DescriptionOne of the great industries in Victorian Wokingham was the production of bricks. The most prolific was that of Thomas Lawrence’s New Yard which was based west of Molly Millars Lane. By 1893 he also had brickworks at Swinley, Easthampstead, Warfield and Pinewood.
His Wokingham Brickworks had a tramway that crossed Molly Millars Lane and the Emm Brook to connect it to the railway, broadly running where Fishponds Rd and Ashville Way are now.
The brickworks were extended to East Heath and covered 58 acres by 1910 and was making 10 million bricks per year. The site had ten cottages for employees.
Originally there were two kilns which had chimneys of 180 and 220 feet high and 26 and 28 chambers, each holding 30-35000 bricks. Two additional kilns were added by 1931.
Production ceased during the Second World War and one of the kilns was badly damaged when a chimney fell. After the war the kilns were used to produce wirecut brick and a few hand made bricks.
In 1960 a flood caused so much damage that the works had to shut. Thomas Lawrence’s bricks however live on having been used at Westminster Cathedral, the Albert Hall and in restoration work at 10 Downing Street and Hampton Court Palace.
Brick makers often stamped the bricks with a distinctive mark, usually in the frog (depression on the top), but occasionally on the side. . Hand made bricks were marked T.L.B. and machine made pressed bricks were being marked *WK * by 1933. The associated photograph shows bricks that were found in a garden in Wokingham in August 2018.
There follows an extract from the Reading Mercury dated 23rd February 1935
REMARKABLE FEAT BY A YOUNG LADY
On Sunday afternoon Miss Doris Mewes accompanied the steeplejack who is employed upon the chimney of Messrs. Lawrence’s brickyard, to the top of the shaft, a height of 140 ft. The ladder is erected perpendicular to the ground, and Miss Mewes accomplished both climb and descent unaided. She did not once lose her nerve, and, at the summit, had “a good look round” at the beautiful landscape. With the exception of aching muscles due to strain, Miss Mewes has felt no ill-effects for her adventure. Capt W.B. Martin, C.O. Wokingham Fire Brigade, witnessed her achievement.
Sourcewww.jaharrison.me.uk/Brickwork/Collection.html Friends of the Emm Brook (FOTEB)
Wokingham in the News (Extracts from local newspapers) 1858 to 1999 by Jim Bell
“Wokingham Brickworks,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed September 24, 2020, https://wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0483.