Sand, Clay, Bricks and Pots

George Ward (Moxley) Limited is a well known firm which was a significant employer in the town. It was the last in a line of manufacturers to exploit the rich glacial sand and clay deposits in the Moxley area. Some of the deposits were alongside the Walsall Canal, which allowed heavy loads to easily be transported at a time when many roads were simple dirt tracks.

The fine-grained sand deposits were ideal for use in moulding boxes in local foundries, making it possible to produce accurately detailed castings. Sand from the sand beds was used for casting as early as the late 18th century by John Wikinson at his Bradley foundry and ironworks.

For much of the nineteenth century the clay was used for brick-making, at a time when there was a great demand for bricks, because most of the local towns were rapidly expanding. The many brick makers included the Wood family (John Wood, Thomas Wood, and William Wood) who ran Moxley Brickworks, alongside a small canal basin in between Baggotts Bridge and Darlaston Road Bridge; Hodgins and Bromley, brick and tile makers, and sand merchants; Price's Brickworks; W. R. Price & Hewitt Lime & Brick Works; Murby's Brickworks at Moorcroft Wood; David Rose alongside the Albert and Moxley Ironworks; Martin & Foster; and Baggott's Bridge Brick Works near to Baggott's canal bridge.

The canal basin that ran into Wood's brick works.

An advert from 1921.

Conditions in the early brickworks were extremely basic, and work was hard. The report by the Children's Employment Commission of 1864 includes the following description of the girls who worked at Woods Brickyard and David Rose's Brickyard:

At Mr. David Rose's Yard, Moxley.

Anne Wooley: I began when I was 15. I mould now. I am 24. I am paid by the thousand. I have 2 girls to carry clay. One is going 16 and the other going 15. I make about 2,000 bricks in a day. I have to work the
whole time from 6 to 6 to do that. I always stop half an hour for breakfast and 1 hour for dinner.

The clay carriers at this yard had to carry the clay from the bottom of the pit to the tables at the top; the ascent was about 10 yards in 70 yards.

At Mr. Wood's Yard:

In this yard the girls had to carry the clay up a steep rise of about 12 yards in 50 yards.

Mr. J. Swindley, currier, Freeth Street, Oldbury: I have lived in the town 30 years. I am well acquainted with the habits and conditions of the girls employed in the brickworks. The employment of young females at this work is looked upon as a shame by all us tradesmen. The girls have to do men's work along with the men, I have often been shocked to hear the language and indecent talk among these girls when they work. After their work is over which is generally about six o'clock, they dress themselves in better clothes and accompany the young men to the beer shops. They are a good deal in the habit of spending their earnings in beer shops with the men. They are ignorant of all household work, and quite uneducated.

In the early part of the twentieth century, George Ward took over the Baggott's Bridge site and opened the Jubilee Brick & Sand Works, producing bricks and supplying sand to foundries, and for polishing.

An advert from 1921.

Edgar Ward.

In 1920 George Ward was joined by his son Edgar after he finished his schooling, first at Dorsett Road Council School, then Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall.

In the early 1920s the demand for bricks fell, and so in 1921 Edgar developed a method of producing flowerpots from the Moxley clay. Something that had been unsuccessfully attempted before.

The firm then began producing flowerpots, which were very popular and sold in large quantities.

Edgar was also a member of Darlaston Council who represented the Catherine's Cross Ward, and lived at Marlborough House, 59 Moxley Road, Darlaston.

In the late 1930s the family moved to 8 Ednam Road, Wolverhampton and called their new house 'Darlas'.

Workers at Ward's clay pit in the 1930s. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.

Producing a large pot on the potter's wheel.

The fully-loaded kiln.

Wards produced all kinds of traditional clay pots and became well known for their high quality products.

Eventually the firm had to move with the times. Plastic pots were added to the product range. They were a cheaper product and finally-took over from the clay pots.

Wards had three rotational moulding machines, and around 20 injection presses, mostly Windsor machines. Most of the products were made from polypropylene or high density polyethylene.

The later product range consisted of  moulded plastic plant pots, planters, propagators and watering cans, much of which was exported.

The firm was finally taken over by Plysu in 1997. After which production at Darlaston ended.

An advert from 1972.

Ward's clay pit in 2008.

The factory in 2008.

Return to the
previous page