Heritage: The end of the tramway line for the Upminster brickworks

In his third instalment, historian Andy Grant comes to the end of the story of Upminster's brickworks, detailing how the company degraded over time and eventually became dissolved. After the acquisition of the Upminster Brickworks, Arthur Brown maintained that connection to a railway was vital to their business. To that end, he built a narrow gauge tramway to connect Pot Kilns with the goodsyard at Upminster Station.

The tramway was around 2.5km in length with a gauge of 28" (half the standard gauge) using 14lb flat-bottom rails on corrugated sleepers. The original course of the tramway was changed in 1907 when Deyncourt Gardens was built, the later course running alongside the mainline, turning through a right angle west of the alley and tunnels to Howard Road. A transfer siding was provided at Upminster Station, where bricks were unloaded from box trucks on the tramway onto open trucks on the mainline.

Coal was reloaded into the box trucks for the return journey.

Map showing Pot Kilns tramway around 1898

Map showing Pot Kilns tramway around 1898. - Credit: Andy Grant

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The Brickworks Tramway might be considered as having two separate parts: the fixed section between the south field and Upminster transfer sidings, and a moveable section used to move the quarried earth and bricks during manufacturing stages.

There is anecdotal evidence that a passing loop was provided behind Upminster Hall. Three different types of rolling stock were used for transportation and production purposes. Horse-drawn box trucks, consisting of between four and six trucks, carried finished bricks to the transfer sidings and coal on the return journey.

Rack-cars were used to move newly-moulded bricks to the drying sheds and then on to the kiln. A single brick-making machine could produce up to 20,000 bricks a day and each rack-car held between 336 and 420 bricks. V-shaped Jubilee trucks were used to move earth from the quarry to a hopper that fed the brick-making machines on sections of track moved to where the earth was being quarried.

Men excavating the earth would summons a man with a horse to haul the filled truck out of the quarry and the load could be tipped out into the hopper by tilting the container. After James Brown gave up his interest in Pot Kilns Brickworks in 1912, Champion Andrew Branfill, who owned the site, set up the Upminster Brick Company. However, within a few years, Mr Branfill's war service and a shortage of labour effectively closed the site down.

By 1920, the Upminster Brick Company had been wound up. In its place, a new company - the New Upminster Brickworks Ltd - took over but this too was wound up by 1923. Foulis Construction Supply Ltd took over but it appears to have been simply asset stripping.

After it went into liquidation on October 18, 1927, it was succeeded by the Upminster United Brickworks Ltd. With the death of its director, the company requested to be voluntarily wound up in 1933. The South Essex Brick and Tile Co Ltd was also recorded as having an interest in the brickworks, but this too was dissolved in 1933.

From then on, visible evidence of the brickworks progressively disappeared. The 120-foothigh chimney to the east of the north field was demolished in 1929. The dome was said to be under threat of demolition in 1926 and had gone before the war.

The shaft and its chimney had a far more interesting end. Arthur Joseph Sayers, a 25-year-old general dealer from Canning Town, may be credited with its removal in 1938. He started recovering bricks and scrap iron from the brickworks, an activity which nobody seemed particularly bothered about.

Unchallenged, he set about removing heavy iron equipment, which again raised no eyebrows. These visits continued, until upon one visit he decided to demolish the chimney and recover the bricks. As chance would have it, an agent for the owner, Major Champion Branfill, then living in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, was collecting rents from Bird Lane and noticed the chimney had gone.

Upon notifying the police, Sayers was apprehended and ultimately received a three-month prison sentence from Romford magistrates for his efforts.

READ PART ONE: How refined sugar paved the way for brickworks in Pot Kilns

READ PART TWO: The family who revolutionised the Upminster brickworks

  • More Andy Grant articles can be found on the Romford History Facebook group.