London Brick Company
|Founder||John Cathles Hill|
|Headquarters||Stewartby, Bedfordshire, England|
|Products||Bricks and paviors|
Number of employees
The London Brick Company owes its origins to John Cathles Hill, a developer-architect who built houses in London and Peterborough. In 1889, Hill bought the small T.W. Hardy & Sons brickyard at Fletton near Peterborough, and the business was incorporated as the London Brick Company in 1900. "Fletton" is the generic name given to bricks made from lower Oxford clay which have a low fuel cost due to the carbonaceous content of the clay. Hill ran into financial difficulties and, in 1912, a receiver was appointed to run London Brick. Hill died in 1915, but after the receiver was discharged in 1919, Hill's son continued to run the company.
The capital-intensive Fletton brick industry suffered from substantial variations in demand. After the First World War, amalgamations were proposed. In 1923, London Brick merged with Malcolm Stewart's B.J. Forder, who, along with London Brick, was one of the four main groupings in the Fletton brick industry. The new company, for a while called L.B.C. & Forders, went on to acquire other brick firms in the late 1920s, giving it a dominant position in the Fletton brick industry. By 1931, the company was making a billion bricks a year. In 1935, output exceeded 1.5 billion bricks, or 60 per cent of the Fletton brick industry output, and peak pre-war output reached 1.75 billion bricks.
During the post-war housing boom, Fletton brick sales increased, reaching a peak in 1967. Brick sales then began to decline, and the company diversified. London Brick Landfill was formed, and it began the tipping of household and industrial refuse into the old clay pits in the Marston Vale area. London Brick Landfill was merged into Shanks Group in 1988. Between 1968 and 1971, The London Brick Company also bought its three remaining Fletton brick competitors, including the Marston Valley Brick Company, giving it a total monopoly in the Fletton brick market. In 1973, its brick sales totalled 2.88 billion, or 43 per cent of the total brick market.
In 1984, the company was acquired by Hanson plc. In February 2008, Hanson closed brickmaking operations at Stewartby in Marston Vale owing to problems with meeting UK sulphur emission regulations, even though it met the EU regulations. Production of Fletton brick is now concentrated at Peterborough, while the Marston Vale site is being redeveloped for housing, and the new Hanson headquarters building is also located there.
As of 2010, the brick market stood at 1.5 billion, with Fletton brick accounting for less than 10 per cent.
Many Italian families from the southern regions of Apulia and Campania came to Bedford in the 1950s to work in the Stewartby brickworks in Marston Vale, and Peterborough to work in the Fletton brickworks. As well as Bedford and Peterborough, many Italian families also settled in Bletchley to work in its Newton Longville factory. Although not as many Italians settled in Bletchley as they did in Bedford or Peterborough, there is still a substantial community there.
In addition to the Italian communities, workers from the Punjab region of India arrived in the 1950s and 60s to work at the Stewartby brickworks. The majority of the Indians were from the Nawanshahr district of Punjab, and settled with their families in Bedford.
The company estimates that 5 million houses in the UK are built using Fletton brick.
- Richard Hillier (1981). Clay that Burns: A History of the Fletton Brick Industry. London Brick Company. ISBN 978-0-9507802-0-7.
- The Monopolies and Mergers Commission (1976). Building Bricks: A Report on the Supply of Building Bricks (PDF). Her Majesty's Stationery Office. ISBN 0102474761.
- "History of the London Brick Company". Bedfordshire County Council. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
- "Hanson to axe 56 jobs at Peterborough brick works". Construction Enquirer. 2 June 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
- "Legacies - Bedford's Italian question". BBC. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
- "London Brick". Hanson. Archived from the original on 22 November 2009.