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Brick History

Brick History

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Until the 18th century, most houses in what is now the United Kingdom were either made from stone or wood and clay. The latter type would use bricks for chimneys to reduce the risk of fire.

Little used in the UK before the 14th century, bricks rose in popularity when Flemish refugees brought bricks into East Anglia. Their use spread and by the late 18th century, yellow 'stocks' became common in London.

In the 18th century, bricks started to be used for all parts of smaller houses. A brick tax was introduced 1784 and increased in 1794 and 1803. This slowed the trend but after the tax was repealed in 1850 bricks were used almost universally outside the stone areas.

During the period of the tax, one alternative to wooden weatherboarding was the 'brick tile' or 'mathematical tile'; these were tiles in which the surface exposed below the tile in the course above was shaped like a brick.

During the 18th century, as well as being taxed, bricks were also less fashionable; stucco was used to simulate stonework. Stucco frontages ceased to be used in London in the 1850s, being replaced by brick as the desirable material.

By the late 19th century, red bricks were cheaper and could be used for the public side of houses, yellows being relegated to the rear. Using a mix of types of brick in the same wall reached its peak in the Victorian Gothic revival.

For much of this period, bricks were made locally; their colour was influenced by the clays and other materials used, and by the temperature at which they were fired. The coming of the railways meant that bricks could be distributed more widely and greater uniformity resulted.

The finest bricks are 'rubbed' or ground to fit tightly with little mortar. This could be imitated by staining the mortar to match the bricks, and then setting a line of 'putty' into a groove cut in the mortar as it sets. If you are looking for a new career, learn this 'tuck-pointing' technique as you will soon be wealthy!

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