Porth Wen

An abandoned brickworks on Anglesey

A brief history of Porth Wen by Neil Summers

Visit his excellent website on the history of Amlwch and district at
"The Copper Kingdom"

It is thought that the making of bricks started in the early part of the 20th century. The type of brick produced was based on the local yellow clay rather than the usual red house brick. They were capable of withstanding a higher temperature that normal bricks and may have been used for the lining of kilns and furnaces.

In 1906 a German by the name of Steibel took over the running of the works and tried to make it a profitable concern. The bricks were cut into shape with a sharp wire before they were baked. To assist in the baking two experts were employed from Ruabon and the quality of the bricks made at this time was extremely high.

In 1908 the works were again taken over by a Mr. Charles Tidy. He introduced a new method for brick making in which the clay was pressed into shape rather than cut with wires. The result was that the bricks were left with a hollow frog.

The scope of products produced at the works was also increased with the introduction of glazed bricks and tiles. These were produced by a young Japanese Glazer called Cozo Nakamura. He was an accomplished craftsman as can be seen by the examples of some of his tiles below:

Examples of tiles produced at the Tidy Brick and Tile company, Amlwch around 1906.

Despite the good quality brick and tiles produced, transport was always a major problem for the works. All raw materials and products had to be transported by sea. A small quay was built for the loading and unloading of ships.  However the position of the works meant that as well as the effects of tides, a heavy swell was often encountered. The small vessels were often battered while at the quayside - hitting the rocky seabed caused much damage to the craft. Many owners refused to risk their ships mooring there.

Just before the first world war the quality of the kiln firing seems to have worsened. This is rum=oured to have been because of disagreementís between Charles Tidy and his foreman. Even today around the site examples of under fired bricks can be seen slowly disintegrating while the over glazed bricks remain fused together in piles.

The works closed at the start of the First World War and most of the useful equipment and machinery was removed to be used by a firm in Caernarfon some time before the Second World War.

Taken from an old postcard by kind permission of Andrew Morris.  This shows the clay pit to the left of the works and the stone quarry higher up.  Also clearly seen are the two drumhouses on the tramway incline to the quarry.

A view of Porth Wen with two possible bottle kilns under construction.  This photo is a bit of a mystery as it shows no sign of the beehive kilns.  The bottom of the tramway incline can be seen on the left.

A glazed brick made at Porthwen after 1906

Next page: The Beehive brick kilns

Return to the index page