070318.Chilton Trinity, Chilton Tile Works

March 18, 2007 at 1:30 AM | Posted in Architecture, bricks, Chilton Trinity, countryside, somerset | 13 Comments

Hope I’m not trespassing too far into Taunton DP’s area of SW Somerset here but this was interesting. The local stone around Bridgwater is somewhat insubstantial with a high clay content but this abundant clay is perfect for brick. (See below the two walls forming the shed corner, hung with pantiles made of the same clay (and probably at the same factory) as the bricks. Actually, the tiles were probably from Chilton Tile Works while the bricks were from one of the Bridgwater companies.)
The last tile manufacturer to open in the Bridgwater area was on Square Road in Chilton Trinity (See below…the old photo is from the Somerset Brick and Tile Museum in Bridgwater, Somerset). It was opened with modern machines and up to date technology to compete again cheap French imports using new techniques. [1]
“The Chilton Tile Factory Production of Holnestead and Somerset Interlocking Tiles:
This factory when finished cost ₤850 with an extension in 1933 costing a further 35,000 [I have no idea if that is a mistake or it was a big*** extension.] It employed one hundred men and there was a good and continuous employment until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
“The mechanical excavation of lay was regarded by other man-facturers (sic) as revolutionary. In a few years, it was accepted by all after they had said that the only way to win clay was by land and spade. Mechanical excavation proved necessary for survival as more and more different factories were coming to Bridgwater” [2]
Belief that the tile industry would boom at the end of the war due to the amount of bomb damage proved deceptive. The tile market in 1939, was divided between 93% clay, 3% concrete, and 4% other. In 1953, however, matters for the tile industry had turned on their heads with 89% of the tiles purchased being concrete, 4% clay, and 7% other. [3]
Why and how had this happened? Certain deficiencies in all local tiles, such as Bridgwater affected the loss of clay tile appeal. For instance, the local Bridgwater clay is of exceptional quality but the water content washed in with the clay contains chloride and calcium sulfate, which have a negative effect on the finished tiles, ultimately causing disfiguring holes or efflorescent discoloration (which is brick work is a sign of other water problems). Other nail in the coffin for the clay tile industry was a storm on the 16th of January 1959 that struck England and Wales with arctic wave of rain and frost. This one storm damaged over five million tiles.

1. Catherine Wells. The Bridgwater Brick and Tile Industry. Thesis, Croydon College of Art and Design, 1982-1984. P 15
2. Ibid, 12
3. Ibid, 15


It’s still here….but now divided into a carpet warehouse, etc.

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