Saturday, 22 June 2013

A STORY OF BRICK, TILE & PIPE MAKING IN OAKLEIGH, VICTORIA & its context

Hello, this is what I have been up to in my spare time.  When I told a friend about my story about Gulsons Brickworks, they said; "why don't you do one on Oakleigh?"  So I did and here it is.  It is incomplete and is very much a work in progress.  There is not a lot around that tells their story so if you have any information, or more particularly photographs, please tell me and I will get a copy if that is OK with you?  I have compiled this from a whole host of sources.  Compiled means “made up from other sources.”  I don’t claim much in the originality department, except putting it in one document.  Having no desire to “re-invent the wheel,” large blocks of appropriate information have been copied whole from the Internet and other parts adapted from other published works.   This is just the beginning.  I have over 150 pages to upload and re-format so please be patient.

An aerial view of some of the brickworks in 1931

 A Whimper and a Bang

On a quiet warm summer day in December 1982, two small simultaneous, muffled explosions broke the silence.  For years, the old brick works had lain empty, idle, vandalized and defaced by graffiti with its’ nearby deep brick pit long since filled by years of the suburb’s refuse.  Within seconds, the two tall brick chimneys fell to the ground in a cloud of dust and ash. 



Their fall was barely noticed. 

And that is how over one hundred years of brick making in Oakleigh came to an end.  These chimneys were the last operational remnant of this once thriving industry, now gone.  Once, the brick works at Oakleigh supplied around 20% of Melbourne's bricks.  Their collapse was the end of an era.

The chimneys were part of the Oakleigh Brick Company works in Stamford Road,  This long established company had supplied countless millions of bricks for the building of Oakleigh and the surrounding suburbs. 

Their story and that of several other brick makers has all but disappeared from the landscape and is fast moving from memory into history.  The story of the brickworks in Oakleigh is of significance as an example of our early local industry.  Bricks manufactured at their sites were used to construct the majority of the older buildings in Oakleigh, including many of its public buildings and these works were a major employer in Oakleigh.   When the Oakleigh Council decided to create the Eaton Mall, they covered it with brick pavers. Knowledge of its past still fresh.  Many of the streets around it were also done in pavers. When Monash Council redid the mall, up came the pavers and down went square stone pavers to give it a more "mediterranean" look.  Substituting an imported culture for a local one seems to be the standard these days.  Save us from architects wanting to make a statement without reference to the past.

The Companies


The brick, pipe and tile works in one form or another were in existence for over 100 years.  During that period, some properties changed hands several times.  Although there were eight or nine quarries in the area, there were around forty different operators.  It is sometimes difficult to separate some of the articles published about them because the local newspapers seemed to use a common expression, namely “Oakleigh brickworks” to describe any one of several different companies.  The following is a list of the operators.   The list is in chronological order of commencement of the works; it may not yet be complete.



Company

Address
From
To
Oakleigh Black Brick & Tile
Co Pty Ltd
Ferntree Gully Road Notting Hill
1857
1884
John and Henry Goding
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1885
1914
Brickyards, Clarton St Oakleigh
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1889
1889
Eureka Brickworks
Dandenong Road Oakleigh
1889
1889
Excelsior Brickworks
 (Wright & Wade)
Dandenong Road Oakleigh
1889
1889
Moroney Brothers FTG Rd Oakleigh
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1890
1897
Dicksons Brickyard
Park Road Oakleigh
1891
1891
Scott Oakleigh Brickworks
Dandenong Rd (B/w Grant & Clyde Sts)
1892
1896
Brick & Pipe Company (Oakleigh Station) Ltd
Warrigal Road Oakleigh
1894
1895
Dixons Park Road Oakleigh
Park Road Oakleigh
1894
1895
Henry Ethell Stamford Rd Oakleigh
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1906
1909
Baxter & McKell Stamford Rd
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1910
1916
Oakleigh Junction Brick Company Pty Ltd
Cnr Dandenong Road and Ferntree Gully Road
1910
1921
Evans Brothers Roof Tiling
Pty Ltd
Park Road Oakleigh
1912
1968
Glen Iris Brick Tile and Terra Cotta Pipe Co Pty Ltd
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1912
1978
New Gamble Brick & Quarrying Co Pty Ltd
Ferntree Gully and Dublin Streets Oakleigh
1912
1982
Oakleigh Brick Co
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1912
1976
Terra Cotta Roofing Tile Company Pty Ltd
Box Hill Road Oakleigh (Huntingdale Road)
1921
1929
Stamford Brick Company
Stamford Road Oakleigh
1923
1978
Reliance Tile Company Ltd
Box Hill Road Oakleigh (Huntingdale Road)
1927
1939
Atlas Cement and Tile Co
Dalgety Street Oakleigh
1928
1949
Major and Wells (Major R.W)
Neerim Road Carnegie
1930
1935
Sun Cement Tile Works
135 Neerim Road Carnegie
1935
1957
Globe Cement Tile Works
111 Murrumbeena Road Murrumbeena
1937
1958
Wellburn Tile Co
Box Hill Road Oakleigh (Huntingdale Road)
1940
1952
Masonry Veneer Pty Ltd
North Road Huntingdale
1946
2013
Australian Plaster Industries Pty Ltd
73 Westminster Street
Huntingdale
1946
1968
Eclipse Tileworks
Springfield Avenue Clayton
1949
1952
Reichell Tile Company
North Road Clayton
1949
1950
Atlas Products (Victoria) Pty Ltd
Dalgety Street Oakleigh
1950
1968
Atom Tile Works
Shafton Street Oakleigh
1951
1952
Clements and Baker
Natalia Street Oakleigh
1951
1952
Merval Tiles
Clifford Street Oakleigh
1951
1952
Watts I
486 Dandenong Road Carnegie
1951
1951
Penhall and Clements
486 Dandenong Road Carnegie
1952
1952
Cemantile Industries Pty Ltd
Main Road Clayton
1956
1968
Harvey Cement Products
Pty Ltd
440 Clayton Road Clayton
1958
1958
Sun Cement Tiles Pty Ltd
30 Hargreaves Street Oakleigh
1958
1961
Presa
Fairbank Road Clayton
1968
1962




Brickworks at Oakleigh
John DeBurgh Perceval 1946

John Perceval, well known artist met Guy Boyd when they were both Cartographers during the Second World War.  After the war, he moved to "Open Country", the Boyd studio in Carnegie.  See my post in "The Rameking" for more about them.  This painting appears to be of the Glen Iris works painted from Moroneys Hill looking south west.

There were many individuals and companies that operated in Oakleigh.  Some companies had several owners over the course of their lives.  Company records are scarce and almost no photographic evidence remains.  Alphabetically, these are the ones who operated.

