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The Leverstock Green Brickfields

The website, The Leverstock Green Chronicle, contains extensive information on the village and has recently been updated to include three articles by Peter Ward on the brickfields on the St Albans side of Hemel Hempstead, I reproduce the first of these below.

SOME LOCAL BRICKFIELDS

By Peter Ward

(First published in Chambersbury News May 1998)

The sites of brickfields to the east of Hemel Hempstead were located along the road from Leverstock Green to Cupid Green where suitable clays were available in sufficient quantities for commercial production.

One such site was on the north side of Wood Lane End road. The ordnance map surveyed in 1877 shows the brickfield with two kilns, three clay pits and a large "old clay pit" to the north alongside Maylands Wood. 1 have written previously about this brickfield and its alleged connection with Charles Dickens. [Similar claims are made for the brick fields at Bernards Heath, St Albans.] The History of Hemel Hempstead says the Saunders or Sanders family made bricks for several generations in the eighteenth century at High Street Green. Hemel Hempstead's first trade directory dated 1792 [reproduced here] gave the name of only one brickmaker and that was John Saunders, described as farmer and brickmaker. Since the Wood Lane End brickfield was only about 500 yards from High Street Farm and High Street Green, perhaps at one time the Saunders family made bricks there.

Bennetts End is a rather more fruitful area of research. The History of Hemel Hempstead states that there is a reference to Tile Kiln House in the Manor Court Rolls for 1603, and also that a brickmaker's inventory dated 1670 in the name of Thomas Edmonds of Bennetts End "still survives". He made both bricks and tiles using wood for fuel, and incidentally died heavily in debt.

The 1877 survey shows a large brickfield at Bennetts End with clay pits, clay mills and kilns. Adjacent to it on the south side was another site including Tile Kiln Farm with clay pits and a kiln, which to judge by the name may have specialised in making tiles.

There are references to this area in various Kelly's directories:

1860 D Norris & Son, Leverstock Green; J Pratt, Bennetts End

1870 D Norris & Son; Mrs Caroline Pratt, Leverstock Green

1878 & 1882 Thomas Doult, Bennetts End Brickworks; D Norris, Leverstock Green

1886 Thomas Doult, Brick & Tile Works, Bennetts End; Robert R Norris, Leverstock Green

A map of 1922 shows that by that date the brickfields named as the Leverstock and Acorn Brick Works had extended north by some 200 yards, taking over the next field to what was then St Albans Road, the lower part of which today is St Albans Hill. The lane, which led off from the St Albans Road, provided access to the original brickfields, and Bennetts End House was in Tile Kiln Lane, which is today cut off by the dual carriageway. The old Brickmakers Arms which was once at the end of Tile Kiln Lane is now The Off Licence and The Drunks Cabin, isolated on the other side of the carriageway. Some of the cottages which were homes for brickmakers, now somewhat modernised, can still be seen in this part of Tile Kiln Lane. The longer section of today's Tile Kiln Lane then as now led to Leverstock Green.

An advertisement of 1922 named Richard A Norris as Managing director of the Leverstock and Acorn Red Brick Company Limited. He was residing at Berkhamsted. The firm was described as manufacturers of red and grey facing bricks and all descriptions of moulded bricks and brickwork ornament. there was no mention of tiles. A later advertisement stated the firm was established in 1848.

In September 1922 The Hemel Hempstead Gazette reported a visit of the Geologists Association to view certain geological features in the neighbourhood. The first call was to the "recently opened" flooded gravel pit by Railway Terrace, Kings Langley, where the gravel was extracted by suction pump. The party was met by Mr L A Daniels, who shows them the remains of prehistoric animals there. Then they went on to Bedmond to view glacial deposits, then to the Acorn Brickworks, Bennetts End, where Mr Norris showed them round the various claypits, drawing attention to the different types of clay. After tea at the works they finished the visit by seeing a clay pit on the premises of Pemsel and Wilson, motor engineers, on the London Road, Boxmoor.

In the Dacorum Heritage Trust store at Berkhamsted is a bronze pin found at the Acorn Brickworks. A letter dated 18 November 1930 to Mr R A Norris from the Geological Survey and Museum, Jermyn Street, London, stated that the British Museum had dated it about 1500. A note on the reverse of the letter records that the pin was found five feet below the surface by Mr G M Norris in 188 1. The pin is 95 mm overall in length with a more or less spherical head about 6 mm in diameter on which is a rather worn human face. The pin tapers from approximately 2 mm down to 1 mm.

Also in the Heritage store is an interesting moulded brick with the imprint:

LEVERSTOCK GREEN
RED BRICK Co Ltd
H. HEMP: TED

it would appear the S of Hempstead was missing from the mould when it was made. On the other side of the brick is "110", presumably the mould number. It may be that this brick was produced before Acorn was incorporated in the firm's name and judging from the spelling of Hempstead, perhaps before the end of last century - or was it just a mistake!

When the chimneystack of houses 151 and 153 London Road, Apsley End, built in 1897 was removed for repair the plain red bricks were found to be from the Bennetts End brickfield. They had the imprint "L & A", i.e. Leverstock and Acorn, There were also decorative bricks of four different patterns. They all had mould or pattern numbers on them. Only one had another imprint, which was H. HEMP.

The last entry advertising the Leverstock and Acorn Brickworks appeared in the Herts. & Essex Directory of 1944/5. It would seem that the business ceased shortly after that. This would coincide with the acquisition of land for New Town development.

Although there are few physical traces of the brickfield on the ground today, there is an abundance of street names such as Brickmakers Lane, Brickfield Avenue, Kiln Ground (roughly the site of the tile works), Tile Kiln Crescent and, commemorating the firm, which produced bricks at Bennetts End for about one hundred years, Acorn Road.

Peter Ward

January 2005

Andy Richardson (arichardson @t lambsbricks.com) writes: While researching for work the origin of the bricks used at Wardown Park, Luton I came across an example on site of a brick with the following frog markings. Norris, Laverstock Green, No. 10.  This marking led me in turn to your page on 'The Leverstock Green Brickfields' which is highly interesting and useful.

The bricks at Wardown Park are part of a wall know as The Daisy Chain Wall built for Halley Stewart the Liberal MP who had ownership of the Stewartby Brickworks and with his son planned the model village of Stewartby. The wall has now been rebuilt with our bricks made in Sussex to match the originals.

Thank you for your very interesting comments - bricks can often tell a tale about the buildings they were used to build or repair.

See also St Albans Brickmakers

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

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Page updated January 2008