Our Industrial Past
The Ice Age 450,000 years ago caused a feature in the Billericay area which led to Billericay having a brickworks. The glacial advance of the ice forced the River Thames from its original path which entered the sea near Clacton to its present path with an estuary at Southend.
In the process of the river passing over our hill on which Billericay sits, the Thames deposited fine yellow sand as it swept past. These Claygate beds on Bagshot sand deposited on the London clay bed trapped water and so the people were able to drill wells in the High Street.
The Harris Brick Makers and Builders transported this fine sand to the Midlands for making “casting” moulds used in forming “cast-iron” objects, such as machine and structural parts that required some degree of precision in their manufacture.
The area to the north of the railway line used to be the Harris brickworks, running parallel to the railway line on the other side of Radford Way . The local clay also proved suitable for making handmade bricks.
There were several brickworks in Billericay and another site was where Chestnut Avenue is now located. Some houses in this area have a covenant in the deeds that prevents the manufacture of bricks on their site to protect the original landowners business.
Harris Brother’s “Brick makers and Builders” site occupied an area called “Charity Farm” and Mr. Harris owned the sandpits and the brickfields. The brickworks employed 40 workers making good quality handmade bricks. It was reported that Billericay red bricks were very special and of very good quality.
A railway spur line ran from the goods yard, which was situated where the station car park is now, into the brickfields where they made the handmade red bricks and the sand was also transported to the Midlands using this railway spur. The escarpment to the north of the railway line was formed by the extraction of this fine sand.
This brickyard closed in the late 1930s and there is photographic evidence of old drying sheds still in existence in around 1960. In the 1960s this whole area was developed into the Radford Way Industrial estate.
Mr. Harris, the original owner of the brickworks lived in a large house opposite the station, on the site where the BP garage is today. The house called “Cambrai”. Named after the town in Northern France where the first major tank battle took place in November 1917. Harris served in a tank regiments, during World War I and his son, Colin, followed in his footsteps in WWII. Colin Harris, who died in August 1983, owned a house called “Silver Sands”, now better known as “Hamelin House” in Stock Road .
Note: Do you have a photograph of the brickworks, the railway sidings or the sandpits? Please let the editor know if you have.