Atlas Cement and Tile Co
Atlas Products (Victoria) Pty Ltd
Atom Tile Works
Australian Plaster Industries Pty Ltd
Baxter & McKell Stamford Rd
Brick & Pipe Company (Oakleigh Station) Ltd
Brickyards, Clarton St Oakleigh
Cemantile Industries Pty Ltd
Clements and Baker
Clifton Brick
Dicksons Brickyard
Dixons Park Road Oakleigh
Eclipse Tileworks
Henry Ethell Stamford Rd Oakleigh
Eureka Brickworks
Evans Brothers Roof Tiling Pty Ltd
Excelsior Brickworks  (Wright & Wade)
Glen Iris Brick Tile and Terra Cotta Pipe Co Pty Ltd
Globe Cement Tile Works
Harvey Cement Products Pty Ltd
John and Henry Goding
Major and Wells (Major R.W)
Masonry Veneer Pty Ltd
Merval Tiles
Moroney Brothers FTG Rd Oakleigh
New Gamble Brick & Quarrying Co Pty Ltd
Oakleigh Black Brick & Tile Co Pty Ltd
Oakleigh Brick Co
Oakleigh Junction Brick Company Pty Ltd
Penhall and Clements
Presa
Reichell Tile Company
Reliance Tile Company Ltd
Scott Oakleigh Brickworks
Stamford Brick Company
Sun Cement Tile Works
Sun Cement Tiles Pty Ltd
Terra Cotta Roofing Tile Company Pty Ltd
Watts I
Wellburn Tile Co

Significance


The quarries for the brick works were located at Oakleigh and nearby in Oakleigh East and Notting Hill, Victoria.  Oakleigh is located approximately 14 kilometers South East of Melbourne, the State capital of Victoria.  (Co-ordinates 37’54’47 s, 145’06’07 e). When Oakleigh was amalgamated at the end of 1994 into Monash, with a small section going to Kingston City, the City of Oakleigh (3166, 15 km SE, Monash City) comprised 3084 ha with about 55,000 residents.  Its genesis was a square mile (262.4 ha) village reserve surveyed in August 1850 at the South Yarra Pound on Scotchman's Creek; a tributary of Gardiners Creek, 10 miles (16 km) South-East of Melbourne.


On the 30th of January 1893, the Federal Bank of Australia Limited failed.  It wasn’t the first, but when it closed its doors, it was the end of the land boom in Victoria.  Following the gold rush of the 1850s, money was plentiful and the price of land increased spectacularly between 1880 and 1890, also in part fuelled by population growth.  The currency of the times was optimism and the skyline of Melbourne changed dramatically with the construction of many high-rise buildings.  Melbourne was now larger than many European cities.  Land speculation was a game that many people were playing.


Topography


Oakleigh is located in what is known as the “sandbelt” extending from Caulfield and arcing through Oakleigh and back through to the bayside suburb of Black Rock.  The major extractive industry in these areas has been sand quarrying, with brick clay in Oakleigh coming second.  The first recorded “survey” of soil type in Oakleigh was by Mr Arthur Bedford Orlebar, BA, MA, (Oxford) a National Schools Board Inspector, who reported on the 9th of November 1854 that “the soil being the same as in South Melbourne and Prahran, viz, a silicious sand and clay or schistose rock.” (A few years later, in 1858, Arthur Orlebar, a Sawyer was living in Oakleigh and A.B. had migrated to India where he became a professor of Astronomy in Bombay.  He later returned to Melbourne and died here in 1866.)


Vegetation


Early histories report Ring-Tail Possums, Bandicoots, Koala, Kangaroo and wallaby as well as numerous native birds in the area.


Aboriginal Occupation


Originally home to the Kulin people, according to T.G.Newton, (1953) “it was well known that Aborigines conducted their coroborees on the Atkinson Street Hill where, later the residences of the Nelson family, Dr Brown, Councillor Cole, Dr Morrison, Dr Adamson and others have been erected.”  It is also recorded that aboriginals once camped on the site of the original Court-House on the Broadway.


Rather than describe the kilns in use at each of the brick works, it is probably better to generically cover the types of kilns they used.  Brick kilns first started in pits then walls were added.  These are known as “Clamps.”that were ventilated at the top, rather than have a chimney.  Building a tall chimney stack, allowed the fire to burn more efficiently by improving air flow or “draw” through the kiln.  The bricks produced by Clamps were not of high quality.   Variations of the different kilns have been invented over the years with varying degrees of efficiency and cost, but all kilns fall into one, or both, of the following categories:

There were several “Hoffman” kilns built at some of the brick works in Oakleigh. The Hoffman Brick and Tile Company was originally established in Albert Street Brunswick in 1870.  They expanded in 1884 to 70 acres after Buying 36 acres in Dawson Street, making it the largest brickworks in Victoria.  The Melbourne suburb of Brunswick was known for its deposits of clay, so it became a centre for pottery production.   Brick makers had been using the clay since the 1840s.  At the end of the nineteenth century, there were more than a half-dozen potteries operating in the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick.






Meg Morris and Ann Reynolds were held captive at this Brick Works by Phyllis Hunt’s boyfriend Brian Lowe in a storyline building up to Prisoner’s 500th Episode in 1984.  Bricks are everywhere in Prisoner, all the time. Even the officers live in brick buildings.  To viewers from other parts of the world this may seem peculiar, perhaps even the result of budget consideration, but, no!  There really are bricks everywhere in Melbourne.” 

Hank Donat, Mister SF at

 Standard Brick Works, Box Hill

The brick, pipe and tile works sites are of local historical significance for its association with the post-World War 1 & II housing construction boom in Melbourne, because bricks, pipes and tiles were much in demand as a mass-produced, and relatively easy to use building material.  The Works also helped revolutionize aspects of the building industry in the post-war periods. These sites, produced the bulk of Oakleigh and districts’ brick, pipe and tile requirements during this period. The sites are also significant for their association with Oakleigh as a centre of industrial activity at the time.

Location Details

Oakleigh is an early outer south-eastern suburb of Melbourne, first sub-divided in 1853.  Like many brickworks around Australia, the Oakleigh brick makers not only made bricks, pipes and tiles, but also a small amount of other pottery including sanitary and domestic wares, although the type of clay here was generally unsuitable for anything other than brick, pipe and tile.  The locations of these brickworks were chosen due to proximity to a source of good clay, transport and a permanent supply of water for mixing.  Oakleigh was also an area of growing low cost housing and a ready supply of labour.

Some of the Historical Brickworks’ Sites

In pre-mechanical times, brick clay was prepared by being milled in a horse-drawn pugmill.  Bricks were pressed by hand.  This continued until brick-making machines were imported from England.  Newer kilns had been built by this time.   Oakleigh was home to numerous brickworks over the years, some were one-man operations, others, family concerns, some going to several generations.  

