This article, kindly supplied by Iain Wakeford, is a portion of an article first published in the Woking Advertiser in October 2014. All of Iain’s articles on Woking history can be found at www.wokinghistory.org.
When the Basingstoke Canal was being constructed in the late 1780’s, the contractor, John Pinkerton, was told that a ‘Mr Wildgoose of Horsell’ would know where the clay could be found to make the bricks for the locks and bridges.
Unfortunately nothing else is known of Mr Wildgoose, but it is possible that he may have been connected with the brick kiln more or less where the Winston Churchill School is today, marked on John Rocque’s map of Surrey in 1768.
Other kilns were certainly opened in the 1780’s and 90’s for the building of the canal, with the nearby bridge over the waterway being named ‘Kiln Bridge’ as a result.
In later years (between 1877 and 1889) the brickfields were taken over by the Jackman family (the nurserymen whose base was originally off Jackman’s Lane on St Johns Hill) with many local buildings in Victorian times using local bricks, before cheaper mass-produced ones were imported by rail from the Midlands.
According to the book Brookwood Remembered, bricks were delivered to Brookwood Station with a local carter called Alfred Fry charging 6d a cartload to deliver them to site – his daughter, Doris Harwood, recalled that ‘he knew how many bricks were in each house’!
There were brickyards too off Robin Hood Road, with Robin Hood Crescent being built on those that opened in the late 1850’s for the building of the Woking Invalid Convict Prison; the small industrial estate further along the road occupying another claypit that is thought to have been worked until the 1930’s. And off Anchor Hill were extensive brickworks run by the Cook Brothers, with the dip as you enter Hillside Close and the sudden drop as you come down Beechwood Road from Victoria Road, clearly showing where the original hillside has been cut away to reveal the thin layer of clay beneath the Bagshot Sand.
In the 1921 census there were twenty-one brick-makers listed in Woking (with many others working pits in Chobham), but with the depression in the building trade by the mid 1920’s, many of the local pits had closed with just one left in Woking where the Lansbury Estate is off the Lower Guildford Road. It finally closed in 1942, bringing to an end an industry that had evidently been going on in this area, albeit on a small scale, for centuries.
All images are courtesy of Iain Wakeford (wokinghistory.org). Iain’s Woking Advertiser articles, and others can be found on www.wokinghistory.org