The Brickworks at Twyford Wharf

There is a short entry in the Victoria County History Vol. IX, Bloxham Hundred, 1969, mentioning that there was a brickworks at Twyford Wharf. The next mention is contained in Vera Wood’s book The Licencees of the Inns, Taverns and Beerhouses of Adderbury & Milton Oxfordshire. She lists The ‘Old’ Red Lion, Twyford, mentioning the first known publican as Thomas Wilkins c 1832. She recorded that Wilkins was a multi-tasking publican as he was also owner of the coal wharf, brickworks and nearly sixty acres of well-watered farmland. Four years later, there was an announcement in the Banbury Guardian for 18th October, 1836, of a sale of this farm land, public house, cottage and wharf and a brickworks and domestic buildings. It would seem for much of its history the publicans of the Red Lion at Twyford Wharf were multi-tasking men. The last recorded publican was William Henry Twynham who was mine host from 1911-1929. He died in harness with the whole operation then closing down in 1930.

The Twyford Wharf site was examined in detail in 1971 by Susanna Everett of the Oxford and City Museum. In addition to the public house, the site consisted of a wharf house, a brick kiln and a limekiln, two drying sheds and one clay pit in use as well as an old, worked-out clay pit and a brick-built cottage-cum-office.  The clay dug on site was used to produce bricks, tiles, pipes and lime. The geological map of this area shows a belt of two types of clay to the west of and shadowing the River Cherwell . The canal was dug through one sort of clay and the brickworks the other. On the other side of the road, still on the west bank of the canal, was a cottage, coal wharf and warehouse. 

Brickmaking required sulphurous coal to fire the bricks as it burnt much hotter than domestic ‘sweet coal’. Much of the coal consumed in Adderbury came from Wednesbury near Wolverhampton; conveyed by long boats working the Coventry/Oxford Canal.  The special bricks needed to construct the kilns themselves may well have come from the new brickworks opened up at Stourport on Severn on land acquired by the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal Company in 1769. The company had acquired a close of land near the River Severn, near where they were building the new inland port, connecting the Severn and the new canal, fed by the River Stour. This canal eventually joined the newly-opened Coventry to Oxford canal which passed through Twyford. This would have been a slow tortuous journey across the Midlands – but the only way a heavy load of bricks could have been transported in the nineteenth century. The railway passed nearby but there was no halt or station or facilities for unloading.

What of today? Twyford Wharf has morphed into a modern leisure facility. The brickworks is a well presented caravan park with attractive canal moorings alongside, with one of the former brick kilns acting as a toilet block. The old coal wharf is a long boat hire business – it all looks well- presented and thriving. 

Nick Allen

Note:                                                                                                                                 This article has taken the view that the Twyford Brick Works arose after the building of the Oxford Canal and as a consequence of it. Others have suggested that there was a working, commercial, brickworks on this site in the eighteenth century prior to the building of the canal through Adderbury c1787. This premise was built around a field name said to be shown in the Inclosure Award of 1774 as Brick Kiln Field. The field the brickworks still stands on today is shown, on the 1735 plan of the land holdings of the 2nd Duke of Argyll, as Brickill Hill Furlong. Might the cartographer have got the name of the field incorrectly by writing Brickiln Hill Furlong by mistake?  Another possibility is that the then farmer/landowner might have set up a small locally made kiln to bake bricks for local use and pipes for land drainage purposes.

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