Early this year we received a grant to help us with costumed interpretation. We aim to hold regular working days next year where we make bricks and get some of the old machinery working. In order to do this we intend to be in the appropriate costumes.
As none of us had any idea what to do we employed a lovely consultant who came for two days and gave us lots of ideas. She quickly had us dressing up and role playing – even those who thought they would never do playacting.
Now we are researching ideas as to the costumes and periods we wish to cover. We also need to decide whether we do the immersive type of costumed interpretation or more illustrative. The immersive style means you don’t come out of costume – whilst you are wearing the clothes that is who you are. This can get awkward when visitors want to engage so we will probably adopt a less formal approach.
To date we have an early 19th century hand brick moulder (woman) making bricks using the hand making bench. A 19th century farm labourer making tiles using one of the old stupids. These were simple extruding machines that were originally designed for small scale production. Mr Ashby (the original owner) is going to be on front desk greeting people and then Edwardian workers will be operating the machinery in the main machine room. Finally, we will have one of the labourers wives in with the room displays.
Really looking forward to our two trial days this year. They are due to be held late August early September. More details will be on the website soon.
We are delighted to see so many children enjoying our new play area which features a new climbing tower with slide, and a sand construction area.
The play area was generously funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, through the People’s Postcode Trust. We could not have afforded it without their support.
The new equipment allows children to explore construction, science and engineering in an engaging way, and links with our collections.
We hope this will allow us to develop the museum into a community hub – used by local groups and societies as a venue for meetings, events and regular activities. This will improve our sustainability long-term; allow us to continue our work with local volunteers; and increase our engagement with our local community.
Already, we have seen more children using our play area than ever before.
Land drains. We have quite a few as it happens. Personally I have always held a secret interest in these hollow lengths of clay. They were so important to enable us to grow enough food to feed a rapidly increasing population but maybe we don’t celebrate them enough. Anyhow, following a recent Facebook post showing just a small selection of our land drain goodies, I have been asked to share further photos of our collection. In particular here is an example of an early land drain made from a rectangle of clay placed over a wooden former (BB2014.1.739). This horse-shoe shaped drain would have been stood on a flat tile. There is an example of an extruded land drain with a cross-section of horse-shoe/arch (2015.34) and also an example of a collar (2017.6.16). The museum also has a selection of tools used to create the ditches in which the land drains were placed but that will have to wait for another day. Or better still, come on down to the museum and see them for yourself.
The winter projects are slowly progressing but the pressure is on now to get it all finished before 24th March when we open again. The cafe kitchen is still in pieces but the end is in site and it is going to be an exciting change. The volunteers – especially the Trust – are looking forward to real coffee for their meetings.
Meanwhile we have been undertaking training in costumed interpretation. The aim is to set up working days at the museum showing how some of our brickmaking machinery worked. We will wear the costumes that suit the date of the machinery ranging from 18th century hand brickmaking to Edwardian machine made bricks. It is going to be challenging getting the costumes right. There is little information as to what people wore when doing mundane tasks.
Finally, our New Foundations Project has properly begun. We were awarded a round 1 pass by the National Lottery Heritage Fund which is brilliant news. Architects have been appointed and we are busy getting the whole project moving. This is an ambitious one for the museum but if we can get it to work it will create a truly sustainable future.
Happy New Year everyone! This is a busy time for us. No visitors but plenty of projects to undertake before we open again at the end of March. The site is particularly cold in the winter and difficult but still the projects get done.
This year we are updating our children’s play area. The old equipment needed to be taken down. It has lasted us really well and was in a pub garden for many years before we ‘rescued’ it. However, the rot has been creeping in and now it has to be recycled into something new. The new design for the play area is shaping up well.
Site clearance also happens in January and February – before the birds start nesting. We do end up burning a lot of our scrubby bits. Not necessarily the greenest solution but composting would take years and we don’t have anything that would turn it into chippings.
Meanwhile, our admin team are reviewing the health and safety documents ready for another season. The team is growing steadily and the wealth of experience the volunteers bring is impressive. Other admin type tasks are marketing related. All the What’s On websites need our events added. This is a labour of love as each event has to be logged with all the relevant details. The better sites remember your details from event to event but some, alas, don’t and you have to put them all in each time.
The volunteers who restore and look after the machinery undertake similar projects all year round. They will be working on the boiler, the squeak in the steam engine – which they think they have now fixed – and restoring more cutting tables. We didn’t know how many of the latter we had until they started restoring them.
