Bernard O'Connor 2000
The Lower Greensand rests on Jurrassic clay beds at Everton, Gamlingay and Great Gransden. A number of coarse grey earthenware shards from Roman and Saxon times have been found in the village. There was at least two kilns in operation in the village. One has been unearthed behind the Lawns, another on the site of Church Farm. The Ampthill clay was worked in the 19th century for brickmaking. Exactly when the works opened is uncertain. They were two pits on either side of Walnut Tree Lane, the track that goes down the hill from St Mary’s Church to what used to be Victoria Farm. (TL 202513) There was a Gault pit on the right and blue-green Oxford clay on the left. (Roberts. T. Jurrassic Rocks of Cambs. CUP. 1886 p.36; Cowper Reed F.R. ‘A Handbook to the Geology of Cambridgeshire‘ CUP 1897 p.24)
According to Mrs Brooker of Everton her great grandfather, Mr John Richardson, was sent by Mr Plowman of Maulden in Bedfordshire to test the clay. He did this by digging down to the blue clay, washing it, then putting it in his mouth and chewing it to find out how much salt was in it. He used to say Everton bricks were much better than Sandy bricks as Sandy clay contained a lot of salt and would always be damp. He was quite right as houses at Everton built with Sandy bricks are always damp in winter, and when they dry out in the summer a white film of salt can be seen on them. He made all the bricks by hand and his two sons, Samuel and Amos, and other labourers dug out the clay. There was a report of a railway engine and tramway, presumably with tip trucks to carry the clay to the kiln. The bricks were put into wooden moulds which were first coated with sand from the sandpit at the other end of the field. The kiln was in the field on the left hand side of the lane at the bottom of the hill and it was still there in the 1930s. Some of the bricks were used for the floors of local stables and sheds.
He lived for a time in one of the three thatched cottages which stood on Walnut Tree Lane. The three 19thcentury cottages were built to house the brickyard workers. According to Mrs Brooker
“When my great grandfather first came to start the brickyard he lodged in the village, going home to Maulden every few weeks to take his wages to his wife. He was a local Methodist preacher so always walked home in his Sunday best clothes ready to take the service at the chapel next day. One Saturday evening he was walking across a field path when he saw two ruffians standing near the stile he had to climb. He had his Bible with him so he opened it and in a loud voice started to recite a psalm. As he neared the ruffians he called out ”God be with you my friends”. One of the men stepped forward as if to intercept him but the other one said ”Let him go, he‘s only an old Bible puncher”, so he went on his way with several weeks‘ wages in his pocket.
My grandmother‘s father used to pitch the hymn tunes in Everton church before they had any sort of musical instrument. He had a tuning fork and used to sing the first line of the hymn solo. All the family were musical and although they could not read music they used to sing in harmony very like the barbershop singing of today.
John Richardson and his sons were very proud of the bridge at Shefford which used to carry the railway over the A507 road as this was built of Everton bricks. It took one thousand bricks.
John used to sleep in a shed at the brickyard when the kiln was burning and sometimes my father kept him company. He made the fires up at midnight and he knew the time by the wind which always whistled through the trees at that time.
He grew red poppies in his garden and when he had a feverish cold he used to shake the seeds from a dried poppy head into a saucepan of boiling water, boil for a time, then drink the poppy seed tea when he retired for the night. This made him ”sweat it out” and the next day he used to wear two sets of clothing to keep out the cold.”
(Notes written by Hilda Brooker to accompany her paintings of the village during Everton Church Flower Festival July 1984;
When they ceased operation is not known but today, a water-filled pit can be seen on the left of the lane and an overgrown one on the right. (Conversation with John Brooker, Everton)
(More information might be obtained from Huntingdon Record Office which may hold some documents about the brickworks. Peterborough Brickworks may also have historical data. Sandy Transport Society are thought to have some photographs from the 1890s. )