TVAS East Midlands: 19th c. Brick Kiln from Blunham, Bedfordshire
TVAS East Midlands have just finished their excavation at land between 19 and 73, The Hill, Blunham, Bedfordshire .
The archaeological potential of the site had been highlighted from both an initial desktop study and evaluation. The site lay on the fringes of the historic (medieval) village. Blunham clearly has late Saxon origins and is first mentioned in Domesday Book (1086) as Blunham. The village contained two manors. The parish church, dedicated to SS James and Edmund has elements dating from the 12th century. The archaeological evaluation identified very few deposits of archaeological interest apart from areas of post-medieval quarrying recorded along with a post-medieval ditch which also recorded on historic maps. However, one zone contained structural remains of a probable brickworks which is not recorded on historic maps.
On the opening up of the excavation area elements of a brick kiln were recorded in the centre of site. This was surrounded by large in-filled quarry pits and a series of drainage systems; these likely connected to the brickworks. A mortar mixing pit was also recorded and an area of hard standing; made of brick and tile waste, which was likely built as an area to load the carts to take the newly fired bricks, tiles and mortar away to be sold.
The brick kiln building excavated was likely to have been a circular Downdraught kiln. The brick walls of the structure had been so badly robbed after the kiln went out of use that no walls were left surviving; only the foundations. These comprised fragments of brick and tile waste together with iron slag lumps.
Within this circular structure a sunken chamber was recorded. This had been constructed in a rectangular cut into the natural geology. The walls of the chamber; made of brick; were then built along the edges of this cut. The chamber was then floored by ceramic tiles which overlay a series of ceramic pipes which likely at one time were used to carry hot gases away from the kiln to a likely chimney. Unfortunately no substantial evidence of a chimney was recorded on site.
Surrounding this lower chamber, located at a higher level; were the remains of other areas of tiled floor. These tiled areas likely represent the only surviving remains of other chambers of the kiln where stacks of unfired “Green” bricks would have been placed to be fired.
The sunken chamber was rebuilt during the life time of the kiln. A layer of brick, tile and slag rubble was dumped over the original tiled floor and a new tiled floor was constructed and the outer walls of the original chamber appear to have been heightened.
Documentary evidence; a bill head dating to 1869; has been located which may give insight to the kiln and owner of the brickworks. The bill is titled Blunham Kiln and Bought of Frederick Hogg; and is for the sale of a quantity of tile. Fredrick Hogg is thus the owner of the brickworks at this date. Further research shows that Fredrick Hogg was a successful business man who lived at Girtford House, Girtford. This was a small hamlet just outside the town of Sandy which after 1910 was incorporated into the expanding Sandy. Hogg was a man of means owning numerous properties and land and likely made his money as a wine and spirit merchant. Later by1867 Merville’s Directory of Sandy lists him as a brick and tile maker and manager. He died in 1878 and all his property went to his illegitimate son Fredrick Safford.