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Hafod Red Brick Works;dennis Ruabon Brickworks, Rhosllanerchrugog

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NPRN40776
Map ReferenceSJ34NW
Grid ReferenceSJ3115046200
Unitary (Local) AuthorityWrexham
Old CountyDenbighshire
CommunityEsclusham
Type Of SiteBRICKWORKS
PeriodPost Medieval
Description
Hafod Brick and Tile Works, Rhosllanerchrugog (now Dennis Ruabon Brickworks).
Much alteration has taken place at the works over the last few years, as brick and tile manufacture involves the rebuilding of burnt-out kilns and adapting buildings to new products and processes. The site was visited in response to a possible threat of demolition of the disused crusher house, formerly the most important structure at the works and central to the function of the brick-making process.
A double-tracked tramway (nprn 91677), some 530m long and now dismantled, ran from the main clay pit (nprn 91676) northwards, passing under the Bangor Road in a tunnel (nprn 91678) 60m long whose north portal is still visible, to the crusher, or engine house (nprn 85347) as it is known. This house, at the NE corner of the south kiln-yard, is a four-storey brick-built structure under a pitched slated roof; a timber-trestle incline still mostly intact carried the tramway tracks into the building at third floor level.
Internally the crusher house is completely gutted, and devoid of features likely to give some indication as to its equipment or former purpose. However, there are remains of iron floor joists, cut off flush with the walls, some joist holes, and oil staining where line-shafting bearings have been removed and bricked-up. These features are at a high level and there is no easy means of inspecting them in detail. In the wall dividing the main house from a subsidiary building on the west side are remains of timber lintels at approximately 2, 3 and 4 metres above current floor level, formerly spanning an opening in the wall 2.5m wide; surrounding oil staining suggests that there was a large, primary shaft carrying a flywheel or large pulley on the east side. This was later verified in conversation with employees at the works, from whom came the following information on the method of working and layout of the former engines and machinery:
Two steam engines were installed, one in the crusher house, set at the north end below the tramway, and used exclusively for haulage of the clay wagons from the quarry by means of an endless rope, and a larger engine in the annexe on the west. The crusher itself was situated beneath the tramway and was driven by the large engine via a 12inch (305mm) diameter shaft through the hole in the dividing wall, referred to earlier.
Operation of the system was straightforward: loaded wagons arrived in the top of the crusher house, where the clay was tipped into chutes beside and below the track. Empty wagons were manhandled around a tight semicircular curve and dispatched down the incline and back to the quarry. The endless rope ran on a horizontal pulley driven by the haulage engine; it is not clear if the wagons remained attached to the rope whilst being unloaded, nor in fact how they were linked to the rope. The clay passed from the chutes through the primary crushing rolls at second floor level, the coarse and fine rolls at first floor, to the extruder on the ground floor. Although two independent steam engines were used, because of the continuous nature of the process and lack of temporary clay storage, they were effectively operated as one - when the trams stopped so was the crusher and extruder, and vice versa.
Steam from the boilers was also piped to several specialised extruding machines situated in an adjacent building to the east of the main crusher plant, and other machines in this area were electrically driven by overhead line-shafting, now all gone. [It would seem more likely that the line-shafting was driven from the steam engine, rather than an electric motor; perhaps steam power was used originally.]
Exhaust steam from the crusher engine was used to cure the raw bricks in the central drying sheds (nprn 85348) on the east of the works: in each room a false floor of 3ft (914mm) square cast-iron plates (not perforated) was laid on 9inch (230mm) brick piers forming a continuous floor, underneath which were cast-iron pipes carrying the waste steam. Newly-pressed bricks were set on trolleys and wheeled into the rooms to dry in the warm atmosphere.
No-one at the works seemed to know the fate of the large steam engine, but the small, haulage engine was taken to a museum at Ironbridge [Blist's Hill?], when the machinery went out of use in 1971/2.
Site visited B.A.Malaws, RCAHMW, 21 January 1993.

Henry Dennis founded the Hafod Brickworks in 1878 to capitalise on the reserves of Etruria Marl Clay found in the Ruabon area. Such was the popularity of its products - bricks, ridge tiles, chimney pots and the famous Ruabon quarry tile ? it became known as the `Red Factory?. The factory underwent major modernisation in the 1980s and continues to produce the famous quarry tile and the Ruabon clay pavers today.

RCAHMW, 2012.