What’s in a name?
That which we call a brick, by any other name would smell as sweet.
Chancing across a written reference to the Marland Brick in the book The Trains Now Departed, I was slightly taken aback – from wither and whence it came and went.
I was aware of the my patronymic local connection:
This most interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from Marland, a minor place in the parish of Rochdale, in Lancashire. The placename itself is composed of the Olde English elements “mere”, a lake, pool, and “land”, land.
There are also places called Peters Marland in Devon, recorded as “Merland” in the Domesday Book of 1086 (the site of a church dedicated to St. Peter), and Marlands in Somerset.
So our southern cousins were clay-mongers, manufacturers of fine bricks to boot.
Marland Cream brickwork is a feature of North Devon. The hard cream bricks were made at Marland Moor by a succession of companies using stoneware ball clays dug from the Petrockstowe Basin.
Between Great Torrington and Hatherleigh, in north Devon, lie alluvial deposits of ball clay, a particularly useful clay which first found use for pottery and clay pipes in the seventeenth century. However the remoteness of the location prevented the growth of the industry and by the nineteenth century it only met local needs for pottery and bricks.
The impetus for the industry came, perhaps, with the opening of the London & South Western Railway to Torrington in 1872 for a few years later the owner of Clay Moor, William A. B. Wren, started to exploit his land. By 1877 he had sunk several pits and erected at the Marland Brick & Clay Works kilns, cottages and stables. Clay was being taken to Torrington station behind a traction engine but over six or so miles of poor quality roads this was not very efficient.
With the coming of the railway to Torrington, in 1881 a private mineral line was built to connect to the Marland area. This led to a great increase in production and was a factor in the opening in 1925 of the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light railway, between Torrington and Halwill Junction, which superceded the mineral line. Closing to passengers in 1965, the section between Meeth and Barnstable remained open for freight, but by the 1980’s was moribund.
There are still remnants of the Marland Works Branch visible to this day.
Images from 28 days later
One of our famed family brick built achievements is the Chelfham Viaduct:
A railway viaduct built in 1896-97 to carry the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway across the Stoke Rivers valley. Designed by L&B engineer, FW Chanter, and containing over a quarter of a million Marland bricks, its eight arches – each 42 feet wide and 70 feet high – meaning that the 132-yard long viaduct is the largest narrow gauge railway structure in England.
The L&BR’s peak period came between 1902 and1913 when it carried almost 97,000 passengers a year. Yet the considerable endeavour invested in the railway was not enough to save it; as traffic dwindled, the line succumbed to closure by Southern Railways on 29th September 1935. Most of the trackbed and buildings were sold at auction in 1938. Although Chelfham Viaduct was retained, its parapets were taken down to about one foot above ballast level. In 1943, it featured in a film, The Flemish Farm, representing the Franco-Belgian border.
The structure was granted a Grade II listing on 25th February 1965. In 2000, in partnership with the Railway Heritage Trust and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust, British Railways Board completed a programme of remedial works.
Then later today, casting my mind back to my 2105 cycle tour from Weston Super Mare via Ilfracombe and Plymouth and onward to Hastings, I remembered a former chance encounter.
I had been here before, blissfully unaware of the local family connections along the Tarka Trail – thick as a Devon cream-tea coloured brick.
So when I eventually return to the area to fully explore our family heritage, I shall be sure to doff my cycling cap and smile whilst passing the warm cream expanses of Marland Brick.