The Story of Heyford: The Bricklayers Arms V2C9

Although we can’t be sure exactly when the house was built, the deeds date back to 1827. The earliest reference we have found to the name ‘Bricklayers Arms’ is in the census return of 1871. This shows that it was occupied at that time by John Dunkley. He was aged twenty-nine and his occupation was shown as beer seller and ironworks labourer. The Census returns of 1881 and 1891 both refer to John Dunkley, beer seller, although neither specifically mention the name ‘Bricklayers Arms’.

The earliest recorded memory of the pub was from Bob Browning (1892-1997). Bob recalled that it was run in the early 1900s by Tom Dunkley. He told me that Tom Dunkley was the son of William Dunkley who ran ‘The Boat’ opposite. Tom Dunkley apparently died by drowning in the canal.

The Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

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The Bricklayers Arms stood in Furnace Lane beside the canal. Like many buildings alongside the canal it had two floors at the front and three at the back. The building still exists as a private dwelling and is called Bridge Cottage. When it was modernised it was completely gutted and is now hardly recognisable as the same building because it had its top floor removed.

A small pub for local needs

Between the wars the pub was run by George Faulkner who continued to run it until the late 1930s. In the photo you can see the board above the door with the words:

NetherHeyford_BricklayersArms_GeorgeFaulkner

George Faulkner was grandfather to Ada Smith and Charlie Masters. Charlie remembers the pub from when it was in use. As with many buildings alongside the canal, it had two stories at the front and three at the back. The bar or tap room had bare Wooden boards with two or three tables and a handful of chairs. One of the tables was marked out for shove-halfpenny. There was no bar as such. When you wanted a beer the landlord had to go down the narrow steps to the cellar and fetch it in a jug directly from the barrel. The beer barrels were delivered by motor lorry and came from Phipps brewery in Northampton.

The pub had no water, but there was a tap at the railway cottages just down the road from where water could be fetched by bucket. There was no real toilet, just a little shelter with a drain, but no door. There was however a traditional oven heated by faggots. Some of the local people brought their Sunday roasts and Yorkshire puddings to be cooked in it.

Fishing Expedition around 1928

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The man on the far right is George Faulkner.
The small boy beside him is his grandson Charlie Masters who lent this photograph.

Brickworkers, and fishing trips

At that time the pub catered mainly for the brickyard workers. The brickyard with its coal-fired kilns was warm work and so the pub was often opened for a short time at around 6.30 in the morning for the workers to buy beer to take to work. They would also go there at lunchtime and after work to quench their thirsts. Bill Nickolls who worked at the brickworks recalls that the beer was 4d per pint and that they sometimes played skittles. There was also fun in the evenings. Charlie remembers how Bill Nickolls’ mother used to carry a gramophone up to the pub to play music on Saturday nights.

Sometimes during the summer months a group of people from St James End in Northampton came by bus for a day’s fishing on the canal. The men would fish while the women sat on the grass and chatted. They brought picnics and drank beer from the pub. There was a piano which would be man- handled out of the building so that they could have a sing-song in the sunshine. The photograph here shows the group from one of these trips. On the far left is George Faulkner, and the small boy beside him is his grandson Charlie Masters who provided much of the information in this article.

Hay barn, stables, weddings and coal

To the left of the main building was a hay barn. Underneath this at the back of the house was stabling for six or eight horses. The horses were stabled overnight by the boat people for which George Faulkner charged about 6d. In the hay barn above were three holes at either end through which the hay could be dropped through to the horses below. Sometimes the hay was cleared out and the barn was used as a function room. Charlie’s sister Ada and John Smith had their wedding reception in this room. To the left of the barn was a wall which was built of clinker from the Furnaces. This wall is still there.

George Faulkner also ran a coal business. The coal came by railway to Weedon and then on the siding in the brickyard. He stored the coal beside the pub in the yard where Tarrys now operate and delivered it around the village by horse and cart. There was a small weighbridge, just large enough for a small cart which was used to weigh the coal, and sometimes also sand which came from a sandpit in a field behind the yard.

Little Tommy

One of the visitors to the Bricklayers Arms was Little Tommy (Harris?). He was a shoemaker. If you wanted some shoes or boots he took all the measurements and two or three weeks later he returned with the finished article. He sometimes came to the village on Sundays. He took the bus from Northampton to Weedon and did some business there. He then walked along the A5 to the Bricklayers Arms where he bought eggs from Mrs Faulkner. He wrapped them up individually in paper and put them in his gladstone bag. On one occasion he dropped one on the ground and it broke. He asked Mrs Faulkner for a spoon and ate it from the ground so as not to waste it. He then walked on into the village and did some business there before taking the last bus back to Northampton.

