Established in 1923, HG Matthews are the only remaining brickyard in Buckinghamshire.
We took a tour and here’s what we learned…
Starting at the beginning of a brick’s journey, we ventured out onto the several mounds of clay being shifted and sifted.
As we walked through to the workshop, we were met with hundreds of thousands of neatly stacked bricks, air drying outside under canopies.
By limiting the amount of coal firing, less energy and reliance on fuels means a more expansive outdoor setting. These driers are now powered by biomass boilers.
These biomass boilers produce minimal ash each day as a waste material, which is then recycled and reused by the local pottery for ceramic decoration.
Inside, we were introduced to the several specialist stages. Sifting and filtering means that few/zero amounts of contaminate (chalk, glass or other sharp aggregates) are found in the mixture. This is particularly important for the brick handlers as they individually fill each mould – this ensures no risk of cracking.
On average it takes 5 days to fill a kiln and 79,000 bricks. The gap left at the centre of the bricks when they are piled, is where the furnace is hottest. Bricks closest to the centre will turn grey as they are nearest the centre and bricks on the periphery will result in varying shades of red-brown. Red bricks control the spread of heat through the kiln and are often placed in specific locations to control the colouration of bricks above them. Once lit, the furnace will fire for 22 hours.
We were lucky enough to visit The Village Nursery, showcasing all types of bricks and strocks from the workshop.
Later, we heard from leading experts on the construction of the Village Nursery and on carbon neutral building materials, including the use of waste site materials.