A brick kiln in Saltley
Saltley was sparsely populated and had a rural appearance until the 19th century when rapid residential and industrial development took place. The industries included manufacturing bricks using local clay as a raw material. The brickworks consisted of clay pits, drying sheds and kilns. When they went out of use, all of these were covered by roads and houses and none is visible on the surface. Many of the original houses have now been cleared and the area is now undergoing another stage of development. One of the many brick kilns in this area was excavated as part of the redevelopment. The excavated kiln was part of a small brickworks marked on the Ordnance Survey map of 1890 which consisted of two kilns, a drying shed and a clay pit. It was disused by about 1900.
The remains of the kiln were found about two metres below the present ground surface. The kiln was roughly rectangular, 10m long and 5m wide, with flues along the walls to allow heat to circulate and openings at both ends for the bricks to be loaded and unloaded. The subsoil under the kiln had been baked hard and discoloured to an orange colour through heat action.
The kiln was a ‘Scotch’ type. It would have been open-topped and have had no permanent roof structure. It was loaded with bricks for firing with loose, burnt bricks covering them and temporary blocking walls across the ends. The kiln would have been fired for six days in all, first of all at a slow heat to drive off moisture and then to a maximum temperature of about 1100 degrees C.
A feature in a new park in Raymond Road is based on the excavated brick kiln, as a reminder of this now vanished but once extensive industry.