Clock House Brickworks
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Where: Capel, Surrey
Visited: 2014, 2016
Last Known Condition: Derelict
Page Updated: March 2016
As I approached the derelict brickworks the rain set in; scattered at first and then by degrees becoming torrential, cascading from broken drainpipes and forming deep puddles in the yard. Wind tore at loose sheets and slammed them loudly and repeatedly against the walls. I entered the works via clay prep, taking the same route as the raw clay. The first thing that struck me about the brickworks was its size: the main shed is 500' long, 200' wide and three stories high. The second is how much damage had been sustained in just five years of disuse: windows had been smashed, papers lay strewn across the works floor and large holes in the roof let water pour through, flooding the floors below. The air was thick with the smell of damp earth overlain with the biting stench of pigeon dung.
The Clock House Brick Company Ltd was founded c.1933 to exploit a rich deposit of high-quality Weald Clay to the south of the Surrey village of Capel.
The outbreak of war in 1939 was bad news for brickmaking, as housebuilding effectively ceased and the workforce was swallowed up by conscription. Although there was some demand for bricks to be used in military engineering projects, there was little use for the high-grade ceramic blocks made at Clock House. By 1941, the Company was in liquidation and sold the majority of its share capital to the London Brick Company (LBC) to avoid closing the works. In 1945, the Company was wound up for good and the works were acquired by the LBC.
Under LBC, production was substantially increased to meet demand from the recovering housing market and in the 1960s the factory was rebuilt to accommodate more efficient production methods.
London Brick was acquired by Hanson PLC in 1984 the works was refitted shortly afterwards to produce multi stock bricks under the Butterley and Capel brand names.
In 1998, Clockhouse Bricks were used by three major exhibitors in that year's Ideal Home Show and by 2000, Clock House was be Hansonís main soft mud production site, making around 42 million
bricks per year.
The global financial crisis of 2008 hit the building materials industry hard, however: a sudden slump in housing prices meant that house-building ground almost to a halt and demand for bricks plummeted.
In March 2009, Hanson announced a 'phased closure programme' which began later that month and led to the loss of 61 jobs. Hanson have since indicated that there is no intention to re-activate the brickworks or extract clay from the adjacent pits.
Since closure, Clock House Brickworks has been in limbo, slowly being stripped of anything valuable while a lengthy audit determines the planning conditions surrounding re-use of the site. Plans for an incinerator ('energy from waste facility') on the site, bitterly opposed by local residents, were thrown out by a High Court Judgment in 2009 and the future of the site is now uncertain.
HMSO, 2000 'The use of variable speed drives in the
ceramics industry' [http://www.invertersupport.com/pdf_files/casestudy/GPCS380.pdf] Accessed 9/5/14
'Clock House Brick Company Limited. (Members' Voluntary Winding-up)', The London Gazette, 8th May 1945, Page:2428
'Company Meeting: London Brick Company: Increased Trading Profit', The Spectator, 19th March 1942, Page:23
Surrey County Council, 2014 'Housing and Traveller Sites Plan: Consultation 2014 ' [http://molevalley.objective.co.uk/portal/la_dpd/htspcons/htspcon?pointId=ID-2676774-MANUAL-LH22] Accessed 9/5/14
'Job Losses as Brick Factory Announces Closure', The Surrey Mirror, 5th March 2009 [http://www.surreymirror.co.uk/Job-losses-brick-factory-announces-closure/story-12659567-detail/story.html] Accessed 9/5/14
'Exhibition finds Clockhouse bricks are ideal', The Surrey Advertiser, 27th March 1998 [http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/local-news/exhibition-finds-clockhouse-bricks-ideal-4860554] Accessed 9/5/14