Finally, if that isn’t enough to be getting on with, we are going to work on the cafe. We have a grant for a proper coffee machine. This will vastly improve the cafe offer but we need to re-jig the counter to fit it in. Once all of these are in place we will be ready to open again. 10 weeks to go…no pressure!
Whilst a brick museum might not be an obvious choice for a school trip, we run a popular series of hands-on learning sessions for schools, uniformed groups and adults with special educational needs.
We explore STEM challenges through brick bonds and building experiments; materials through the story of the three little pigs; history and the Victorians in the UK’s last surviving Victorian brickworks; and we explore art in all of its forms.
Our established and growing education programme is available in a range of budgets to suit visiting schools and every workshop is tailored to your class and topic. We can also cater for larger groups.
If you are interested in booking an educational visit to the Brickworks, get in touch today via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week a lady and her husband visited us, all the way from Australia. That in itself is exciting! But then she told us that her Grandfather was in one of our football team photographs. We had a good chat, and exchanged details about the individual and other men in the photographs. I was able to add some extra information to our, unfortunately, rather limited records of ex-workers. I am hopeful that we’ll be in contact again, by email, and that her knowledge of family history will help with a World War One research project that we have in the pipeline. Piecing together the story of the Brickworks and the lives of the many workers and their families is one of the most enjoyable parts of working at the museum. If you recognise anyone in our historic photographs, or have information on a person who once worked here please do get in touch. We would love to add your stories to our archive.
Throughout the summer we have hosted Wonderful Wednesday activities for families. Playing to our strengths of STEM learning, art, clay and of course bricks; we have covered topics from adopt a brick, to terrific tiles, to making mosaic coasters.
One of our favourite, and most popular, sessions was our slime workshop. The brickmakers had to get the perfect mix of sand, water and clay to make the 20 million bricks a year produced at this site. We challenged our young visitors to get the perfect mix of PVA glue, borax and food dye to make good quality slime…and they smashed it! The education room is still, six weeks on, covered in glitter.
We also took advantage of the nice weather and challenged our young engineers to make paper boats capable of holding bricks, and set the chocolate brick challenge in which our amazing architects had to design packaging that was splash-proof, drop-proof and crush-proof. Every package was tested by being thrown off of the roof, into a pool of water, and then crushed… with a brick! We’re pleased to say that every chocolate brick survived the trials, though none of them survived being eaten by our participants!
We continue to strive to engage family audiences with varied and innovative activities. If you don’t already, please follow us on Facebook to keep up to date with all of our events.
Gemma Ingason; Education Officer
It is always interesting talking kilns with others! The kiln in the photo is in Lincolnshire and would appear to be a continuous kiln very similar to ours – the chambers are all connected to each other and they seem to connect to the chimney. But….these eight chambers are all in a line! How did it work? Our kiln moved the fire around in a continuous circle going from chamber to chamber. To do this the chambers were all linked to each other like a necklace. The fire could then travel from chamber to chamber for as long as you wanted it to. We believe our kiln burnt continuously for over 80 years.
We have searched our texts and can’t find another kiln where there are eight chambers in a line. What would be the point of linking them if they don’t make a circuit?? Puzzling – if anyone out there knows the answer please get in touch. There are at least two groups who would like to know!
The Brickworks is a huge site – built in 1897, the founders weren’t thinking about visitor comfort. The floors are bumpy, we have ‘authentic’ dust, and the large and complex site can be difficult to understand.
Huge steps forward were made after the receipt of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant in 2014. New interpretation panels and exhibits walk visitors through the Museum in a comprehensive and intuitive way to tell the story of bricks, brickmaking, and this incredible Victorian site.
Here at the Brickworks Museum, we are always striving to increase access to visitors from all backgrounds, ages and abilities.
We have a tactile map of the site in reception, an online access statement, visitor lift and accessible facilities. Thanks to a grant from the South East Museum Development Programme we are also a Makaton friendly site – confident to use hand signs to communicate with visitors to bring the site to life.
In the coming months we will be adding a social story to our website. These are simple pictorial guides used by visitors who might be nervous about the change of routine involved in coming on an educational visit. A social story serves as a simple introduction – familiarising visitors with our site, staff and facilities.
If you are thinking of visiting our site and have any questions about access – as a regular visitor, or as the organiser of a tour or educational visit – please do not hesitate to get in touch. We are always happy to help.
Gemma Ingason – Education Officer