On this day, April 5th, 1894, an advertisement for Belvelly Bricks was published in the Cork Constitution newspaper. The advertisement read: “A large quantity of these excellent bricks now in Yard. Pressed and moulded bricks in different shapes, either in stock or to order. Rail and water carriage nearby. Apply to Wm Taylor, Fota, Queenstown”.
Manufactured from 1858, Belvelly bricks were used in many buildings in Cork, including:
- Anglesea Bridge
- The Crawford Art Gallery
- Union Quay Constabulary Barracks, and
- Many of the buildings on the Fota Estate
Belvelly bricks were in production sporadically from that time until World War 1. Before its establishment, brickfields on the Lower Glanmire Road and Douglas in Cork were in operation but after new public health legislation led to these operations being closed down production was moved to Belvelly. According to the late Tim Cadogan, local librarian and historian, the bricks were sold as ballast in the West Indies and China.
Although associated with the Smith Barry’s, the Belvelly Brickworks was leased over the years to different people. Newspaper advertisements show that in 1875 it was run by a company called Burns and Warren. By 1881 this company was dissolved and a new called Burn and Hutton took over trading there. In 1887 the Brickworks lease was offered for sale by public auction. The annual rent was £38 and the lease was 58 years. It appears to have been taken over by William Taylor. In 1901, James Kidney was offering bricks for sale.
In its heyday, Belvelly Brickworks produced over two million bricks a year and also manufactured tiles. A pier was built nearby to facilitate transportation by water and a light rail was built from the factory to the pier and to Fota Station. Belvelly bricks were exported to many parts of the world.
An essay in the National Folklore Collection, written by Mary Butler of Belvelly, tells us that the workers were paid £1.10s per week and that the chimney fell down in 1902 but was subsequently rebuilt.
The Brickworks was closed during the First World War. It is said locally, that Lord Barrymore shut it down to encourage the workers to enlist in the British Army, but that only one man did so.
Many examples of Belvelly bricks are still visible at Fota today, including those in the following images:
Note: Thank you to our volunteer Catherine Coakley for her history research and writing for today’s post for #FotaHistoryNuggets – our volunteers make invaluable contributions to Fota House & Gardens with their individual expertise, skills and passion helping us in our work sharing this special place with you.