Local history New Forest - the bricks of Baileys Hard Beaulieu

A little local knowledge in Lockdown? 

A tale of yesteryear and the bricks of Baileys Hard 

Mark and Hugh writer and cartoonist"Home Sweet Home! Have you ever stood in the pouring rain with the rat-a-tat-tat of the droplets on your waterproof hood driving you crazy with irritation, yearning to be in a dry and warm place instead? Wishing for a comfortable squishy chair in front of a really hot fire, Pinot Grigio in hand, Radio Times in the other, Radio 4 in the background and your faithful Lab laying on the carpet just that little bit too close to the embers. Can I smell burning? Since the beginning of time we have wanted a cave, a lair, a den, a safe haven, in fact, a home. Somewhere to return to, a place to feel safe in, somewhere that is yours." 

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"Would Madam like to see the exclusive range of Italian marble floor tiles?

If you travel to the Lake District the homes are built from stone, in Wales, slate, in Iran the nomadic Qashqai a tent made of black goat’s wool. It should be of no surprise to anyone that we tend to build from what we have on our doorstep. Homes in North America are predominantly made of wood, they have forests of the stuff! We use wot we got! In the past we were happy with thick walls and a good roof, anything that would protect us from the elements. Let’s not forget that if we warm blooded creatures stray north or south of the tropics, we are vulnerable to colder weather and we need clothing and shelter. These days we pore over the Sunday supplements, fascinated by the latest gadgets, appliances and trends. The advertisers are clever, they can see into our minds and as the second cold glass of wine takes its delicious effect we find ourselves reaching for the purse…..

Or perhaps something a little more ordinary?

Here in the forest we are sat on London Clay and as such we use bricks. In the past when labour was cheap all it took to make bricks was a small workforce, a shovel, some moulds and a kiln. The next time you are walking southwards along the Beaulieu River path heading towards Buckler’s Hard keep an eye out for Bailey’s Hard, there is a small pontoon and some small boats on trots. This used to be a small brick factory. The kiln is still there along with the chimney. The sharp eyed among you will see that the flue connecting the chamber to the chimney is in fact underground, a tiny tunnel. Also, that the fuel, initially wood but later, coal, was set in small windows arranged around the kiln. It was a slow process and not only was there fuel to burn but time as well. The firing could take three days with another two for the kiln to cool sufficiently for safe entry.

A sad goodbye to the cottage industry

These small kilns were no match for the mega brickworks in London which used a continuous rather than batch process. A certain Mr Hoffman invented a continuous process which speeded up the process considerably. Gone were the barges carrying coal up the Beaulieu river followed by the finished bricks carried back down. Our kiln has been cold for many years now and frost will surely have its day as the freezing water in fissures slowly degrades and destroys the old bricks and mortar. Nature often seems to find a way to destroy almost anything we build but do not maintain.

Baileys Hard Bricks Cartoon by Hugh Lohan

"The Lord won't be happy about this."

Take a stroll perhaps, visit a workshop of yesteryear

Perhaps with your allowance of one exercise per day you might consider a stroll down the river bank? Keep an eye out for an industrial relic, an industrial signature in vitrified clay. A gentle warning though, this is no asphalt path, instead there are tree roots, small streams and it can also be slippery underfoot.

Enjoy and stay safe."


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