On Wednesday the 21st of June, the Chilterns Woodlands Project (CWP) arranged a visit to HG Matthews Brick Company which is situated at Bellingdon, near Chesham.
The Brick Works was started in 1923 and the grandson of the founder, Jim Matthews, gave us guided tour of the works. About 50% of the brick production is machine made and the other half are handmade. HG Matthews has made bricks for Hampton Court, Chequers, Mapledurham House and many more.
Jim showed us bricks being made by hand and the kilns in which they were placed before firing. All the clay used for brickmaking is sourced within a few miles of the plant.
The kilns used to be fired by coal and then oil, but escalating costs have made wood an economic alternative. The wood is cut locally and the family business has woodlands close by that they can harvest sustainably.
Apart from bricks of all shapes and sizes, HG Matthews sell a large range of wood burning stoves and fires. They are also agents for larger wood burning boilers which can attract grants from the government.
Following Jim’s tour we had a quick lunch and John Morris (of the CWP) led us around the local woodland explaining how the woods are to be managed. Older and sickly trees have been marked for felling and some overcrowding has been earmarked for thinning. Again there is Government money available to woodland owners to help to access areas for sustainable tree felling.
It seems a historic craft and the sustainable use of renewable fuels are combining to make HG Matthews a very viable enterprise.