Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: July 21, 2021
Webpage updated: July 21, 2021




The Honicknowle Brick Works was accessed from Butt Park Road at Honicknowle village and lay in the ancient parish of Saint Budeaux.  It closed in 1966.

In 1903 the works covered an area of some nine acres and was owned by Messrs Webber and Stedham, merchants, of Torquay.  Their local manager was Mr E Lees, who lived just across from the entrance at number 23 Butt Park Terrace.

At just before 6pm on the evening of Thursday February 5th 1903 Mr Lees passed through the yard near the generator house on his way to the office, where he checked his books and locked them away before making for home.  Just as he got to the double doors at the entrance to the works he was met by a Mr Aurnett, who was in charge of the presses in the machine room.  Mr Aurnett informed him that the generator house was on fire.  Both men, along with Mr E Jefferies, a builder from King's Tamerton, hurried to the office, where Mr Lees telephoned the police in Plymouth.  (Honicknowle was not within the Town boundary at that time).

The engine, generator and machine house were all in the same building although separated by internal walls.  Mr Jefferies took a hose pipe from the generator house, connected it to a tap and climbed to the first floor of the machined house, from where he could play the water on to the fire.  He was in a precarious situation as he was cut off from any assistance.  His efforts were not in vain, however, and he managed to save the fire from reaching the Crossley 75 hp gas engine, which was valued at 3,500.

At 6.30pm Sergeant Moulding and Police Constables Davis and Snow arrived from Plymouth in a cab.  They had brought three sections of hose and a standpipe and quickly connected two lengths of hose to a hydrant outside the works.  It later transpired that the village of Honicknowle had three or four such hydrants but no lengths of hose to connect to them.  The first Mr Jefferies knew of their arrival was when he was almost knocked off balance by a deluge of water from their hosepipe.

Next to arrive at the scene was the manual fire engine of the Border Regiment, under Sergeant-Major Harper, accompanied by about 60 men of H Company.  After smartly running out their hosepipes they were somewhat disappointed to discover that their hoses were of too large a diameter for the village hydrants.  They had to stand and watch.

By 9pm the flames had been brought under control.  The roof of the generator room had collapsed and taken with it a brand new generator, valued at 275, that had been temporarily suspended from a roof beam which had been burnt through.  The most serious damage was confined to the generator and machine rooms.  Luckily when the Police arrived they had quickly spotted that the wooden bridge linking the coal loft in one building and the kiln in a second presented a danger point and promptly destroyed it anyway so save the fire from consuming it.

It was later thought that the fire had been started by the exhaust pipe from the gas engine having become overheated, igniting some wood, which in turn caught the roof of the building alight.

Twenty-two employees were put temporarily out of work by the fire.

During the 1930s the Honicknowle Brick Works became the property of the Western Counties Brick Company Limited and their local foreman was Mr John Sharpe.

In the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday December 23rd 1958 Mr F Wallace, an engine minder, placed two batteries on charge in the engine room, which was situated in the top works.  Just a she was leaving there was a flash and fire broke out in the engine pit, immediately below the diesel engine.  His attempt to put it out failed and the Fire Brigade were called.  When they arrived, in the charge of the Chief Fire Officer, Mr George Dury, they found not only the engine room on fire but also the brick making machinery workshops.  Two pumps were used within the works and a third was positioned near Woodland Fort to pump extra water from a hydrant.

The fire coincided with a recession in the building trade and in April 1959 the lower brickworks was closed because it was overstocked with bricks.  About a dozen men were laid off and a similar number were transferred to other works.  However, the situation soon changed and by July there was a shortage of bricks nationally and the lower works was reopened again in August 1959.  The manager at that time was Mr Samuel R Smale.

Owing to falling demand for bricks brought about by a decline in speculative house building, the Honicknowle Upper Brick Works, which was the older of the two parts, closed down on Wednesday June 30th 1965.  It was replaced by a new plant at Steer Point, near Yealmpton.

The Honicknowle Lower Brick Works closed down on Saturday March 19th 1966.