank and Sons at Burton Stather has been provided by retired builder Herbert Gaunt of Alkborough.

He is only able to recall the names of three workers. Doug Johnson who lived in the Old Row Burton Stather, third left of the back row, standing second from the right is either Taffy West or his brother Harry. Herbert believes all the workers were from Burton Stather. They dug out clay from the pits during winter and during the summer made bricks, pipes and slates marked with the letter F in the centre of each. They were then baked in the kilns.

He said both brickyards were separated by a field and were managed by a Mr West. The two youths to the right on the front were most likely trainees. The writing on the lifebuoy suggests someone is playing a joke on the company. The pits are now ponds surrounded by vegetation and a haven for wildlife.

Workers at the Burton Stather brickyard,
Back Row: George Day (Cappy), George Cowling, Doug Johnson, Len Button,
Ted Button, George Horn, Taff West, Clarence Hunter (Nig).
Front Row: Alf Horne, Henry Johnson, Walt Cooper, J Bell.

The Saga of The Burton Stather Wind Engines

Written by Craig Alison
First Published

The John Wallis Titt Engine

The Burton Stather Brick and Tile pits were worked for about 100 years extracting clay for the manufacture of bricks and tiles until the 1960's. They were then abandoned and the pits filled with water, becoming what is now known as the brick ponds.

BSHG learned recently that one of the three wind pumps that pumped water out of the pits was still there but in a very sorry state. An action plan was put into place and permission sought to rescue it with a view to restoring it as an interesting part of our local heritage.

On Sunday 16th January 2011 a small group of BSHG members along with a JCB Teleporter, kindly loaned to us by a local farmer, set out to recover the wind pump. It was a tricky job as everything had to be hoisted over a 3 metre wide and 3 metre deep warping ditch.

Project Gallery. Click for more.

First to be lifted was the 10 metre (30ft) metal tower. Small trees that had grown through it during the 40 years or so since the tower crashed to the ground were cut out of the way and the tower gently hoisted over the ditch. The tower is complete but in very bad way and only the metal castings that carry the tower's tension rods and a large cast iron collar at the top can be re-used. The rest of the tower will have to be completely rebuilt. Due to the poor state of the tower we were able to cut it in half to make transportation easier and safer.

The pump was next. This originally sat in the centre of the tower at the base and was connected via a long connecting rod which in turn connected to the gear head at the top.

The pump is a heavy, self contained unit made of cast iron. On inspection this appeared to be fully restorable. This again was dragged out and hoisted over the ditch.

The final part of this operation was the gear head. This was about 30 metres further up the side of the pond. The gear head was laid half in the pond along with 3 iron rings that once carried the sails. This was very rusty but again appears to be largely restorable. Again with some effort all the pieces were hoisted across.

It was during the removal of the gear head that fate changed our plans. Another base was discovered next to the gear head. This now meant the tower and pump are from the same machine but the gear head is from another. So BSHG are now dealing with 2 wind pumps. This actually made sense, as one story we had been told was that when the tower we have collapsed it fell over the ditch and the gear head broke away, presumably with its sails (or fan to use the correct term), and lay in the field. Farmers then moved it out of the way to the field side. It is allegedly still there but buried under brambles and dredgings from the ditch. A quick search of the area with a metal detector revealed nothing and at the time of writing was still not found.

This currently poses a problem as we have two wind pumps, neither of which is complete. We will however continue the search for parts and what cannot be found can be reconstructed as other examples are known to exist.

Research to date has revealed that wind pump 1, consisting of the tower and pump, is a Newark type made by Wakes and Lamb Ltd of Millgate, Newark on Trent (an obvious choice as Newark is a boat ride away from Burton upon Stather). The age of this is uncertain but c1900-1920 would be a fair estimate.

Wind pump 2 is potentially more interesting. It is believed to be built by John Wallis Titt of Cornwall and could be very rare with only 3 other examples known to still exist. We have been able to establish that this would have had a wooden tower and wooden sails. Again we cannot put an exact date to it but wooden towers are generally reckoned to pre-date 1880. Further investigations need to be made to locate the pump.

BSHG retrieve the missing gear head for the Wakes and Lamb Ltd Newark wind engine.

Sunday 30th January saw BSHG members back at the brick ponds to try to locate the missing gear head of Annie, our Wakes & Lamb ltd, Newark wind pump (or wind engine as they are often known). Using a sophisticated metal detector kindly loaned to us by Crawford's Metal Detectors, the area of scrub land to the north east of where Annie once stood was methodically scanned. After about 15 minutes the detector gave a large beep to let us know some kind of metal was down there. At a depth of almost 2ft we hit a large piece of iron. Further digging revealed enough for us to be sure the gear head had been found. As it turned out, our efforts to locate it the last time resulted in us missing it by less than 10ft.

Searching for the gear head
Retrieving the Newark gear head. Click for more.

Digging was hard work as it was heavy clay dredging from the nearby drainage ditch. In total it took two people about an hour to excavate around the gear head and get it to a point where it could be dragged out by a 4x4. The gear head is very rusty and has one or two broken castings. However, because it is so substantially built it is in the main restorable. No part of the sails (fan) structure was found and it is assumed that this has long since rotted away.

BSHG now has a more or less complete Wakes and Lamb Ltd Newark wind pump for restoration. Restoration has begun on the pump and details of the restoration will follow when it is complete.

Special thanks to Morse's Wind engine Park of Repps, Norfolk, for information and continued support with this project.

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© 2024 Burton upon Stather Heritage Group

© Background Photograph by Glyn Morgan 2011.