The Brickworks of Wales - Monmouthshire
The Brickworks of Monmouthshire
From Pontymister and Risca to Beaufort and Brynmawr
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The Round the World Brick Trip

I've tripped over dozens of bricks from the UK, India, New Zealand and elsewhere, have a look at them all
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Rogerstone and Risca

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     The Darren Valley, Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Ty'n-y-Cwm, Pontymister - ST 2550 8985

Ty'n-y-Cwm brickworks appears on the 1917 OS map but houses are being built on the site by 1938, also the site of Terry Howells sawmills. It is probably the site known as Rogerstone brickworks. The 'Rogerstone Brick and Stone Co Ltd' had an agreement with the GWR for sidings near Risca Station agreed between July 1906 and Nov 1918 and there was a notable legal case regarding a mortgage in 1919 when the company may have gone bankrupt.

Danygraig, Risca - ST 2355 9070

The Union Copper Co opened the Danygraig copper works in 1807 on the site of Roman lead mines, becoming a chemical works run by David Morris in 1816. A further change of use occurred in 1895 and saw it become Southwood Jones' brickworks. Edwin Southwood Jones, 1854-1912, had been the manager at Cyrus Hanson's works in Cwmbran in 1881. In later years Lionel Southwood Jones ran the company. Lionel lived from 1880 - 1960 and the company closed down about two years later. William Tucker b 1860 was the brains behind the Southwood Jones Brickworks in Risca according to the notes about his funeral in the South Wales Argus. His son William (Willy) Herbert was the accountant at the brickworks. The works is still in operation in 2023 for pre-cast concrete products but is reported to be closing in the near future for more housing. Southwood Jones also owned Graig-ddu brickworks in Cwmnantddu, Eastern Valley.

Waunfawr, Risca - ST 2305 9105

Waunfawr Brickworks was part of the Risca Blackvein Collieryso likely to have opened after 1836 when John Russell took over. His bricks appear to be imprinted 'I Russell' as 'J' and 'John' in Welsh are 'I' and 'Ioan'. Russell created the 'Risca Coal and Iron Co' in 1847 but went bankrupt in 1862 after the disastrous explosion at the colliery. The company became the 'London and South Wales Colliery Co' in 1872, then later 'United National Collieries Ltd' . By the 1930s the brickworks had became part of the 'Star Brick Co' empire. I've not come across a 'Star Risca' brick though 'National Star' bricks exist with the letters 'RC' for Risca. The brickworks seems to have closed in the 1960s.

The Darren Valley

At one time or another, there were five separate sites of brick kilns in the Darren Valley, one each for the 'Cwmbyr' (or 'Twyn') brickworks, 'Risca' brickworks' and the 'Old Mill' brickyard and two for the 'Darran' brickworks. The ownership of the sites is quite intertwined and difficult to unpick. The Ordnance Survey always refer to the valley as 'Darren' but 'Darran' is used just as often and appears on the bricks themselves.

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     The Darren Valley, Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

The Darren Valley (or the Darran Valley)

Cwm-byr Brickworks - ST 2322 9162

The last of the Darren Valley brickworks was Cwm-byr Brickworks, opened in 1849 by William Brain and Fergus Best who appear to have named it the 'Twyn Brickworks'. It had two kilns, a waterwheel and a 10hp steam engine. The Brain and Best partnership was dissolved in 1853 and William carried on alone until his bankrupcy in 1861. Who took over then is not known but it may have been an early venture of Francis or James Jones who is reported as being involved in the brick trade by 1861. The works was 'disused' by 1917. I've never seen or heard of a brick stamped 'Cwm-byr' or 'Brain & Best'. I think the most likely scenario was that it was absorbed by the Jones family as part of the 'Darran Risca' operation. Despite being next to the 'Greenmeadow Inn', I don't think this is the 'Greenmeadow Brickworks' of the 'Patent Nut and Bolt Co' which was far more likely to be the Woodlands Brickworks in Cwmbran.

Old Mill brickyard - ST 2345 9205

Abraham Brain and Job Price are shown on the 1843 Tithe map as occupying a 'Brick Yard and Waste' on field No 152, owned by Mary George. This was describes as 'Old Mill brickworks' in Abraham Brain's will of 1847 when it passed to his son, William Brain. The site consisted of a waterwheel, pond, coal and clay levels and a tramway. In 2020 the site is a smallholding and the layout is still visible.

Risca Brickworks - ST 2339 9164

Risca Brickworks was the longest-lasting of the Darren Valley brickworks, with its beginnings in the 'Twynbarlwm Colliery' venture of 1808. Clay and bricks are first mentioned in a lease of 1818 "for fourteen years of the beds and veins of fire brick clay under all the lands of the lessor near and under Coed y Garn in the parish of Risca, now in the occupation of Philip Cocker; also sufficient coal to manufacture the same into bricks; except a certain level opened by the Twynbarlwm Company. The rent is five shillings for each thousand bricks thus made; also one shilling a ton for the coal used for burning the bricks, and one shilling and threepence a ton for fire brick clay and clay flour".

