Marland Bricks

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.

However:

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. 

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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.

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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opening in 1925 of the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light railway, between Torrington and Halwill Junction, which superceded the mineral line.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.

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There are still remnants of the Marland Works Branch visible to this day.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

San Remo Coffee Bar – Rochdale

Sanremo or San Remo is a city on the Mediterranean coast of western Liguria in north-western Italy. Founded in Roman times, it has a population of 57,000, and is known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. It hosts numerous cultural events, such as the Sanremo Music Festival and the Milan–San Remo cycling classic.

Rochdale is a market town in Greater Manchester, England, positioned at the foothills of the South Pennines on the River Roch, 5.3 miles north-northwest of Oldham, and 9.8 miles  north-northeast of the city of Manchester. Rochdale is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, population 211,699. Rochdale is the largest settlement and administrative centre, with a total population of 107,926. Home to the Cooperative Movement, Rochdale AFC and a redundant cotton industry.

The two towns come together at 27 Drake Street, Rochdale, Lancashire OL161RX, home to a fine café and Italian born Tony and family. It has a well preserved menu that reflects industrial Lancastrian tastes rather than flavours of Liguria. It has an internal decorative order that is pure mid century a la mode – Pennine Style. Several more than several signs leave you in no doubt as to the availability of pies, pies with chips/potatoes, peas, gravy, veg – pies of all varieties, pies.

So pie, chips, peas and gravy it was, with a mug of tea – it always is.

Pop in say Buongiorno!

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Seven Sisters – Return to Rochdale

I’ve passed this way before, they’re hard to miss, seven substantial tower blocks towering over the town on College Bank.

But what goes up, may come down.

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Construction in 1963

Demolition in 2017 is one suggestion – following years of poor maintenance, problems of heating and ingress, plus a whole host of other reasons outlined here.

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The housing trust in consultation with residents, have produced a tentative plan.

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This may or may not include the demolition of one or more blocks. On the day of my visit, the tenants I spoke with understood that the blocks faced an uncertain future, and were rightly concerned by the rumours and conjecture. The majority would prefer to stay put, having lived there for several years, raising families and building  homes.

Whatever the outcome I hope that the wishes of the residents are not overwhelmed by political expedience, or the will of the developer.

Take a look for yourself.

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Lower Falinge – Rochdale

Walking between College Bank flats and St Patrick’s church you and I will almost inevitably pass through Lower Falinge.

In April 1967 Rochdale Council’s Estates Committee considered a proposal to build 750 dwellings in four-storey deck access flats in the Falinge area. By November the £1,810,000 scheme for the area bounded by Spotland Road, Hudson Street and Toad Lane was given the thumbs up.

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The four-storey development was to provide 527 dwellings with deck access, ramps and overheard walkways. It was planned so people could walk from any point in the area to another without having to return to ground level. Work began in early 1968 and was completed in three stages. More recently they have been up-graded and now have pitched roofs. Freehold Flats were built in the early 1970s. Eleven of the eventual 19 blocks were occupied by August 1971. 

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Built at a time when full employment was a tangible reality rather than a fondly recounted folk memory, the area was buoyant and relatively prosperous.

Time, the free market, and casualised labour has not been kind to Lower Falinge and many other post-industrial estates. The Thatcherite press conveniently badges the residents as scum, scroungers and frauds, a carefully conceived sleight of hand, transferring responsibility onto those careless enough to become the victims of an uncaring economic system.

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Demonising and dividing working people regardless of ethnicity, ability, sexuality or ability – the equal opportunities abuser.

A few years ago there was even a national news story about a Falinge café serving fry-ups with a can of Stella for £2.50, this was untrue.

So Lower Falinge and its like become the convenient exemplar for the inconvenience of Broken Britain, a PR device to whitewash the very dirty hands that authored its very dirty demise. Those very dirty hands that have no viable solution to a very real problem, of resolving poor peoples’ uncertain futures.

Meanwhile the journalists form a disorderly queue to file the next in line, online assessment of an awful situation devoid of resolution, short of revolution.

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Transferred from local authority control to charitable trust, forever shape shifting its hard lines to a softer, home made, fluffier image as limited resources, chase limited opportunities, all around the deck access landings.

Life goes on, we live in hope or Lower Falinge.

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The estate is now post-post modern, acquiring another veneer of refurbishment over the now tarnished green of the cover all, all purpose un-repurposed steel railings.

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Rochdale – Seven Sisters Flats

Arriving in Rochdale in search of something else entirely, it was impossible to ignore seven prominent, as yet unclad tower blocks, high upon a hill. I was informed by a local resident that they were known locally as the Seven Sisters, though variously identified as Falinge B, College Bank, and Holland Street flats.

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The area was formerly home to Victorian workers’ dwellings, known as The Paddock – the post-war policy of slum clearance saw them swept away, in readiness for municipal modernity.

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Hey presto 1963 and there appears four 21 storey blocks containing 476 dwellings; three 17 storey blocks containing 286 dwellings.

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Building contractors were Wimpey and the flats were designed by Rochdale ’s Borough Surveyor, Mr W H G Mercer and Mr E V Collins who worked with George Wimpey and Company’s chief architect D. Broadbent.

Many thanks to the Tower Block project for the facts.

On Friday October 1 1965 the Minister of Housing and Local Government, Richard Crossman, officially opened the first of the College Bank flats – Underwood.

So go take a look ride the rail or tram, get on your bike, walk a while and abide, take a frenzied dance around with the Seven Sisters.

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