Friday, 20 September 2019

The White Gold festival and bricks

On 21st September, St Austell will be hosting its annual White Gold Festival. It is an event which goes from strength to strength and seeks to celebrate the importance of china clay to St Austell and the parishes of Clay Country.

There is much planned for the day which includes talks and workshop demonstrations from potters, some displays and a craft fair, as well as music and dance. So why not come along to the town, this Saturday between 10am and 4pm, and take part in what looks to be a wonderful “Festival of Clay.” Full details about the 2019 programme can be found at

I am particularly pleased to support the associated Brickfield project, through which artists Rosanna Martin and Georgia Gendall are looking to revive the art of brick-making in the locality. They have already held a number of workshops, and there is a further “drop in” brick-making session at Blackpool Pit, near Trewoon, between 2pm and 5pm on Saturday.

For me, it is particularly important that we should remember how our area had a strong brick-making tradition and how the industry thrived through much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, in my home parish of St Enoder, I know that there were at least five brickworks – at Burthy, Chytane, Gaverigan, St Columb Road and Wheal Remfry.

It is even part of my family heritage. In the 1880s, my great-great grandfather John Cole was the superintendent of Chytane Brickworks, near Fraddon, which produced bricks, tiles and coping stones. It is great for me to know that some of these coping stones can still be seen on the walls around St Enoder Cemetery, each complete with a “Chytane” stamp showing their point of origin (see above)..

Also, at St Columb Road, the brickworks was located to the south of the railway station. It does not survive but the partial remains of the associated linear pit, which supplied the enterprise with clay, can still be seen within the Parish Council’s nearby allotment field.

Wheal Remfry was the last working brickworks in Cornwall, which closed in 1972. A neighbour of mine, John Osborne, was the last man to fire the beehive kiln on the site and I am very pleased to see that he is assisting the Brickfield project with his knowledge and experience.

All the bricks made as part of this initiative will be fired in clamp kiln at Blackpool Pit between 6pm and 9pm on Saturday, and I understand there will even be jacket potatoes and beans to enjoy.

[This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

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