Saturday, 1st April, was the opening day of the 2023 season in Emsworth Museum and brick making was the first exhibition in the David Rudkin Room. Curated by chairman, Trevor Davies, the exhibition ran from 1st to 16th April. The Arts Trail followed over the next two weekends with the brick making exhibition starting again on Coronation Day, 6th May. It is still running at weekends until 21st May.
Before the widespread use of the internal combustion engine, brick making was a localised activity. Seams of clay suitable for making bricks run through Emsworth, Rowlands Castle and Hayling Island and they have been exploited since the Roman period. Often brick making was seasonal and incorporated into the annual farming cycle.
Emsworth Museum is housed in a building dating from 1900 and the bricks almost certainly came from Rowlands Castle. The advantage of using a smaller, local brickworks is that they could make specialised bricks. One of the highlights of the exhibition is to be found in a cabinet showing a brick with a curve at one end. Looking outside the window by the cabinet you can see the shaped brick moulding as it was used to frame a window.
This exhibition explains the traditional brick making process using photographs donated by the Noel Pycroft brick making business on Hayling Island which closed in 1992. Further research was done by the Bursledon Brickworks Museum and the Rowlands Castle History Group.
Shortly after it opened, Ian Pycroft (Noel’s younger son) visited the exhibition. He has made a number of constructive suggestions, and will visit the Museum to show us a video of the brick making process filmed in the 1970s.