History

William Maitland Atkinson, appointed first Pound Keeper on 30 July 1842, chose the pound site that was excised from John McMillan's cattle run first licensed in 1840.  It was on a track to 'Western Port' known locally as No Good Damper Road, the run and inn near the present Springvale six-way junction where Dandenong and Centre Roads converge.

The main Dandenong Road was defined to run through the Oakleigh village reserve before the area was incorporated into the Mulgrave parish in March 1853.  The name of Oakleigh probably derives from early settler connections with Oakleigh Park in Hertfordshire, now North London. Warrigal Road on the Western boundary was originally McMillan Street. With Ferntree Gully and Wellington Roads as major routes to the Dandenong Ranges branching off near Oakleigh, the township grew as a main road staging post.  From 1857 it was headquarters for the road district, which became Oakleigh and Mulgrave Shire in December 1871.

The Gippsland railway, constructed westwards from Sale to reach Oakleigh in 1877, parallels the main road. The link with Melbourne's Princes Bridge Station, was completed in April 1879 and prompted 1880s subdivisions that boosted the population sufficiently for a borough of Oakleigh to sever from the shire in March 1891. Six years later Oakleigh was removed from the shire's conjoint title.

The town's commercial centre gradually shifted towards the station complex. Two short-lived lines, the private Rosstown (Carnegie) Junction Railway (1883) and the Outer Circle (1890) branched from the Gippsland line at what became Hughesdale in the area annexed from Caulfield in April 1913. Until 1922 a railways workshop provided local employment.  Oakleigh-born soldier and aviator E.A. (Pard) Mustar (1893-1971) began his career with the railways engineering division in 1911.  He worked with my father in New Guinea, pre WW2 on an oil exploration project.

Electrification of the rail line in 1922 extended suburban development.  Villa estates, mostly timber, reached out along the railway from Hughesdale to Clayton and Westall.  The population doubled to 12,000 between 1921 and 1933 enabling an upgrade in municipal status to a town in 1924 and a city on 2 August 1927. Annexations from Mulgrave Shire in 1948 and again in 1959, together with sections from Moorabbin and Springvale enlarged the city's area. From 1945 to 1961 the population trebled to 48 000, thereafter peaking at 57 284 in 1971 when 30% were born outside Australia.

Immigrants were drawn to the area by migrant hostel accommodation at Holmesglen (from 1954) and then Westall (1970), and by new industry employment. This move was reflected by 1974 in the 24 nationalities among students at Amstel (North Clayton) primary school, opened in 1958 and now closed. People from Britain and Italy predominated in the 1950s, with the Greek component then rising significantly to be the largest migrant group in 1981. From the 1980s, Greek-born people were outnumbered by those from Asia, predominantly Vietnamese.

Until the 1950s the dominant industries were small farms and market gardens, together with brick making based on the Scotchman's Creek clay pits. They were superseded by manufacturing and sand extraction in the south-east.  Disused clay pits became interim rubbish tips in the 1970s before conversion to reserves. Brickmakers Park is an extension of an older creekside sports and recreation reserve, now included in the Scotchmans Creek Linear Park.  A municipal nine-hole golf course lies along the creek's North side.

From 1927 to 1994 the football club, based at the recreation reserve on Warrigal Road, was a member of the Victorian Football Association. The contiguous Metropolitan (1908) and Huntingdale (1941) golf courses, together with Spring Valley (1948) in South-East Clayton, were established on the sand belt stretching into Moorabbin.

Oakleigh General Cemetery, established 1859 and closed for burials in 1960, is now a Pioneer Memorial Park.  There is also a public memorial to Father Nicholas Moutafis, Oakleigh's Greek Orthodox pastor from 1964 to 2001.

The Victorian Legislative Assembly seat of Oakleigh, even with boundary changes, has been centred on the municipality since 1927. Originally a stronghold of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), it has returned maverick conservatives as well as mainstream members of both the ALP and the Liberal Party.


Clay Pit at Northcote Pottery
The Land Boom

Land speculation had been the driver of this expansion.  The Federal Bank had been set up in 1882 to fund speculation on the new suburban sub-divisions. In 1887 some of the banks began restricting lending.  Rentals had fallen because of oversupply in the market.  Borrowers began defaulting on their repayments.  By the early 1890s, the boom had subsided and many companies had gone under, followed by several banks and other financial institutions.  Unemployment was high and in a time of no government support, times became very hard.  Land prices crashed but no one had money to buy the land.

Oakleigh was not immune and had in fact benefited from land speculation.  New estates had sprung up and brick works built to service them. 



Oakleigh’s geological formation between the Monash Freeway to the North and Dandenong Road to the South, Huntingdale Road to the East and Warrigal Road to the West are tertiary rocks, composed of marine and non-marine sand, clay, and gravel, with bands of soft reddish brown sandstone, and hard ironstone, underlain with decomposed granite of feldspar clay.  This material constituted excellent material for bricks, and tiles.  Silurian mudstone and sandstone are found north of Dandenong Road where the majority of brick pits are found.  South of these clay fields, the geology of the Clayton – Springvale area turns to course sand unsuitable for brick making.

The excavation at the side of the hill at the intersection of Estelle Street and Stamford Road, and which extends toward the West, altered the original natural shape of the hill. The clay shale was originally removed in layers, to a depth of around 30 metres but has left a steep area to the East and the filled brick pit is now a sporting ground.

If you were in Victoria from about 4.5 million years ago until as recently as 7,200 years ago, you would have seen hundreds of active volcanoes that were a part of Western Victoria’s landscape forming one of the World’s largest basalt plains; with more than 400 volcanoes mapped. 

This basalt plain stretches from Melbourne to Portland and is as wide as from Colac to Beaufort.  It consists mainly of vast open areas of grasslands, large, shallow lakes, small patches of woodland and stony rises from the once hot lava flows. The low peaks of dormant and extinct volcanoes dot the landscape. 

During pastoral settlement of the volcanic plains in the 19th Century, this stone was used to construct hundreds of kilometres of dry stone walls and has become a characteristic feature of the Western District landscape.  These eruptions left vast, deep deposits of basalt, or bluestone as it is known.  From the 1830s, olivine basalt was quarried in Melbourne as a building material from pits in what are now the Fitzroy Gardens and the suburbs of Carlton and Clifton Hill.  Later, quarries began in Williamstown, Footscray and Brunswick, as well as Coburg and Preston. 

The gold rush of the 1850s saw the population of Victoria explode as a wave of migration flooded the fledgling colony.  Many major buildings in Melbourne were made from this local bluestone, as well as warehouses, bridges, Streets, curbing and laneways.  For example, when the old Newmarket Sale yards were redeveloped, over 1.6 million bluestone “pitchers” were removed.  Around 480,000 were used by councils, another 480,000 were re used on the site and 700,000 were sold for $2.50 each. 