The sale of the pub

Since the opening of the two furnaces in the 1860s the Furnace Lane area had been a hive of industry. Both the furnaces and the Brickworks were hot, thirsty work and the pub had for many years serviced the needs of the workers. There was also during this period much canal traffic. However by the time the Brickworks closed in the late 1930s there was little work left in that part of the village. So after sixty years or more the pub finally closed. Phipps offered to sell the house and land to George Faulkner for £100 but he didn’t take up the offer because he couldn’t afford it. And in any case it was time for him to retire.

Conversion to coal business

In 1950 Phipps Brewery sold the house to Fred Tarry. Fred Tarry, who lived in Bugbrooke, had returned from the First World War, but couldn’t find employment, so in 1922 he set up a coal business in his home village of Bugbrooke. George Faulkner had already run a small coal business from the Bricklayers Arms, so when Phipps sold the building in 1950 it gave Fred Tarry a chance to expand his business to Heyford.

In 1980 the house, which is now called Bridge Cottage, was converted to its present structure. It had originally had two roofs which met in a gulley in the centre. It was almost as though the back half had been added later because the brickwork of the front and back halves was not bonded together. The supporting wall between the two halves was damp from where the gulley couldn’t cope with the volume of water in heavy rainfall. So in 1979/ 80 some serious repair work had to take place. The house was totally gutted, with only the four outside walls left standing. The top storey was removed, a new roof was built, and the cellars below, which had been almost windowless (like the black hole of Calcutta) were converted to living accommodation.

Even today the coal business continues to be run from this house by Frank Higginbottom, his wife Thelma (Fred Tarry’s daughter) and their son Richard.

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 9 of 11 | Pages 22 to 25

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The Story of Heyford: Heyford Brickworks V2C8

Brickmaking in Heyford
There seems to have been some degree of brick making in Heyford right throughout the 1800s. This is illustrated by the references below. You can see from these that there were always two or three people employed in brickmaking, but the number seems to have increased sharply during the 1880s. It was probably during this period that brickmaking became more mechanised and that the brickyard in Furnace Lane expanded to become an important industry in the village.

1822 George Baker’s ‘History of Northamptonshire’ mentions Nether Heyford, including a reference to ‘a brick kiln towards Stowe field’.

1827 Bryants map shows some brick kilns just S of the canal and E of the railway

1849 Whellan’s directory lists three brickmakers

1851 Census return lists William Braunston of Brickyard House, aged 50, brick and tile maker. Also Richard Haynes, brick and tile maker

1861 Census lists one brickmaker and one brickyard labourer

1864 Kellys directory lists John Judkins, brickmaker

1869 Kellys directory lists Joseph Johnson, brickmaker

1871 Census lists William Towers of Furnace Road, aged 33, brickmaker

1881 Census lists 7 brickyard labourers

1891 Census lists 16 brickyard labourers

Heyford Brickworks
So from the 1880s until the 1930s Heyford had its own brickworks. It was situated in Furnace Lane, beyond the canal, beside the railway, on the site where Wickes now operates. It was on part of the Heyford Grange Estate owned by the Judkins family. The claypit and brickyard were leased to Henry Martin Ltd of Northampton who employed around 15 men. The only one now left to tell the tale is Bill Nickolls who worked there in his late teens from 1930 until 1934. Bill is now aged 84 and it is to him that we owe our thanks for the memories of the brickworks from that period.

Blood, sweat and tears
The clay, known as blue clay, was only dug during the winter. It was dug directly from the pit by hand using special shovels with extra long cutting blades. The pit which was about thirty feet deep can be seen in the photograph just behind the row of cottages in the background. Before they reached the clay they removed the topsoil and also lumps of lime which could be burnt in the kiln to use for the garden. They started digging at the top and worked downwards. Enough clay could be dug through the winter months to ensure brickmaking through until October. The pay was one shilling per square yard. The clay heap was kept moist by pecking it (making holes into the heap) and watering it.

On Easter Tuesday the workforce was doubled for brickmaking during the summer. The clay was barrowed to the brickmaking machine and put into the mincer. This ground up the clay which was then passed downwards between two sets of rollers and came out in a big slab. From there it was cut into bricks eight at a time, and then into a barrow for taking away.

Sadly one of the men died in the mincing machine. His name was Teddy West. He was a small man, but one of the most committed workers, always first to arrive in the mornings and well respected by all the others. Unfortunately he used to wear a sacking apron which on one occasion became tangled in the machine and he was drawn into it. His death was a shock to them all.

From the brickmaking machine the bricks were taken to the yard and stacked. Here they were covered and left to dry before going into the kiln. The stack was later turned inside out to allow for even drying. The pay for turning was 5d per thousand. Bill Nickolls remembers turning 25,000 in one day, but the record was set by Ron West who turned 30,000.

