Tag Archives: Buckinghamshire

Bucks Bricks and Brickyards

A talk to AiM by Catherine Grigg

We are surrounded by bricks: they provide our shelter from the elements. And yet how little thought most of us give to this fundamental component in our lives. Dr. Catherine Grigg, Curator of Wycombe Museum, talked to AiM on 10 November 2011 about Buckinghamshire’s rich history of brickmaking. While the county has little in the way of stone for building – flint aside – it is blessed with plentiful deposits of brick clay.

We were taken through the process of brick production. The industry had a seasonal pattern. Clay extraction took place during the autumn months, i.e. when the harvesting was over. The extracted clay was then mixed with water and left to season, a stage known as ‘puddling’. The mixing process might use horse power, or be done with the benefit of wind or water power – or even trodden by human feet in the manner of wine making. When brick making did begin, it was an intensive process and twelve hour working days were not unusual. The next stage was moulding the brick when clay would be thrown into a mould lined with sand.

Following the moulding process, the bricks were left to ‘cure’ for about a month in brick stacks before the next stage, the firing. After careful loading of the kilns, the brick furnaces were allowed to burn for a number of days. Too intensive a heat, however, could produce ‘vitrification’, i.e. the sand turned to glass. Such glazed bricks might be used for decorative purposes and those present contributed their knowledge of locations in Marlow, particularly its High Street, where they had been used to good effect – reference was made to bricks called ‘Marlow Blues’. In 2008, AiM published Marlow Bricks following a survey undertaken in the town. We were also informed that a Gazetteer of Brickyards in Buckinghamshire was published by the County Museum in 1995, listing all known brickyards in the County, ancient and modern.

From around 1690, bricks were made with a hollow in the top, known as the ‘frog’, a development which both helped the mortar to settle and saved on clay. Hand scoops in bricks had been known before then too. Roman and Tudor bricks were thin as they were rolled out like pastry and cut, rather than moulded. Tudor bricks were quite uneven in their size ,which is why one sees quite heavy use of mortar in this period to compensate for their size differences. It was the Tudor era which saw a period of extensive rebuilding. Houses were made bigger and often use was made of brick instead of wood in their construction. At this time, to build in brick was a sign of high status. Bricks were expensive and only the owners of high profile structures could afford hand-made bricks. Chenies Manor and the Manor House in Stoke Poges (1655) were cited as local examples of this development. Winslow Hall (1700) had a kiln especially built for it (during questions it was said that owners would search out locations which had good brick clay deposits and build close by in order to overcome the high cost of transporting such a heavy cargo as bricks).

Stone dressing began to be added on corners and windows of brick-built buildings to enhance their appearance, e.g. Marlow Place (1740) and Court Gardens, and (Old) County Hall in Aylesbury (1780).

After their use in wealthy houses and for public buildings, bricks became more widely available and cheaper after the Brick Tax was abolished in 1850. The likes of brick-built terraced houses were then built to cope with the large increase in population which had led to a demand for small houses.

Sometimes brickmaking was a sideline to another trade, such as making roof tiles. After the extraction of brick clay, the ground might be turned into a pond, returned to agricultural use or just left as hollows, e.g. at Brill where bricks had been made for Waddesdon Manor.

The questions session that followed touched on the standardisation of brick sizes; transportation issues (the arm of the Grand Union canal to Slough was built for the benefit of that town’s important brick industry); the significant contribution which this local industry made to building metropolitan London; how kilns were fired, and the decorative art of ‘rubbed bricks’.

By Jeff Griffiths

Bucks Bricks – Calvert and Bletchley by Robert Cook published by Quotes Ltd. in 1996 provides a detailed account of the history and manufacture of bricks in north Buckinghamshire.

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The Development of Printed Maps of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire

Archaeology in Marlow welcomed John Leighfield to Liston Hall on Thursday November 13th, when he presented a fascinating history of maps from their earliest beginnings up to the present day. He illustrated his lecture with a slide show of maps through the ages and brought copies of many of these maps which the audience had the opportunity to examine after the talk.

Mr. Leighfield covered the development of maps over four millennia, from a Bronze Age rock carving, through the revolution brought about by the printing press and right up to the digital maps made possible by the Internet today.

His first slide showed the oldest known map, the Bedolina Map. The map is cut into a rock located in the Park of Seradina in Northern Italy. It dates from the Bronze Age, about the middle of the second millennium BC. Moving on, he showed a picture of a Babylonian world Map on a clay tablet dating from about 600 BC. These primitive maps mark the beginning of man’s need to locate his position in the world, but the earliest maps of England and Wales date from the end of the first millennium AD.

The ‘Anglo Saxon Map,’ dating from the end of the 10th century, is an early attempt to map England and Wales; but the ‘Gough’ Map is the first map in which we can see the distinctive outline of England and Wales. The orientation is different, with East at the top of the map, and this reminds us that the convention of putting North at the top was not established until later. The ‘Gough’ map dates from around 1360. It was drawn in ink and hand-coloured on two skins of vellum. The map was donated to the Bodleian Library in Oxford by Richard Gough in 1809. In the 14th Century, only one manuscript map could be produced at a time. However, the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century was about to revolutionize the making of maps.