Footscray quarries provided bluestone for the foundations of Parliament House, the old Treasury Building, Melbourne Town Hall, St Paul's Cathedral, the General Post Office, Flinders Street Station and the Argus offices at 365 Elizabeth Street.  Quarries in Clifton Hill, worked by convicts from the Collingwood Stockade in Carlton North, produced stone for the now closed but historic Pentridge Prison.
 
In part, because of the expense of transporting bluestone, bricks gradually came to replace stone as the preferred building material.  Hoffman Brick & Potteries Ltd in Brunswick, one of Melbourne's first brickworks (1870), was quickly followed by Butler's Brickworks (1879), Fritsch Holtzer & Co. (1880) and the Northcote Brick Co. (1882). The first brick clay pits were located in the inner suburbs, close to the areas of greatest building activity.


 Frtisch-Holzer Upper Hawthorn Brickworks 1888.


Soils

The majority of Melbourne’s eastern suburbs are covered by heavy clay subsoil, derived from Silurian shale some 400 million years old.  A powerful downward bending force, the perpendicular Melbourne Warp, (running parallel to the Melbourne Dandenong railway line) transported these strata in a south-westerly direction. Around 20 million years ago, tertiary seas flooded over the clay shales, depositing sandstone material in the process.  Many Eastern suburbs are well above sea level, and so in spite of the tertiary sandstone flooding, they received only a light deposit of sand. As sea levels dropped, this light sprinkling of sand eroded and left in its wake, the older Silurian clay.

The main soil type overlaying the brick clay area of Oakleigh is Aeric Podsol, a free-draining soil, usually requiring fertilizing for horticulture.  The underlying shale quarried for brick making is Silurian mudstone.  The Silurian period is the third period of the Paleozoic era that began at the end of the Ordovician period around 440 million years until around 419 million years.  Melting icecaps during the Silurian period contributed to these sediments overlying the Ordovician layers. Extensive erosion occurred during this period because of the lack of plants and a large part of Victoria was formed by sedimentation during the Silurian period.

Mudstone is hardened mud made up of a fine-grained sedimentary rock. (originally clay with grains too fine to be seen without a microscope).  It also contains other minerals such as calcite.  Some mudstone becomes shale, (or laminated and fissile mudstone).  Shale is characterized by compaction into laminations, or layers about one centimeter thick.  “Fissile” means that the shale easily splits along the laminations.  Historically, the terms “shale” and “Slate” were interchangeable.  Shale can be crushed and mixed with water to form clays for brick making.

Shale is thinly stratified, consolidated, sedimentary clay with well-marked cleavage parallel to the bedding.  Very early in the days of European settlement, large quantities of this fine and even grained mudstone shale were discovered close to the surface in and around Oakleigh.  The map on the next page shows these deposits shaded in grey.  The area in yellow shows clay.


The Sandbelt

The name “Oakleigh” is believed to come from the “She-Oaks” that grew along Scotchmans Creek.  Early descriptions of the bushland area around the creek describe it as being steeply banked, shaded by gums and ti-tree of around 3 metres in height with ferns of most varieties, flowering shrubs and wildflowers.  Eucalypts, such as Stringybark, Ironbark and White Gum were in abundance.  The flat land where the current Oakleigh shopping centre now stands and beyond were mainly open heath land with native grasses and some eucalypts (mostly Stringy-Bark) with Ti-tree scrub to the North.   The three-chain road, now the Princes Highway, was surveyed to accommodate the mobs of cattle being moved and was for a long while, a thin meandering heavily timbered track.

Brick Kilns

Clamp, Yallourn 1925

This shows the construction of a Rectangular Downdraught Kiln at the Gulson Brick Works in Goulburn in 1964.  Note the shape of the roof.  This is an Intermittent Kiln.

Usually these are either clamps or rectangular downdraught kilns that are sealed and the internal temperature increased according to a specific process or timetable. After the firing process is complete, both the kiln and bricks are cooled. The kiln is left to cool sufficiently before the bricks can be removed.  Due to the relative ease and cost of construction these are the kilns types were primarily used in one-man operations with low volume output.


There are two types of continuous kilns:

Tunnel kiln - bricks are moved through a stationary fire zone, like a train in a tunnel.



Continuous kiln - bricks remain stationary and the fire moves through the kiln with assistance or help of a chimney or by a suction fan.  Most brick works in Oakleigh used the “Hoffman” kilns of this type.  Both types are long structures in which only the central portion is directly heated. The same result can be achieved with both types of kilns.

 Hoffman Kilns

As well as Hoffman Brick, Tile and Pottery Company  (1862-1990), (the largest of these), There were Cornwell’s Pottery, Gillbrook Pottery, Victorian Art Pottery, Federal Pottery, and the Brunswick Brick, Tile & Pottery Works.   From the 1880s, Bendigo Pottery was the largest in the state until overtaken by Hoffman's Pottery in the early twentieth century.

Hoffman was the largest of the dozens of brickworks and potteries operating in the Melbourne inner suburb of Brunswick. They started with brickmaking, but by 1900 were producing a large range of architectural and garden ornaments as well as Bristol ware crocks, cannisters, bottles and jars for commercial and domestic use.

There was no Mr Hoffman here in Australia.  The name came from the process they used to make bricks.  The company was started by Jenkin Collier, David MacKenzie and brothers Barry and William Owen who in 1870 established the Hoffman Patent Brick and Tile Company (later renamed the Hoffman Patent Steam Brick Company).  The name came from the Hoffman steam brick making process invented by Freidrich Hoffman in Stettin, Prussia, now in Germany.



Interior of “Hoffman” kiln, showing the central tunnel that the fire moved along, with ventilation shafts above.  The chambers (left side) contain the bricks.

Unlike the Rectangular Downdraught Kilns common at the time, the Hoffman kiln, (now still the most universal type in use,) is a circular or oval burning fire passage with rooms around each side containing bricks to be fired.  A fire wagon moves around the passage to fire each room in turn.  The rooms are also interconnected by fire trace holes at floor level so the next room in turn is pre-heated by the hot gasses from the room where the bricks are being fired.  To be technical, it is a natural draught, multi-chamber transverse arch continuous permanent structure made from common bricks.

Fresh unfired ‘green’ bricks are put into a chamber and the entrance is bricked up and sealed using ash and clay as a mortar to keep out air from outside.  Hot air from cooling bricks in one chamber is used to dry and pre-heat bricks in the next.

Drying is done slowly to make sure that all the bricks dry uniformly and that distortion does not occur.  Once the bricks are dry then it is important to raise their temperature quickly to maintain reducing conditions in the chamber. Organic material in the clay helps with this process. 

