Backford, Mollington & Lea Villages

The older properties in Mollington, and the mid-eighteenth century high retaining wall of the Mollington Hall estate were built with handmade bricks. Some of the older residents in the Mollington area remember the brick making pits and the kilns in the brick makers' yard along Grove Road. In one of the back gardens along Grove Road there still exists evidence of the pits. Throughout the 18th century brick was used for many smaller houses and cottages in most areas of Britain and canal building had a consderable effect on the industry. 

The Chester-Ellesmere canal was constructed in 1793-1795 and it may be thate here in Mollington as in many other places, the local brick yards used the excavated clay to provide bricks. The canals, of course, offered a cheap and efficient method of transporting heavy bricks. The Brick Tax levied over the years from 1784 until 1850 varied considerably and were altered for instance when it was discovered that to minimise the cost of the tax due, larger bricks were being used. 

Until the 19th century, mortar was used not so much as to keep the bricks together as to keep the bricks the right distance apart. Made from a mixture of lime and sand with water, this was the usual kind of mortar until after the First World War when mortar was made with cement (made by burning limestone and clay at very high temperatures) and sand. During the nineteenth century attempts were made to match the colur of the mortar with that of bricks - for instance ground ashes were added to lime to make a black mortar.

An Outline History

The process of brick makeing is a very old one with fired bricks using clamps or simple up-draught kilns being carried out since the third millennium B.C. in other parts of the world. In Britain it was the Romans who introduced the first fired bricks using the wide-spread patches of surface clays which were soft and therefore easily obtained ad worked. After moulding, the bricks were fired in up-draught kilns. Like most modern brick makers the Romans stamped many of their bricks before firing with the name of the manufacturer and aowks. Size and shape varied considerably but were usually larger and flatter than modern ones. After the Romans had left Britain, brick makeing ceased for several hundred years. Early brick making was resumed in Eastern England in the late 14th century because of its proximity to Europe where brick was a popular building material and because of the accessibility of soft and easily obtained local clays and the lack of suitable building stone in Eastern England. In fact no English word for brick existed until the late 14th century; instead the French word "briche" or "brique" was used supplanting the old Roman word "tegula" - meaning brick or floor tile. During the 15th century brick became a more popular building material but was largely confined to the building of largeer houses or institutional buildings such as the Guld Halls or Oxbridge Colleges. By Tudor times, brick had become a fashionable building material with many being elaborately carved and moulded and some timber and stone houses even had ornate chimneys! After the Great Fire of London in 1666 when timber houses had been such a fire hazard in the conflagration, bricks were universally used and the greater demand led to improvements in the brickmaking process - such as the pug mill - a labour-saving cylindrical mixing machine which,m by means of rotating blades, churns the clay to the correct consistency for brick-making. Before this, clay had been mixed by treading or by hand. The first pug mills were horse driven but later ones were driven by various types of engine. The handmade bricks with rougher edges using moulds were still made in many places by brickmakers who chose to disregard the developing mechanisation - first the steam machines (which could produce one thousand bricks per hour compared with three thousand per day by hand), then the wire cut process and later the semi-dry press process producing the common pressed bricks and first made at Fletton near Peterborough in 1881; and also the continuous kiln (pioneered in 1859); but during the second half of the nineteenth century, brick production had doubled.