Gutenberg’s printing press and improved surveying techniques led to major advances in cartography during the 16th Century. Christopher Saxton used the new technology to produce one of the first regional atlases in the world. Saxton was funded by Thomas Seckford, with the backing of Queen Elizabeth, whose authority Saxton used to gain access to useful vantage points throughout the land. He travelled throughout England and Wales, surveying and drawing. His first maps (including Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire) appeared in 1574, while the complete atlas was ready by 1579. Saxton employed skilled engravers to produce the maps.

John Leighfield
John Leighfield

Mr Leighfield described the process by which craftsmen engraved the drawings for the maps onto copper plates which were then inked. Sheets of paper were pressed on to the inked plates to produce a print. The print could be hand-coloured. Many maps could be produced from the same plates. Lack of copyright restrictions also meant that others could take information from Saxton’s maps and use it in their own publications. Saxton had combined Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire on the same page. Buckinghamshire appears as a map on its own for the first time as an illustration in the 1607 edition of Britannia, a history book by William Camden. The maps are finely engraved by John Kip and William Hole (who engraved the Buckinghamshire map) using information from Saxton’s maps.

Later mapmakers continued to use Saxton’s maps to create atlases of their own. One of the best known is John Speed, who took the basic information from Saxton and added small town plans and divisions of the counties known as ‘hundreds’. His maps are very finely engraved and went through many editions. Samuel Pepys was obviously very proud of his Speed atlas and mentions it several times in his diaries. Michael Drayton used maps to illustrate his Poly-Olbion, a collection of poems published in 1613. The maps have only basic geographical details, but plenty of mythological figures.
For example, the map of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire is dominated by an illustration of the marriage of the Thames and the Kennet, shown as King and Queen with attendants. It is noticeable that there are no roads on these maps. It was not until 1675 that the roads of England and Wales were mapped by John Ogilby and published in his Britannia. Using his maps, roads were added to maps made from the engravings of the Saxton and Speed atlases.

Maps continued to be produced under the impetus of private enterprise through the 18th century. In 1759, the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (now the Royal Society for Arts) advertised for original surveys of counties at one inch-to-the-mile. One of the last surveyors to produce maps before the advent of the Ordnance Survey was Andrew Bryant who, in 1823, produced a map of Buckinghamshire at 1½ inches-to-the-mile. Working at about the same time was John Cary, recognized as one of the most accomplished cartographers, who produced his finest maps in 1809 with the publication of the New English Atlas. It was at this time, fearing invasion following the French Revolution, that the Government recognized a need for good military maps; this was the beginning of the Ordnance Survey.

The Ordnance Survey had its origins in the Board of Ordnance, which was responsible for supplying munitions to the army. The Board received instructions to map the southern coast in readiness to defend the country during the Napoleonic Wars. While the danger of invasion receded after the battle of Trafalgar, the Survey continued. The question of scale was debated; in addition to 1 inch-to-a-mile maps, both 6 inches-to-a-mile and 25 inches-to-a-mile maps were produced. The Ordnance Survey gathered momentum to become the main mapping agency for the country. In 2001, Ordnance Survey launched the digital OS Master Map made possible by the Internet, which has produced another revolution in mapmaking.

Mr. Leighfield brought his talk to a close with a look at how the Internet has transformed mapmaking. Many of us are familiar with Google Maps and Multimap. Newer still is Wikimapia – a website which allows the user to produce maps of his own locality. Mr. Leighfield also introduced us to the People’s Map. This allows the user to produce their own map with the features they want to highlight, from which it is possible to switch to an aerial photograph of the same area. Just as it has affected other aspects of our lives, the Internet has changed the way we use maps. Maps have come a long way since the rock carvings of our Bronze Age ancestors.

Following the conclusion of Mr Leighfield’s talk, he distributed CD’s and hard copy colour hand-outs of his talk, some of which were later circulated to members who were indisposed on the night.

We are very grateful to Mr Leighfield for a fascinating and informative talk on maps, with special reference to Buckinghamshire. Instead of taking a fee, Mr Leighfield preferred that half of the profits from his talk be forwarded to Helen and Douglas House, a charity which provides hospice care for children and young adults, which has subsequently been effected.

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Marlow people in the Civil War

On 25th October 2007, Julian Hunt gave us a talk about the people of Buckinghamshire who were involved in the period of the Civil War, 1642 – 1651. Julian is well qualified to present this subject having been directly involved in the formation of the magnificent ‘ Buckinghamshire in the Civil War’ exhibition which was in Aylesbury Museum from November 2004 to February 2005. This was a stunning collection of paintings, furniture, documents, artefacts and personal possessions relating to people from the area during this period of conflict. Even a shoe belonging to one of Charles I executioners was on display!

As it happens, quite a large number of important families from the area were significant in the period just before and during the war (John Hampden, the Verneys, Bulstrode Whitelock, the Digbys, Prince Rupert and others and not to mention Charles I and Oliver Cromwell). Also, Buckinghamshire formed an important boundary between the Royalist and Parliamentarian sides.

Julian’s talk centred around the portraits and he gave us a detailed account of each pictured person, their background and they and their families’ involvement in the war.

We are all familiar with the tale of Sir Miles Hobart’s accident on Holborn, and its memorial in All Saints – but was it an accident or possible sabotage? This is just one example of the intriguing details which Julian was able to tell us about. There were many superb pictures and one could almost feel the intense significance to each of the people of what was happening to them at that time.

It was an excellent presentation given to us by an expert in the subject. Thank you Julian, for talking to us.

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