Once the required temperature has been reached, covers over the openings in the roof are opened to allow ‘easing’ of bricks by allowing cold air into the chamber. After firing the bricks are  cooled in the chamber before removal.  This process provides the heat for the drying process of the next batch. New ‘green bricks’ are then placed in the chamber and the process cycle starts again.  Each cycle takes  ten days to complete.  The kiln operates by natural draught with the buoyancy of the exhaust gases providing the driving force.

A central chimney is connected to a flue running the length of the chambers.  Each chamber is connected to the main flue with fresh air also available to regulate temperature.  Usually two fires move around on opposite sides moving from chamber to chamber in a continuous process of drying, pre-heating, firing and cooling.  This process is controlled by experienced brick makers, who operate a system of dampers and slides.



A central chimney is connected to a flue running the length of the chambers.  Each chamber is connected to the main flue with fresh air also available to regulate temperature.  Usually two fires move around on opposite sides moving from chamber to chamber in a continuous process of drying, pre-heating, firing and cooling.  This process is controlled by experienced brick makers, who operate a system of dampers and slides.

The fired bricks are allowed to cool and are removed from an outer door.  A fresh batch of bricks is then put into the room and allowed to dry before the fire trolley comes around to fire them.  Fires burn continuously and can use any fuel from wood to oil, coal and gas.  Hoffman kilns vary in size but are on average around five metres high, fifteen metres wide and up to one hundred and fifty metres long.

The Hoffman Brick Company was a leader in introducing pioneering brick making technology to Victoria to supply the building boom of the 1880s. Their products remain widespread throughout Melbourne. The derelict Hoffman Brickworks in Brunswick, Melbourne is now a site of considerable historical, technological and social significance in Australia. The combination of the high output patent Hoffman continuous firing kilns and the patent Craven steam brick presses marked the first full industrialization of the brick making process in Australia, and may be a relatively early surviving example of brick making industrialization anywhere in the world.  

The production of domestic wares was finally phased out when their pottery closed in 1960. In the early 1930s the company introduced a line of slip-cast art pottery, labelled ‘Mel-rose Australian Ware’. These wares were sold by leading department stores like Myer and Mutual. It was a great success, and is said to have been the only thing that kept the company from going under during the Depression of the 1920s and 30s.

With the closure of the pit and other parts, the site had been effectively reduced to the central brick production area and remnants of the pottery production area. The buildings and plant of primary individual Significance are the three Hoffman kilns, the machinery associated with the brick pressing plant and the structure housing it.  Hoffman was purchased by Clifton Brick in 1959 but only continued production until 1962.


Northcote Pottery showing a number of “Hoffman” kilns 


There are many different tasks undertaken at a brick works.  These depend on the type of work and the type of kiln.  Modern automated brick works have caused the loss of many of these occupations.  Gambles came closest to full automation, having only quarrymen at the beginning of the process and unloaders at the other.  Until the 1970s, there were different employment categories for men, women and juniors.  Female rates were about 1/3 less than the rate for males and the junior rate was about 1/3 of the adult rate.  The following is a list of categories from the Department of Labour and Industry Pottery Board in September 1968.


Automatic Extruder Operator (i.e. a man operating extrusion, dressing and loading machinery)
Automatic Machine Loader and Unloader Assistant
Bitumen Jointer
Burner
Clayhole Men (Employer to provide tools)
Drawer (i.e drawing inside kiln)
Drawer, other
Drying Room Attendant
Feeder of Pipe Machine
Greenware Sorter
Grinding Attendant
Hand Feeder of Raw or Burnt Clay into crusher or griding pan
Junction Sticker and/or Knocker Operator
Junction Repairer of Burnt Ware
Kiln Labourer (i.e a person whose duties comprise assisting a Placer, Drawer Setter or Tunnel Kiln Operator and/or the cleaning of fire holes and/or flues)
Machine Rigger
Mandril Operator
Man carrying or wheeling into or out of kiln or to or away from kiln
Man in charge of Pug or Mixer Machine
Man operating or taking off machine making Siphons, D traps, inlets and the like
Man taking off Pipe Machine
Man sorting pipes
Man working Pipe Planging Machine
Man boring or using explosives
Mouldmaker
Packer of goods into Railway Trucks
Pipe or bend dresser
Pipe Cutter of burnt ware
Presser
Setter (i.e setting inside kiln)
Setter, other
Tunnel Kiln Operator
 Hand Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Kiln Placer and/or Unloader
Man Hand Pressing dust tiles or working semi-automatic tile press
Slip House Attendant
Tunnel Kiln Operator


Automatic Glazing Machine Attendant, including Feeder and/or Cranker
Boxer, including Tile Sorters
Hand Dipper and/or Spray Operator


Burnt Ware Sorter
Caster
Clay Shaper
Driller and/or Grinder of unburn ware
Glazer
Greenware Sorter
Grinder of burnt ware required to use calipers
Grinder of burnt ware other, 1st six months experience
Jolly Hand and/or Profiler (including semi-automatic machines) 1st six months experience
Jug Cutter
Kiln Car Placer and/or other Unloader
Male Machine Operator
Man cementing and/or leading insulators
Man sanding insulators
Mill Room Hand
Mouldmaker
Packer
Presser (screw and lever type inclusive)
Presser (automatic)
Pug Mill Hand
Sagger Maker
Sagger Maker’s Assistant
Setter inside kiln
Thrower-1st six months experience
            Thereafter
Tunnel Kiln Operator
Turner (required to use calipers) 1st six months experience
            Thereafter
Turner other 1st six months experience
            Thereafter
Assemblers
Bitumen Sprayer
Cleaners and Finishers
Glazer
Glazer’s Attendant
Glazing Machine Attendant (Automatic)
Jug Trimmer
Packer of Fired Ware
Machine Operator
Placer
Presser (screw or lever type)
Press Operator (Automatic)
Spray Operator
Test Room Hand
Turner (required to use calipers) 1st six months experience
            Thereafter
Turner, other 1st six months experience
           Thereafter
Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Jigger Hand (including semi-automatic machine)
Jolly Hand (including semi-automatic machine)
Mouldmaker
Placer and/or Drawer
Polisher of Glazed Ware
Slip House Attendant
Tunnel Kiln Operator
Cup and Caster Sponger
Dipper
Fixing handles and/or spouts
Gilder on glaze, Gilder, Bander, Stamper
Handle Maker
Handle Trimmer and/or Cutter
Jigger Hand (including semi-automatic machine)
Jolly Hand (including semi-automatic machine)
Packer/ Carton Packer
Polisher of glazed ware
Tower
Transferer-slide on
Caster-Sanitary Ware
Caster-other
Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Grader of Glazed Ware
Green Ware Inspector
Grinder of Burnt Ware
Hand Feeder of raw or burnt clay into crusher or grinding pan
Kiln Car Placer and/or Unloader and/or other Placer
Man fixing handles or spouts
Mouldmaker  (blocks and cases)
Mouldmaker (other)
Packer
Slip House Attendant
Tunnel Kiln Operator
Turner, Jolly Hand and Jigger Hand (including semi automatic machine)
Caster-Sanitary Ware
Caster-other
Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Fixer of Handles or Spouts
Jug Trimmer
Packer
Turner, Jolly Hand and Jigger Hand (including semi automatic machine)
Caster-(other)
Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Mouldmaker
Packer
Placer and/or Unloader
Slip House Attendant
Dipper and/or Spray Operator
Examiner and/or Finisher of Green Ware
Packer
Placer and/or Drawer

One of the most productive areas often overlooked when reporting on brick making is the use of explosives to loosen the clay or shale.  In the end, it was explosives that caused the closure of a number of quarries close to populated areas.  Councils, including Oakleigh passed by-laws prohibiting the use of explosives. 

