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Circular brick kilns, west H Collier Brick and Tile Works, Church Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Marks Tey, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8835 / 51°53'0"N

Longitude: 0.7776 / 0°46'39"E

OS Eastings: 591260.856068

OS Northings: 224191.333916

OS Grid: TL912241

Mapcode National: GBR RLN.Z9L

Mapcode Global: VHKFX.FXFJ

Entry Name: Circular brick kilns, W H Collier Brick and Tile Works, Church Lane

Scheduled Date: 15 April 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020999

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32469

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Marks Tey

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Marks Tey

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes two circular kilns and their associated brick working
floor, flues and chimney base located within W H Collier Brick and Tile Works,
Church Lane, Marks Tey. The western kiln is a Listed Building Grade II.

The Marks Tey Brick Works was established by John Wagstaffe, a farmer and
brickmaker, in 1863. William Holman Collier, a young brickmaker from Reading,
took over the brickworks by 1879 and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
the firm supplied not only local needs, but also the wider market from its own
tramway and siding to the adjacent railway. It was the outcrop of brick making
clays (lacustrine deposits) in the Marks Tey area which led to the setting up
of the brickworks in the 1860s. A claypit, known as the `Blue Hole' because
of the colour of the clay when first dug, is adjacent to the works. Originally
the clay was dug by hand and conveyed to the yard in hawser-drawn trucks. This
process is now mechanised, leaving no visible trace of the earlier system.

The two circular kilns are surrounded by a brick working floor and incorporate
a shared flue and chimney. The western kiln has a circular fire chamber, a
domed internal brick roof with central circular vent, and a large cone-shaped
superstructure. The external diameter of the firing chamber at the base of the
kiln is 6m and the total height of the kiln to the top of the cone is 12m.
Internally the firing chamber measures 3m at its tallest point and its
internal diameter is 4m. The cone superstructure is of corbelled brickwork,
rendered on the outside. A small arched doorway or wicket in the cone provided
access to the dampers on the firing chamber dome. Originally it was operated
in conjunction with the eastern kiln sharing a common chimney. It was
converted at a later date as a stand alone updraught kiln by adding the top

The eastern kiln is thought to have been designed to operate with a
downdraught and does not have a cone superstructure. This second kiln has
a firing chamber 4.5m high and with a 4m internal diameter. The surrounding
brick flooring, together with the flues and chimney were built at the same
time as the second kiln, providing working space and the necesssary draught to
fire the pair. At this kiln only the base of the chimney survives, but it
is known to have been of square design and to have stood approximately 6m

Many of the original features of the kilns survive: the eastern kiln has the
original external pulley (which would have operated the damper) in place in
its northern side. The two firing chambers are identical in design and show
all the features of a downdraught kiln: a large central vent in a domed roof,
a bag-wall or baffle around the inside wall of the chamber, and a series of
ten equidistant fireholes (complete with firebars) level with the chamber

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The earliest, though slight, evidence for the production of bricks in
post-Roman England is thought to be demonstrated by the use of the material in
the 8th century construction of Brixworth church, Northamptonshire. Otherwise,
the earliest production on any scale has been identified in the area around
Coggeshall Abbey, Essex in the early 12th century, and attributed to immigrant
craftsmen from mainland Europe. The import of Flemish bricks (and further
immigration of brickmakers) stimulated the industry in the 14th century and
led to prestigious brick buildings being erected in the eastern counties. The
bricks were almost entirely made on the construction site, in temporary yards,
and this long remained the standard mode of operation.

The use of brick gradually increased in the following centuries (for example
in the construction of chimney stacks and fireplaces) but its use as a
primarily building material remained largely confined to high status
buildings. From the 17th century onwards brick manufacturing was stimulated by
wider industrialization, by the increasing scarcity of timber and rising cost
of stone. In the second half of the 18th century there was a sharp rise in
demand spurred by significant improvements to the transport system which
opened up markets and eased the supply of fuel, principally coal. This
encouraged the establishment of permanent brickyards and the construction of
substantial kilns. By the mid-1850s, aided by the expansion of the railway
system (both as a consumer and a means of transport) Britain's output of
bricks had risen to more than 2000 million per annum. A wide range of brick
making machines was introduced in the second half of the 19th century, most of
which could be adapted to produce tiles and pipes and further increase
manufacturers' output.

Surviving examples of structures, or groups of structures, which illustrate
significant stages in the development of brick manufacture, or which exemplify
and illustrate the processes involved are considered to be of particular

Historically the W H Collier Brickworks produced bricks, roof tiles,
pammets, flower pots and drain pipes. The brickworks is still in use
today, having been acquired by Chelwood Brick in 1988, however, the
processes employed have changed considerably. The bricks are now produced
in a tunnel-kiln fired by propane gas and the clay is now dug out by
contractors. The circular kilns at Marks Tey give testimony to an earlier
brickmaking process, and represent an exceptional survival of a form of
industrial monument now extremely rare nationally. The kilns are of
particular importance because all the elements of the firing operation are
present: the kilns themselves, the brick-floored working area surrounding
the kilns, the flues and the chimney. Thus, the whole working operation of
the kilns is clearly understandable: the chimney and flues providing the
necessary downdraught to fire the kilns and the brick flooring providing a
hard work-surface over which brick-laden wheelbarrows could easily run.
The well-preserved internal and external features of the kilns add detail
to our understanding of their operation: all the fireholes complete with
firebars are present; the pulley operating the damper on the most easterly
kiln is still in place. The presence of all of these features allows us to
draw a complete picture of the firing process in operation at Marks
Tey during the late 19th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ryan, P, Brick in Essex: The Clayworking Craftsman and Gazetteer of sites, (1999), 48-9
1:100 plan, section and elevation, Hammond, M D P, Downdraught Kiln W.H. Collier Ltd. Marks Tey, Colchester, (1977)
Borough of Colchester 1999-2000, Essex County Council, Buildings at Risk Register, (2000)
Colchester Rural, Dept. of the Environment, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, (1982)
Discussion during site visit, Page, M, (2002)
Discussions during MPP site visit, Page, M, (2002)
letter to Essex County Council, Hammond, MDP, Brick Kilns at Marks Tey and Bulmer, (1977)

Source: Historic England

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