All of us working at the museum find it difficult to get away from bricks. Long suffering relatives and friends have to put up with being dragged off to unlikely locations to find interesting bits of brick related history.
However, in the north east of Scotland you have to resign yourself to seeing an awful lot of stone. One exception was in the small harbour town of Brora. Driving through on the main road you suddenly come across a short terrace of brick built houses. They look strangely out of place. Once back home a bit of research was needed to find out the who, what and why!
The brickworks at Brora were started in 1814. It was around this time that the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland were ‘improving’ their land by clearing off the local tenant farmers. Farming sheep was the new way forward and the small farmers had to be moved off the hills to make way for them. The clearances were harsh but the Sutherlands did try to help by finding new work for their tenants. Having moved them to the coast they set them to work in the fisheries and created a new brickworks. It must have been strange to have been farming one minute and then brickmaking the next.
The brickworks ran for twelve years before closing in 1826. They re-opened in 1873 before finally closing in the 1970s – around the same time our brickworks closed. In the photo you can see a large Hoffman kiln with its chimney so at one point they were obviously making a fair number of bricks.