Using explosives for blasting is necessary for the recovery of clay or shale in many quarries. Blasting can cause noise and vibration that have an impact on the surrounding environment. Proper security of explosives and control of blasting practices is necessary to ensure the safety of employees and the protection of the community and environment from adverse effects.

Blasting will result in both ground and airborne vibration. The latter commonly includes both audible noise and vibration known as airblast, that causes objects to rattle and make noise. At the levels experienced from blasting associated with quarrying, structural damage to adjoining properties is unlikely to occur. In addition, the noise levels experienced from blasting at a quarry site, are unlikely to cause any hearing damage to anyone outside the worksite.


 Theft of Explosives 1933


Annoyance and discomfort from blasting can occur when noise startles individuals or when airblast or ground vibration causes vibration of windows or other items at a sensitive Site. The degree of annoyance will therefore be influenced by the level of airblast and vibration as well as factors such as the time of day, the frequency of occurrence and the sensitivity of individuals.

In most cases, a competent operator can reasonably predict the level of airblast and ground vibration.  However the generation and transmission of airblast and ground vibration is affected by a number of factors including blast design, meteorology (particularly wind speed and direction and temperature inversions), topography, geology and soil water content.  It is possible that on some occasions the level of airblast and/or ground vibration will exceed the predicted levels.


These days, several people are involved when once, only a Shot Firer was used.  Shotfirers assemble, position and detonate explosives to break or dislodge rock and soil or to demolish structures.  Shotfirers may perform the following tasks:


  • checking blasting areas to make sure that safety regulations are met
  • cutting channels under working faces
  • checking bore-hole depths and ensure that they are clean
  • deciding quantity of explosives required
  • inserting detonators and charges into holes
  • connecting and test or inspect the blasting circuit
  • firing charges
  • inspecting the area to make sure all explosives have been detonated
  • checking site safety after blasting (falling rock hazards, underground mine roof supports and harmful fumes, for example), and declare the area safe.


Creswick Powder Magazine

Security of explosives was viewed somewhat flexibly in former days.  Some were stored in sheds secured with a bolt and padlock.  Sometimes, the explosives were stored in a dugout in the quarry with a loose fitting door.  There were several thefts of explosives and detonators from often poorly secured stores.

Hand operated jumper bars were used in most pits until the introduction of electric rotary rock drills.  Explosives are now electrically fired, making the process safer.  This is now the only method used in pits today.  The use of a “cuddy” or safety shield is also mandatory.  The dangerous practice of “bulling”, or dropping explosives with the fuse lit into a hole by hand or using a tamping rod has now thankfully passed into history.

Following an explosion, “barring down”, or manually clearing loose clay or shale from the face.  An early safety device was to tie a rope around the waist of the worker in case of a collapse on the face.  Even hard-hats were not worn.  Later, safety belts and hard hats were made mandatory.   Softer clay was loosened by hand or mechanically.  Shale was removed using a power shovel or excavator.


The manual work in the works was usually controlled by a leading hand who was a person who assumes any responsibility other than that customarily done by an ordinary employee.  They were usually men of long experience in most, if not all facets of brick making who would assume the responsibility of training all the other workers in their tasks.  An additional wage loading was paid to a  Leading Hand.

Pitwork


Quarrymen, Shooters or Jumpermen worked in the pit and were also known as pitmen or breakers.  They also dug drains and sump-holes to keep the quarry face clear.  Clay Getter-gets clay and a General Hand does anything else.  Pitmen worked by removing clay from a series of descending horizontal terraces, by digging, filling and wheeling away the clay.  Quarrying soft clay doesn’t need explosives but was done either by hand or mechanical excavator with continuous buckets.  Later dragline excavators or power shovels were used.  This does not leave loose material on the face as it leaves a smooth surface.


This image shows a quarry worker gently pushing an explosive charge down a hole bored in the rock. The reel next to his right foot contains a cable to permit detonation from a safe distance. The work is hot, dirty and dangerous.  As well as the obvious trauma hazard, this procedure (shot-blasting) can generate large concentrations of silica dust.


Silicosis is a serious and progressive disease. The term mixed dust fibrosis describes the pulmonary disorder caused by the inhalation of silica dust simultaneously with another non-fibrogenic dust.  Most dust particles in a brick works settled quickly as they were large and were stopped by the nasal passages.  Finer particles of less than.0002” were dangerous, but Government testing found no particles that exceeded the minimum standard.  To reduce dust inside the works, grinding was done outside where the wind dispersed the dust.  Good in summer but quite cold in winter.

Clay or shale was originally removed and broken up from the face by using a “spalling hammer.”  Spallers had a high incidence of eye injury as eye protection in earlier times was not mandatory.  Small trolleys of up to one ton were filled by hand and pushed along narrow-gauge rails to either a “truck hole” where the contents were tipped into a skip that is then hauled up an inclined cable railway to the brick works.  The bottom of the pit may have a network of rails.  Later, bulldozers were used to push the clay to the conveyor.  This is many times more efficient than by hand.

Some brick works had their crushers located in the clay pit where the crushed clay was then transported by a conveyor direct to the works.  This had the benefit of separating a very dusty part of the process, and allowing wind to disperse the dust within the pit. 



A setter does all the work inside the kilns.  Green bricks are soft and require careful handling during this process. Work is restricted only depending on the capacity of the brick machines.  Up to 3 setters could work in a kiln.  Bricks were brought to the door of the kiln and the setters would place them inside.  In some works, bricks arrived at the kiln in the form they were placed inside, so the setter just ran them in using an overhead carrier.  This was usually done in a Clamp, nor other types of kiln.  A good Setter could place up to 70,000 bricks per day.  For this rate to be achieved, a conveyor delivered the bricks to the Setter and could be adjusted to the height of the stack as it became progressively higher.

