stocking the kiln furnace with wood stocking the kiln furnace with wood

The Process

Handmade


A clot of sanded clay is thrown into a wooden mould, the excess being removed by a wooden strike; it is this throwing action which compresses folds of sand into the brick which appear as veins in its surface after firing. The wet bricks are turned out onto a board for drying on stillages; between April and October the bricks are dried in the open air and, in the cold months, in heated drying sheds. These 'green' bricks are then stacked meticulously in the kiln, by hand, before the kiln end is sealed over and the fires lit. The fires are stoked constantly for 72 hours, day and night.

stage one of hand throwing a clay brick
stage one of hand throwing a clay brick stage two of hand throwing a clay brick
stage three of hand throwing a clay brick stage four of hand throwing a clay brick
the traditional brick kiln that we use the traditional brick kiln that we use

Colour and texture


The colour gradient varies from salmon for under-burnt bricks ( <10%: traditionally used internally), through orangey red to deep red, then brown. In addition, the smoke from the fires leaves its own grey blue signature and, at the highest temperatures, around the fire tunnels, this smoke residue fuses with the sand to vitrify and glaze the brick surface.

The alternate stacking of bricks lengthways and widthways (or by stepping to form the fire tunnels), finger-width apart, layer by layer, allows the smoke and heat to permeate the kiln; each layer bears a permanent heat and smoke shadow from the layer below. 

The resultant infinite colour and texture variation is what makes vernacular brickwork so beautiful, whether laid randomly in an agricultural building or sorted, graded and ordered into the classic diaper patterns or Flemish or English bonds, associated with the finest of English domestic vernacular architecture, where the vitrified headers are laid in contrast with the red terracotta stretchers.

The surface is indented with thin veins typical of a hand thrown brick.

the traditional brick kiln that we use

Images: 1.A modern Scotch kiln 2.Weald Clay at the Pluckley clay pit courtesy of Richard and Chris Barclay 3.Green bricks stacked in the kiln and ready for firing 4.Stoking the fire tunnels 5.The burnt bricks ready for sorting

Weald Clay at the Pluckley clay pit Green bricks stacked in the kiln and ready for firing
Stoking the fire tunnels The burnt bricks ready for sorting

Our Clay


Weald Clay is a Lower Cretaceous sedimentary rock underlying areas of South East England and is part of the Wealden Supergroup of rocks. The Weald Clay formation extends from Kent, through East Sussex and West Sussex and into the South-East corner of Surrey. The clay is named after the Weald, a massive area of ancient forest which once extended from Kent, across Surrey and Sussex to Hampshire. The unweathered clay appears red, blue or grey, turning yellow to orange when weathered. The clay is iron-rich and fires to red in its ceramic form.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)


To put your project on the map, visit the NERC Minerals UK website: www.bgs.ac.uk.

Here you will find a table of mineral maps by County; see Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey for the extent of Weald Clay. All towns + villages are marked.

Our Clay


Weald Clay is a Lower Cretaceous sedimentary rock underlying areas of South East England and is part of the Wealden Supergroup of rocks. The Weald Clay formation extends from Kent, through East Sussex and West Sussex and into the South-East corner of Surrey. The clay is named after the Weald, a massive area of ancient forest which once extended from Kent, across Surrey and Sussex to Hampshire. The unweathered clay appears red, blue or grey, turning yellow to orange when weathered. The clay is iron-rich and fires to red in its ceramic form.

Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)


To put your project on the map, visit the NERC Minerals UK website: www.bgs.ac.uk.

Here you will find a table of mineral maps by County; see Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey for the extent of Weald Clay. All towns + villages are marked.

The Pluckley Brick Company Ltd