The Brick and Tile works of the Clyde and Avon Valley

Assembled from the Landscape

Filed under History & Archaeology

Text by CAVLP Heritage Capturing the Past Volunteer Sue Hothersall.

The manufacture of clay products – bricks and tiles – was a major industry in the Clyde and Avon Valley from the 18th to the 20th century. Bricks were needed as a cheaper substitute for stone in the heavy industries of the Central Belt and clay drainage tiles were vital to improve agricultural land and increase its productivity. Claypits, kilns and drying sheds could be seen all over the landscape.

A collection of local bricks from CAVLP Heritage volunteer George Kennedy

The kiln and chimney at the Mayfield brickworks, Carluke

The kiln and chimney at the Mayfield brickworks, Carluke

The clays of central Lanarkshire included a special type found in the Braidwood area near Carluke, which produced weatherpoof coloured facing bricks when fired. The Nellfield, Lee and Cleghorn works were set up to exploit this deposit. Engineering bricks from Nellfield built impressive structures such as the Loudonhill Viaduct.

The railways and the brick and tile industries were closely connected: millions of bricks were used in building railway tunnels and bridges, while a network of railway sidings brought the heavy, bulky products from the works to the main rail network.

In the mid-19th century Carluke had six works: Law, Castlehill, Scoularhill, Thornice, Caledonia and Braidwood. Later, there were also two firms producing brick and tile making machinery. Hallcraig, Allanton, Whiteshaw, Milton and Carluke works operated in the early 20th century. When the demand for some products dropped, firms often diversified, e.g. changing from drainage tiles to ornamental tiles or even flowerpots.

Map of the Brick and Tile works in the Clyde and Avon Valley
Map of the Brick and Tile works in the Clyde and Avon Valley

Brickmaking relied heavily on the building trade, with a boom at the turn of the 19th century and again after WWII, but by the 1980s only 20 brickworks were operating in the whole of Scotland. The use of concrete in building and the decline of heavy industries contributed to this decline.

The last brickworks in the Clyde Valley was the Mayfield works, which closed in 2011. The site is now used for housing. Apart from the many disused claypits in the area, there is remarkably little to see of this once-thriving industry.

Waste bricks at the Mayfield brick work, Carluke

Waste bricks at the Mayfield brick work, Carluke

The kiln at Mayfield brickwork, Carluke

The kiln at Mayfield brickwork, Carluke


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