In 1822 the land, complete with clay levels and a 'brick manufactory', was up for auction, still occupied as tenant by Mr Cocker, who can be assumed to be the actual brickmaker. By the time of the 1843 Tithe map Joseph Nicholas and Jervis Johnson are occupiers. It was managed by G Nicholas in 1878 and by A Johnson in 1884. Nicholas and Johnson also owned Rudry Brickworks and Colliery, near Caerphilly.

Jane and James Jones of the Darran brickworks took over Risca brickworks in 1893 but went bankrupt when 'Jones Darren Fire Brick Works Ltd' was dissolved in 1908. The 'Star Brick & Tile Co' take over lease of both brickworks but concentrated their business on the Waunfawr Brickworks and production was wound down. It is possible that the kilns were occasionally used until 1942. The site is now a cafe and caravan park but there are a few remains to be found if you ask nicely.

Three early bricks have been found, dating from c1845, one is 'N&J R' for 'Nicholas and Johnson', another is 'B&P R' for 'Brain and Price' and Lawrence Skuse found a third in Cwmbran in the same style, 'H&N R'. The 'H' could be 'Hanson' and the 'N' could be Nicholas but whether or where they were in partnership is not known.

Darren Brickworks - ST 2342 9153

Below the canal bridge was Darren Brickworks, with one set of kilns beside the canal from before 1843 which ,from 1880, were gradually replaced by another set next to the railway. The works was probably disused by the end of WW1 though the kilns are still shown on the 1938 map. The site is mainly buried underneath the new Darren Road and a new industrial unit so hard to see anything now.
The earliest recorded owners, Abraham Brain and Job Price arrived in Risca from Bitton, Glocs by 1833 are listed as owners on the c1843 Tithe map along with the 'Old Mill' brickyard higher up the valley. Abraham Brain died in 1847 and Job Price in 1849. It appears that Abrahams son, also Abraham moved to Randolph, New York State in 1857 where he established a brickyard. Sadly his wife Hannah Bryant died shortly after landing in New York. Their successor in 1849, was William Brain, the original Abraham's grandson. William was a grocer, brewer and general dealer from Machen. He had been declared bankrupt in 1842 and went bankrupt again in 1861 when the brickworks was auctioned. It came into possesion of the Jones family who carried on the business until the 'Jones Darren Fire Brick Works Ltd' was dissolved in 1908. The lease was taken over by the 'Star Brick & Tile Co' who concentrated their business on the Waunfawr Brickworks and production at the two Darren brickworks was wound down.

A rough time line of ownership :-
1833 - Abraham Brain and Job Price in partnership
1847 - Abraham Brain died in October, his wife, Elizabeth, inheriting his share of the partnership
1848 - Brain and Price's partnership is dissolved
1849 - Job Price died and William Brain took over the works (Bankrupt in 1861)
1861 - J Jones and Co (also quoted as 1858)
1868 - Francis (Frank) Jones, Darran Firebrick Works, Risca. (died 14.01.1904)
1884 - Mrs Jane Jones, Darran Works, Risca, Newport
1893 - Jane and James Jones acquires Risca brickworks from Nicholas and Johnson
1908 - Jones Darren Firebrick Works Ltd dissolved and the 'Star Brick & Tile Co' take over lease of the works

There's a large range of different imprints used by the Risca and Darran brickworks under the Jones ownership.

The Jones Family imprints

The Jones family used many different imprints but I've not been able to match any imprint with an individual brickworks. I suspect they were used for different types and orders rather than specific brickworks.

Crumlin to Cwmtillery

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     The Darren Valley, Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Crumlin - ST 2036 9883

Davies Bros were the owners of Kendon Colliery and owned the brickworks by 1916 presumably to use a clay seam. It was shown on the 1938 OS map but it had closed by 1948. There is reputed to be a brickworks in Crumlin itself, near the canal basin, but I've found no hard evidence, it may only have been a builders yard.

Abertillery - SO 2196 0362

Tillery Brickworks was opened around 1891 shortly after the adjacent Vivian Colliery, owned by 'Powells Tillery', 'Ebbw Vale Co' and 'Partridge, Jones and Paton'. It appears on the 1899 map but not marked as a brickworks on the 1948 edition.

Cwmtillery - SO 2202 0573

Woodland brickworks was owned by Joseph Wallace to 1892, then Arthur Tilney who had retired by 1910. It isn't shown on the 1915 OS map. The photos of 'Cwmtylery' may be the reverse of Wallace and Tilney bricks.
Bricks for 'E G Smith Co Abertillery' and 'Weaver Abertillery', if not owners or partners, are likely to have been made here on a contract basis.

