Brickmarks on Bo’ness shore

Old bricks piled up on the Bo'ness foreshore as tidal erosion protection
Old bricks piled up on the Bo'ness foreshore as tidal erosion protection

The Bo’ness shore is an enjoyable level ride, now partly John Muir Way.

Something is always turning up there – aquatic life, coal, fossils from mine waste, pottery, sea birds and all manner of flotsam.

Domestic and industrial building demolition and demand for rubble for land reclamation means the shore is a happy hunting ground for brick collectors.

Beachcombing is a fascinating activity in the fresh air so its old bricks caught my attention. One website describes them as history at your feet.

On the five miles between the river Avon and Carriden I recorded marked bricks from more than 90 different brickyards, few still in production.

Most bricks were made within a 25mile radius across the central belt.

Small numbers came from Edinburgh and north of the Forth.

Odd high quality engineering bricks originated from Ayrshire and the north of England.

The marked bricks were machine pressed, 19th and 20th century manufacture.

There were also older unmarked handmade bricks. These were made in wooden moulds, clay packed in by hand, their tops sliced flat with a wire, like cheese.

They were tipped out to dry while still soft so tend to be misshapen. When the bricks were fired, tell-tale tool marks became a permanent record of the moulder’s work.

Brickworks are still disappearing, Linlithgow’s Manuel tunnel kilns are now rubble. Falkirk Local History Society’s journal Calatria, Autumn 2013, reviews Bo’ness brickmarks.