The kiln was fired by coal. There was a siding off the main railway and so the coal ‘slack’ was brought by train. You can just pick out in the photograph the letters of the LMS truck immediately to the left of the Bricklayers Arms. It took ten tons of coal to start the kiln and so once it had been started it was kept going twenty-four hours a day. The kiln consisted of a number of cavities joined by holes and so the fire went from one to another. The clay bricks were put into the kiln, baked, and then taken away red hot for stacking in the yard.

It was hard work. All the pay was piecework. The brick-making process was continuous and all men had to keep up the pace to ensure a smooth flow of work. Bill Chapman, George Record and Bill Watson were wagon fillers in the pit. Feeding in the clay on the top of the brickmaking machine was Bob Sargeant. At the bottom on brick cutting was Reg Matthews. There were three ‘runners away’, that is taking the clay bricks from the machine – Bill Goodman, Bert Oliver, and Bill Nickolls. At the top of the kiln were the brick burners Henry Allen and ]o Collins. ‘Runners-in’ to the kiln were Bill Nickolls and Ron West (Teddy’s son), and there were two ‘drawers’ jack Nickolls (Bill’s brother) and Bill Nightingale to take the fired bricks away.

The Brickworks and Bricklayers Arms in the 1930s

NetherHeyfordBrickworks1

Note the clay pit between the chimneys just beyond the rooftops in the distance. You can also pick out an LMS railway wagon just to the left of the Bricklayers Arms.

Local buildings
Heyford bricks Were used in a number of local buildings. This included the four sets of four council houses in Furnace Lane built in the 1920s and the three pairs of semis lower down on the other side. All these Were built by Mr Denny. Other bricks went further afield. There was a contract with Pratts for half a million per year. These were taken by horse and cart and loaded onto a narrowboat for shipment down the canal to Watford. 3” bricks sold for 38s per thousand and 2 5/ 8” for 45s.

The closure
In 1938 some of the men agitated for an increase in wages but Henry Martins either wouldn’t or couldn’t pay.  He decided instead to close the brickworks and so brickmaking in Heyford came to an end. The site was sold to Mr Beck who owned Heyford Hills although he never developed it. It was used during the War by Weedon Barracks for sorting war goods returned from the front. Then some time after the war a cinder track was laid for holding bicycle races. In the late 1950s the pits were filled in with waste from the building of the M1. In 1965 some factory units were built on it and since then it has been used for light engineering and warehousing.

The same view in the 1990s

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Instead of the clay pit you can now see the roof of the warehousing at Wickes.
The Bricklayers Arms has had its top storey removed and is now a private dwelling.

Stephen Ferneyhough

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 2 of 4 | Chapter 8 of 11 | Pages 19 to 21

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

The Story of Heyford: The Toilet Cart V1C6

Until the l950’s there was no main sewage in the village. People had no proper sanitation, just an outside toilet with a pit or a pail. Some of these little buildings still exist as tool sheds or stores but most have gone. Inside the toilet was a bucket which would be emptied around once a week, usually onto the allotment.

Then some time in the early 1900’s the parish council organised a weekly collection of buckets. Bob Browning recalled how two men were employed with a horse and two—Wheeled cart to collect the contents once a week. The contents would be taken away for disposal. The cart had two wheels for easy tipping.

Bill Nickolls recalls that in the 1920’s there was a special cart for the purpose, shared with Bugbrooke. Jack Earl who at that time organised the collection, had to go twice a week with a horse to collect the cart from Bugbrooke. Collection in Heyford was on Monday and Friday evenings. People would put out their buckets, much as they do with their dustbins nowadays, and the cart came to empty the contents. Jack employed Bill Nickolls and Jo Charville for this task. They were provided with boiler suits, gloves, wellingtons, and flashlights with batteries. The pong was bad but the pay was good! It was done late in the evening after people were mostly indoors with the windows shut. The contents were taken to a field beyond the houses on the right hand side of Furnace Lane where they were emptied into a trench and ploughed in. Even so the field was littered with paper which had escaped the trench and blown around in the wind. Sometimes two journeys were necessary and sometimes only one. There were also one or two places on route where the buckets could be ‘unofficially’ emptied (if the contents were mostly liquid!) to avoid the need for two journeys to the official dump.

In the 1930’s the collection was organised by George Faulkner of The Bricklayers Arms. Bill Kingston remembers him parking the cart under the oak tree on the memorial green waiting. for his helpers to arrive — Ted Charville, Jo Charville, Amos Lee and ‘Tankie’ Haynes.

There are stories of one or two accidents. An evacuee boy called Tony Sweet was walking backwards up Furnace Lane where there was an ‘avenue of pails’ and he tumbled into one of the buckets. He seemingly got a good telling off because he took a lot of cleaning up. There is also a story about ‘Mucky Matthews’, who apparently fell backwards into the cart when his horse reared. Hence his name!

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 6 of 13 | Page 12

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Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers