Lapal Tunnel Brickworks, Birmingham

In the winter of 2012/13 BaRAS undertook a watching brief during the construction of a new ASDA store at Barnes Hill, in the Birmingham suburb of Weoley Castle. This involved diverting the fast-flowing Stonehouse Brook through the site of a late 19th-century brickworks.

The Lapal Tunnel Brick & Tile Co. was established in 1876 – 7. It was named after the (disused) Dudley No. 2 Canal tunnel which passes beneath the northern end of the site. The brickworks was linked to the adjacent California Brickworks and the canal by short stretch of rail track, and was fitted with modern equipment that included a continuous firing ‘German’ kiln. The site closed in 1884 and remained disused until the early 1900s.

By 1904 the brickworks had re-opened; new buildings and machinery were installed and new clay pits were dug, but by the outbreak of the First World War it had closed again. The last standing buildings were demolished in the early 1960s.

Archaeological remains of the brickworks included walls, floors, a bridge abutment and part of a brick kiln. Both the contractors and the archaeologists had to contend with very difficult working conditions, including a particularly cold winter, constant flooding, and the fact that the site was buried beneath several metres of landfill dating to the site’s use as a municipal rubbish dump in the 1950s and 60s.

part of the brick floor from a former brickworks building revealed during an archaeological excavation on the site

The brick floor of one of the brickworks buildings exposed during the diversion of the Stonehouse Brook. 1m scale

Project Officer: Cai Mason

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