Brick and Structural Clay

Brick & Clay Record: Ibstock Celebrates 300 Years

May 1, 2012

The UK’s largest brick maker marks over 300 years of continuous brick production at the same location.

Brick has long been the material of choice for the construction industry, due to its excellent eco-credentials, inherent thermal mass, durability and longevity. As one of only a handful of brickworks that still uses the “clamp” method of firing to produce a brick that has a distinctive appearance, it is no surprise that Ibstock’s factory in Chailey, UK, has been in operation for so long.

Chailey Factory in Operation Since 1711

Pipe, tile, pottery and brick have been made in and around South Chailey since 1711. Since 1792, successive generations of the Norman family owned and operated the factory, until it was finally sold to Redland Brick in 1959. Ibstock acquired Redland in 1996.

    The facility operates as a clamp factory, likely one the oldest methods of firing brick, which involves setting the brick outside under cover and firing for up to 14 days. Years of specialist experience are required for the skilled art of setting up and firing a clamp. The result is a brick that has a distinctive appearance and is extremely popular with builders seeking to create buildings with a traditional look and feel.

A Far-Reaching Network

Along with continuous production, Ibstock has a national network of 22 factories and distribution centers, and has the UK’s broadest spread of manufacturing sites and the widest access to different clays. In addition to Chailey, many of Ibstock’s sites have been serving the needs of local vernaculars for hundreds of years, including its brickworks in Leicester, which has been using the same clay since 1826.

    With so many different size, finish, color and regional variations to choose from, it can often be difficult to select the right product for the right job to ensure that a house is built or refurbished to fit in with the local style. To ensure that builders have access to brick that serve the needs of the local and regional market, brick manufacturers need to have an extensive geographical spread, with sites across the UK that manufacture and stock a large variety of products and ranges, and wide access to different types of clay.

    Moreover, factories such as Ibstock’s Chailey factory, which has been producing the same brick for many years, are a boon to refurbishment projects because it uses the same historic clay reserve that burns the same color brick it always has.

The Right Technique for the Job

Just as Chailey does with its “clamp” method of firing, it is important for brick makers to offer a variety of different manufacturing techniques that can meet the needs of local planners and help builders match a variety of local brick materials used in either the existing structure or in the surrounding area. The more manufacturing techniques that brick makers can offer, the better their offering of brick types and textures to help achieve a perfect finish. A mixture of old and new techniques, including wirecut, solid, red engineering, blue engineering, stock brick, soft mud, simulated handmade, genuine handmade, waterstruck, and fletton or fletton look-a-like will ensure that brick can be easily manufactured to make the finish as natural looking as possible for any type of project.

    For example, Ibstock has extended its collection of brick with the launch of The Manor Range, a range of brick specifically designed to replicate traditional finishes from the past. This collection of brick is manufactured using specially developed manufacturing equipment, which involves rolling back the uppermost layer of clay using wire before a special piece of equipment, developed by Ibstock, then presses the clay back on top to produce a distinctive three-dimensional surface texture. The brick are then set in a unique way and ready for firing in the kiln, which helps to ensure the surface texture in protected.

A Sustainable Commitment

Produced from natural clay, brick is very cost effective and durable, outlasting most other building materials and thus spreading the environmental cost of its production over many years. In addition to its inherent thermal mass, brick is recyclable and has a high recycled content.

    Its adaptability makes it ideal for incorporation into many new forms of cladding for modern construction methods, including offsite techniques. Its versatility and ease of use make it a favorite for builders looking to combine the best of old and new practices.

    Ibstock has made great advances to improve the sustainability credentials of brick as standard, such as better energy efficiency in firing, water recycling and rainwater usage. The company has also spent £55 million (~ $85 million) over the past five years on energy reduction and efficiency, and recently became the first brick manufacturer to be awarded a “very good” rating for the responsible sourcing standard, BES 6001, which now applies to all of its brickworks across the UK. Builders choosing to specify Ibstock products can get extra “ecopoints” while benefiting from the low transport miles of its efficient distribution network.

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