Bricks are set in rows or “bolts.”  A good setter would arrange the ends of the bricks in the bolts so you could see from the front end of the stack, to the back.  This lets the air flow uninterrupted so the steam in the drying stage and the gasses in the firing stage can pass without staining the bricks.  Bricks are set as close to the roof as possible in an arched kiln to reduce the effects of hot air rising.  As the stack rises, the space between the bricks is reduced.  Setters must keep the rows in line with the flues to ensure proper air-flow.  Sometime a Setter will also build flues into the stacks to aid air-flow.   Supervision of Setters was essential to ensure the correct positioning of bricks in the kiln.  Even firing results in even bricks.  When the kiln is opened, the fired bricks were then sorted as they were unloaded, usually into  “firsts”, “seconds” and “clinkers.”
     
 Salary was dependent on the type of kiln.


Unloading a kiln was another specialized job.  In larger companies, the job of loading and unloading was split between the Setters who loaded the bricks into the kiln and the Draggers who unloaded them.  This was not a popular job.  Sometimes the Draggers at the Oakleigh Brick Company would have their trousers catch fire because of the heat from the bricks.  This sometimes happened on Fridays when the fire would catch up with the bricks.  To combat the effects of heat, Draggers would wear leather or rubber “mits” or “cots.”   Copious quantities of water was consumed by them, along with salt tablets.  It was hot, dirty work.  Draggers would load bricks onto a trolley, usually made of wood. 

Wheelers were the people who pushed the wooden barrows of bricks to the Setters or from the Draggers.  Generally, the rule of thumb was that the load should not exceed 50kg.  The centre of gravity of the load was the determinant.  Usually it did not go above the height of the wheelbarrow handle when the wheeler was standing upright.

Put simply, they are man-made rocks.  We take sedimentary material and turn it into metamorphic by applying heat.  They are small individually moulded rectangular blocks of clay of uniform size that are baked in a kiln until hard and used as a building or paving material.  The first attempt to standardize the size of a brick in England was in 1477.   Much later, Queen Elizabeth 1st granted a charter to brick and tile makers, after which a standard size of 9” x 41/4” x 2 ¼ inches became common, although variations in size continued.  In 1849 the Statute Brick was required to be this size.  Today, they are produced in a standard size; 2 ¼ inches by 3 ¾ inches by 9 inches, or 65mm by 102.5mm by 215mm.


Bricks are everywhere.  They are one of the oldest building materials known and are an almost universal method of building.  Historically, bricks were made close to where they were intended to be used.  This was also the case in Victoria.  Several brick works were built in Oakleigh during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries to service construction works in the newly established and rapidly growing suburb and the surrounding area. 

Making bricks goes on all over the world and has done for thousands of years.  The basics are the same wherever you go and are similar to baking a cake.  You mix the ingredients, put them into a mould, bake them, let them cool, and use them.  With brick making, the process needs lots of continuous heat, usually from a fire and an insulated chamber to fire them in.  Huge quantities of wood or coal were burned to make each batch. 

When someone came to an area that had sufficient clay, a small kiln, usually made of mud or unfired clay (and known as a “Clamp”) would be built to hold the “green” bricks.   The Brick Maker stacked the bricks appropriately to ensure sufficient space around them to conduct the heat.  When the bricks were suitably “fired” they could be used.  The brick maker would eventually make enough bricks to build a simple rectangular downdraught kiln.  This type of kiln was popular at the time and generally had sufficient capacity to hold up to forty to sixty thousand bricks. 

This meant that the kiln had sufficient thermal mass and volume to produce commercial quantities of bricks necessary to ensure that the kiln cooled slowly and less heat was lost during firing.  The vast woodlands around Oakleigh were quickly used up by this process and by the many farmers moving into the area.



Wood chopping events were common in Oakleigh towards the end of the 19th Century.  Fortunately massive reserves of brown coal were at the end of the railway, but the problem for many early brick works was that they were operated by a sole brick maker who needed to be there twenty-four hours a day to set up, fire, unload and remove the bricks.

It was hard dangerous physical work demanding long hours and hard work for little return, except for volume production.  A single kiln with a single operator could take around two weeks to make a batch, and then set up ready for the next one.  If a fire went out, it was hard to re-start and a batch of bricks could be ruined.  Many batches of under fired bricks (or doughboys) were made during this period.  Although the workers were paid little and generally considered to be from a lower socio-economic group, the work needed skill and judgment and expert timing to be done properly.  A sole proprietor also needed to have the optimum number of firing cycles from each kiln to maximize output.

Significant deposits of suitable shale/clay were exploited to manufacture bricks and the forests that previously existed were used to fire the brick making kilns.  Little now remains in the area of this now vanished industry, and what does remain receives little, if any recognition.  Throughout Australia, historic brickworks sites generally exists now only through neglect. 

By the 1860s there were more than 40 brickworks and potteries in Brunswick alone. But the industry gradually spread east, with works established in Box Hill, Nunawading, Oakleigh and Camberwell.  Many brick works manufactured not only bricks, but also building materials such as roof tiles, drainage pipes and domestic items such as mixing bowls and garden pots.  For example, Hoffman's brickworks in Brunswick also had a major role in manufacturing the pipes for Melbourne's sewerage works.

As a result of the depression and diminishing clay supplies from their original pits, many of Melbourne's brickworks scaled down production in the 1930s, and this was the same for the Oakleigh works; with the disused clay pits and quarries used for rubbish and garbage disposal or swimming holes and, once filled in, converted into parks or shopping centres (such as Highpoint City, Altona Gate and Northcote Plaza).

 Clay bricks come in three basic types;
  • First Class Bricks 
  • Second Class Bricks
  • Third Class Bricks  
  Specification of First Class Bricks
  • Made of good clay earth that is free from saline deposits and are sand moulded.
  • Burnt thoroughly without being vitrified and have deep red, cherry and copper color. 
  • Regular and uniform in shape and size with sharp and square edges and parallel faces.  
  • Must be homogeneous in texture and emit a clear ringing sound on being struck together.
  • Free from flaws, cracks, chips, stones and lime. 
  • Should not absorb water more than 20% of its own dry weight after 24 hours, immersion in cold water. 
  • Have a minimum crushing strength of 105 kg per sq. cm when tested according to the test.
  • Should not show appreciable sign of efflorescence (As the water evaporates, it leaves the salt behind, which forms a white, fluffy deposit, that can normally be brushed off. The resulting white deposits are referred to as "efflorescence") either in dry state or subsequent to soaking in water. 
   Specification of Second Class Bricks 
  • They shall be well burnt or slightly over burnt.
  • They must give clear ringing sound when struck.
  • The may have slight irregularities in size, shape and color.
  • They may have slight chips, flaws or surface crack but must be free from lime.
  • The minimum crushing strength of second-class brick should be 70 kg per sq cm.
Specification of Third Class Bricks 
  • These bricks are slightly under burnt or over burnt.
  • They are not uniform in shape, size and edges.
  • They shall not observe water more than 25% of their own dry weight after 24 hours, immersion in cold water.
 These are very costly to produce as they are quite labour intensive.  It is only a specialist or boutique company that could or would make them today.  They are made by throwing a lump of clay into a mould and then cutting off any excess.  Sometimes machine-made bricks are treated to give them a rough or irregular appearance to imitate a hand-made brick. 

