Circular brick kilns, W H Collier Brick and Tile Works, Church Lane


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020999

Date first listed: 15-Apr-2004


Ordnance survey map of Circular brick kilns, W H Collier Brick and Tile Works, Church Lane
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Colchester (District Authority)

Parish: Marks Tey

National Grid Reference: TL 91261 24191


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The earliest, though slight, evidence for the production of bricks in post-Roman England is thought to be demonstrated by the use of the material in the 8th century construction of Brixworth church, Northamptonshire. Otherwise, the earliest production on any scale has been identified in the area around Coggeshall Abbey, Essex in the early 12th century, and attributed to immigrant craftsmen from mainland Europe. The import of Flemish bricks (and further immigration of brickmakers) stimulated the industry in the 14th century and led to prestigious brick buildings being erected in the eastern counties. The bricks were almost entirely made on the construction site, in temporary yards, and this long remained the standard mode of operation.

The use of brick gradually increased in the following centuries (for example in the construction of chimney stacks and fireplaces) but its use as a primarily building material remained largely confined to high status buildings. From the 17th century onwards brick manufacturing was stimulated by wider industrialization, by the increasing scarcity of timber and rising cost of stone. In the second half of the 18th century there was a sharp rise in demand spurred by significant improvements to the transport system which opened up markets and eased the supply of fuel, principally coal. This encouraged the establishment of permanent brickyards and the construction of substantial kilns. By the mid-1850s, aided by the expansion of the railway system (both as a consumer and a means of transport) Britain's output of bricks had risen to more than 2000 million per annum. A wide range of brick making machines was introduced in the second half of the 19th century, most of which could be adapted to produce tiles and pipes and further increase manufacturers' output.

Surviving examples of structures, or groups of structures, which illustrate significant stages in the development of brick manufacture, or which exemplify and illustrate the processes involved are considered to be of particular importance.

Historically the W H Collier Brickworks produced bricks, roof tiles, pammets, flower pots and drain pipes. The brickworks is still in use today, having been acquired by Chelwood Brick in 1988, however, the processes employed have changed considerably. The bricks are now produced in a tunnel-kiln fired by propane gas and the clay is now dug out by contractors. The circular kilns at Marks Tey give testimony to an earlier brickmaking process, and represent an exceptional survival of a form of industrial monument now extremely rare nationally. The kilns are of particular importance because all the elements of the firing operation are present: the kilns themselves, the brick-floored working area surrounding the kilns, the flues and the chimney. Thus, the whole working operation of the kilns is clearly understandable: the chimney and flues providing the necessary downdraught to fire the kilns and the brick flooring providing a hard work-surface over which brick-laden wheelbarrows could easily run. The well-preserved internal and external features of the kilns add detail to our understanding of their operation: all the fireholes complete with firebars are present; the pulley operating the damper on the most easterly kiln is still in place. The presence of all of these features allows us to draw a complete picture of the firing process in operation at Marks Tey during the late 19th century.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes two circular kilns and their associated brick working floor, flues and chimney base located within W H Collier Brick and Tile Works, Church Lane, Marks Tey. The western kiln is a Listed Building Grade II.

The Marks Tey Brick Works was established by John Wagstaffe, a farmer and brickmaker, in 1863. William Holman Collier, a young brickmaker from Reading, took over the brickworks by 1879 and in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the firm supplied not only local needs, but also the wider market from its own tramway and siding to the adjacent railway. It was the outcrop of brick making clays (lacustrine deposits) in the Marks Tey area which led to the setting up of the brickworks in the 1860s. A claypit, known as the `Blue Hole' because of the colour of the clay when first dug, is adjacent to the works. Originally the clay was dug by hand and conveyed to the yard in hawser-drawn trucks. This process is now mechanised, leaving no visible trace of the earlier system.

The two circular kilns are surrounded by a brick working floor and incorporate a shared flue and chimney. The western kiln has a circular fire chamber, a domed internal brick roof with central circular vent, and a large cone-shaped superstructure. The external diameter of the firing chamber at the base of the kiln is 6m and the total height of the kiln to the top of the cone is 12m. Internally the firing chamber measures 3m at its tallest point and its internal diameter is 4m. The cone superstructure is of corbelled brickwork, rendered on the outside. A small arched doorway or wicket in the cone provided access to the dampers on the firing chamber dome. Originally it was operated in conjunction with the eastern kiln sharing a common chimney. It was converted at a later date as a stand alone updraught kiln by adding the top core.

The eastern kiln is thought to have been designed to operate with a downdraught and does not have a cone superstructure. This second kiln has a firing chamber 4.5m high and with a 4m internal diameter. The surrounding brick flooring, together with the flues and chimney were built at the same time as the second kiln, providing working space and the necesssary draught to fire the pair. At this kiln only the base of the chimney survives, but it is known to have been of square design and to have stood approximately 6m high.

Many of the original features of the kilns survive: the eastern kiln has the original external pulley (which would have operated the damper) in place in its northern side. The two firing chambers are identical in design and show all the features of a downdraught kiln: a large central vent in a domed roof, a bag-wall or baffle around the inside wall of the chamber, and a series of ten equidistant fireholes (complete with firebars) level with the chamber floors.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 1 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 32469

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ryan, P, Brick in Essex: The Clayworking Craftsman and Gazetteer of sites, (1999), 48-9
1:100 plan, section and elevation, Hammond, M D P, Downdraught Kiln W.H. Collier Ltd. Marks Tey, Colchester, (1977)
Borough of Colchester 1999-2000, Essex County Council, Buildings at Risk Register, (2000)
Colchester Rural, Dept. of the Environment, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, (1982)
Discussion during site visit, Page, M, (2002)
Discussions during MPP site visit, Page, M, (2002)
letter to Essex County Council, Hammond, MDP, Brick Kilns at Marks Tey and Bulmer, (1977)

End of official listing