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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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. )