Blaina and Brynmawr

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     The Darren Valley, Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort


The earliest kilns (1) in Blaina were at SO 1980 0860 in 1880. They had gone by 1901 when two sets of kilns were in operation. The smaller set of kilns (2) were at SO 2000 0860 and a larger set (3) at SO 1970 0885. By 1938 only the smaller set (2) were shown on the OS map and that too had gone by 1948.
Who owned what is unclear but they seem to be connected with North Blaina Colliery. This was opened in 1860 by the Nantyglo & Blaina Company Ltd, being known as The Rising Sun Pit. By 1877 the colliery was owned by Morgan & Williams, and later acquired by the brothers, J and W Stone being known as Stones Pit from 1883. J Lancaster & Co had taken over by 1916 and they, in turn, were taken over by Ebbw Vale Steel & Iron Co in 1923. It seems that the 'Lancaster' name was continued until the NCB took over, by which time the brickworks had closed.

Brynmawr - SO 1945 1190

Shown on the 1877 and 1899 OS maps but not labelled as brickworks by 1904. The site was cleared by 1920. It seems to have been owned by 'Vaughan & Morris' but I can't find anything further on them.

Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Quick links to :-     Rogerstone and Risca     The Darren Valley, Risca     Crumlin to Abertillery
    Blaina and Brynmawr     Ebbw Vale and Beaufort

Ebbw Vale

Ebbw Vale is the home of the giant Ebbw Vale Steel, Iron and Coal Co. (later Richard Thomas & Baldwins Ltd) who ran three brickworks in Ebbw vale and one in Sirhowy. Total production reached 20 million bricks a year in 1955.

Furnace Brickworks - SO 1715 0980

Furnace Brickworks was known as the old brickyard, producing firebricks for the furnaces. It may have been established with the first furnace in c1790 and is mentioned in the auction details of 1844. The clay came from a level behind the General Offices and it had closed by 1923

Brynhelig (Willowtown) Brickworks - SO 1625 0990

The New Brickyard at Brynhelig (Brynheulog) (or Willowtown was in production in 1880 but had been greatly expanded by 1901. It closed in 1962

Gantre Brickworks - SO 1655 1020

The Gantre brickworks was built in 1907 with a Hoffman continuous kiln to meet the demand for building bricks. Much of the material used at the works came from shale tips to the North and later to the East. It closed in 1960

Victoria Brickworks - SO 1720 0765

A brickworks was owned by the Monmouthshire Iron and Coal Co at the Victoria ironworks in 1841, being described in a sale notice as having 'two kilns and two drying stoves makng 40,000 bricks a month. The works became part of the Ebbw Vale Co. Nothing else is known about the brickworks.

'Ebbw Vale' bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'Ebbw Vale' in a single line

'Ebbw Vale' bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'Ebbw Vale' in a double line

'E V' and other bricks

Bricks imprinted with 'E V' and other marks


Beaufort Brick Co Ltd, original site - SO 1700 1156

Beaufort brickworks original site is shown on the 1878 OS map with a tramway linking it to Beaufort ironworks which had closed in 1874. It is shown on the 1899 map but not labeled and had gone completely by 1915.

Beaufort Brick Co Ltd, later site - SO 1650 1195

Beaufort brickworks second site opened c1908 and first appears on the 1915 OS map labelled 'Brick & Pipe Works'. The works produced a great many bricks, found all over South Wales, until closing in the 1970s. Many of the Beaufort imprints used raised lettering rather than incised lettering.

Acknowledgments, sources and further reading.

A great many people have supplied information and photos of Monmouthshire's brickworks and their bricks, so many thanks to (alphabetically) Graham Bennett, Ian Cooke, Steve Davies, Ebbw Vale Museum, Martyn Fretwell, Andrew Harvard, David Hernon, Mike Hopkins, Tracey Hucker, Mike Kilner, Ivor Lapham, Jamie Larke, Norman Lowe, Richard Paterson, Ian Pickford, Mark Regan, Howard Robinson, Dave Sallery, Charlene Saunders, Lawrence Skuse, Mike Stokes, Gareth Thomas,, 'Risca - its Industrial and Social Development' by Alan Victor Jones, Jeffrey Williams and the Beaufort Community Hall group.

The 'Old Bricks' website is the best source of info on bricks and brickworks in the UK :- Old Bricks - history at your feet

For very good coverage of Scottish bricks and quite a bit about other places too :- Scottish Brick History

Martyn Fretwell has two very good sites here :- East Midlands Named Bricks and UK Named Bricks

There is a specialist society for brick history :- British Brick Society

There's also a 'Facebook' group for bricks and brickworks :- 'UK Bricks and Brickworks Past'

A Guide to the Website

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