These bricks are made from clay that has been mixed (pugged) with water. This type was produced at the Oakleigh Brick Company.  These bricks come in two types;


  • Semi-dry plastic.  The clay is mixed with up to 12% water depending on the clay.  The mix has to be sufficiently dry to fall into a mould using its own weight.  The clay is then formed under pressure into a frogged brick.  These bricks have smooth faces and sharp edges.  Dry pressed bricks have a cork-like appearance.
  •  Stiff-plastic.  The clay for these bricks has slightly higher water content (up to 17%).  The clay is forced under pressure from an auger into a mould.  The rough brick is then put into a second mould for a final pressing.  The texture of these bricks is rougher than a semi-plastic brick.  Wet-pressed bricks are very strong bricks, with a smoother, more dense surface.
A different machine is needed to make wire-cut bricks. The water content is higher again (up to 25%).  The clay is forced using an auger into a conical tube tapering to a die.  The resulting rectangular sausage of clay is then cut into bricks by a wire or wires. Extruded bricks are usually smooth like semi-plastic bricks but can also have a pattern or texture applied.  The holes in modern extruded bricks reduce the amount of clay used, making them cheaper, lighter and help key in the mortar bed.



Facing bricks are (firsts) bricks that are intended to be visible, and are thus designed with some aesthetic aims in mind so that they are visually interesting or appealing to look at.  Many brick makers produce facing bricks, using a variety of techniques.  As the name implies, facing bricks are specifically designed to be used as facing, for example on the exterior of a wall, where the bricks will be seen. 

These bricks may lack the tensile strength of engineering bricks, which are used for structural brickwork, although facing bricks can be used for structural applications in some cases.  Face Bricks are also wire cut, but are of higher quality, with an added surface effect on one side that’s visible when laid.  They are specifically hard-burned for use in exposed wall surfaces and are able to withstand all kinds of weather and environmental conditions.

These bricks are designed to have a neat, even appearance.  They also tend to be made from materials which are interesting to look at, since they will comprise the actual face of a building, and will be the first thing people encounter when approaching.  While facing bricks can come in classic red, it's also possible to find in other colors.  Some bricks may have inclusions that add visual texture, and facing bricks can also be stamped with motifs or designs to make them more attractive.  Facing bricks can be extruded or moulded, and in some cases may be made by hand, although handmade bricks are quite expensive.  In some brickworks, special Draggers were employed to only handle face bricks.


These bricks are lower quality bricks, without special finishes, making them cheaper, and are used where they’re not visible.  Also called hard bricks or building bricks and are made of clay.  They are mainly used for internal brickwork and have low compressive strength.   Commons are used in general work with no special attractive appearances. When these bricks are used in walls, they may require plastering or rendering. The color and surface texture of common bricks might vary greatly since no attention is paid to these aspects when they are fired. 

 Brickmakers Park

Cnr Stamford Road and Hilbert Ct, Oakleigh 3166, Victoria, Australia.
Melways Map: 69 Ref: H6

When all the works had gone, the former Oakleigh Council created Brickmakers Park on the site of the old Oakleigh Brickworks brick pit and brick works.  The Council set up a display of the equipment from the recently closed “Gambles” brickworks in one corner of the park. 



An eternal flame, fed by gas from rotting garbage in the tip was meant to provide on ongoing memorial to the industry.  In the mid 1980s, the Oakleigh Council was also looking at using the gas produced from this pit and from Reg Harris reserve to heat the water in the Oakleigh swimming pool.  The vote was lost in council.  Following council amalgamations, the new Monash council re-assessed the site, amidst safety concerns.  The flame went, some of the display was dismantled and what you see now is what is left. 

The site occupies a large area on the Western side of Stamford Road, Oakleigh, Victoria and lies within the Melbourne Water Drainage Catchment and is not suitable for built environment.  To the North is the rise known as Moroney’s Hill.

The site currently acts as a drainage easement for some storm water runoff from the residential zone as well as overflow from the Estelle Street site.  The sites previous use as brick pits has left a heritage value in the parklands established following their filling as Council garbage dumps.  These reclaimed excavations have formed man made multi-use parkland and is frequented by a variety of bird life. 

 “AN OAKLEIGH toilet block well-known by locals as a meeting place for gay sex will be bulldozed by Monash Council in a bid to make the area safer.  The toilet block at Brickmakers Park, which is listed on several gay and lesbian websites as a place to meet for sex, is now patrolled by police two or three times a day to deter participants.  Local workers and residents last week told the Leader they were fed up, with one elderly woman too frightened to leave her house at night.  Councillors last week voted to replace the brick toilet block at Brickmakers Park with an automated $227,700 Exeloo single cubicle unit, in a move welcomed by residents.

 Oakleigh Ward councillor Denise McGill said the council was putting in the new loo because there was a “fair bit of male-on-male activity” happening in the existing toilets.  “It’s because of concerns raised by residents about the sorts of activities that were happening there,” Cr McGill said.  Stamford Rd resident Mary Grant said she would not go outside at night because she often saw men drive to the park and go into the toilet block together, and believed that drug deals were taking place.

“I wouldn’t poke my head outside; I’m so frightened,” Mrs Grant said. Oakleigh Constable Anesti Mavridis confirmed that the toilet block was commonly used for homosexual sex and police patrolled the area two or three times each day.  Constable Mavridis said he believed the new Exeloo would help residents feel safer.

They are clean, they are well-lit up, and they are safer than the older toilet blocks,” he said.  The new Exeloo will be similar to toilets already installed in the Clayton and Syndal shopping centres.  The units are self-cleaning and users can stay in the unit for only a set amount of time before the doors open automatically. The new toilet should be operating by March next year.”

Waverley Leader 3 NOV 09 @ 07:07AM BY EMMA SCHMIDT


"Ramping up the fun at Brickmakers Park  
March 18, 2013, midnight


CONSTRUCTION has started on a new playground at Brickmakers Park in Oakleigh. The work will take about eight weeks and the old playground will be temporarily unavailable during this time.  Access to the gazebo will also be restricted.  Details: Recreation Services, 9518 3559"










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  4. Great work, Ramekng! This is a wonderfully informative history of that very overlooked mundane household object, the common brick. Ordinary though it be, there is a lot of history to be learnt from bricks, and I congratulate you on "unearthing" it from the pits. :) I am so glad I chanced to find your blog. Keep up the good work.

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