Drawing of Blackett’s Brickworks, 1966

t12901Blacketts’ Brickworks, which lay very roughly in the area bounded by the old part of Portrack and the old part of Tilery, was the last brickworks in Stockton, closing round about 1963. The huge pit that was left was filled in (ironically) with the bricks, mortar, tiles and woodwork from the “slum” clearances in Stockton. Nothing is left to show its existence, as far as I know, except a hump in the ground where the brick kilns actually stood. The drawing, done from one of the flats in Campbell Court in Portrack, shows the derelict buildings and chimney stack of Blacketts’ in the middle distance. Off to the right are garages and sheds belonging to the Co-op. The tall structure, in the far distance, is one of the floodlights for the Stockton Freightliner Terminal that was being constructed at about this time. This too has now vanished.

Drawing courtesy of Fred Starr.

12 thoughts on “Drawing of Blackett’s Brickworks, 1966

  1. Frank Mee will be interested to know that it was at Richard Hind, in the fifties, that I was taught the basic of drawing. The art master was Sid Buckley.

    I was never much good, but I polished up my efforts at an evening art class in Putney when I moved down to London in 1967. This picture was about the best I could manage, and it was drawn from life from my grandmothers kitchen window on the north side of Campbell Court, PortracK.

    Frank mentioned to me that when he was at Richard Hind, Latin was taught!

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    • Fred the picture was real to me having known the Brickworks well, you could be in the Tate Gallery someday.
      My art Master Sandy Dobbing always told me I would get a job anywhere “white washing toilets” he was old school had been in the first world war and the room was covered in his wartime paintings some quite graphic. The Technical drawing and Math Teacher Eggy Plummer told me I would be snapped up as a draughtsman give me a bit of machinery and I could draw three planes to high accuracy, mainly because I was interested in that kind of drawing, art went over my head,
      The Latin is a long story. I had moved to Deighton when the Bombing started having passed the 11+ that year. We went to Brompton School but two mornings a week the school bus took four of us on into Northallerton Grammar School for languages and extra Math’s. The schools there were crammed full of evacuees from Sunderland and Newcastle which was the reason we could not be permanent. Mother brought me home just before Christmas 1940 and took me to Stockton Grammar, they said yes although I would have to start in the first class in the January which would have put me a year behind and eldest in the class. She said no way and took me to the Richard Hind and I was in. The school was split part Academic and the year before they had started a single class as a Technical class or “T” class as they were known. For one year we took Latin French and one Teacher tried to teach us Esperanto.
      The following year we were further split and I went into a “T” class it had to do with the Government wanting more engineering training in schools they knew it was going to be a long technical war.
      We dropped Latin and just had French to this day I can quote Latin but do not ask me anything in French, Math and Science subjects were crammed into us and as we only had 18 pupils in the class as against 30+ in the Academic side we got almost one to one tuition. Eggy Plummer when not throwing board rubbers around took me under his wing, I owe him a lot.
      The Richard Hind was the starter for my wanting to learn as against being forced, I took further education in my own time and used the Army education service to its full. ICI were big on education and sent me on many courses and then back to College for 26 weeks. This all gave me what I have now comfort and peace in my old age and it all started due to war?
      Frank.

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  2. In one of the periodic fights between Tilery and Portrack, someone on the Tilery side was using a sling. Fortunately not very much! I remember a fist-sized pebble crashing down out of the blue about ten yards from where I was. If it had hit some one on the head it would have killed them.

    The standard weapons and ammunition were thrown stones, and pebbles from catapults. One could buy high quality strands of rubber, about 5mm in cross section. Point blank range from a catapult was about 20 yards and extreme range about 70 yards. I remember firing at kids from Stockton Quay across the river to the Head Wrightson side.

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    • Fred it happened every where, we Norton Green and Beaconsfield Street gangs fought the Blue Hall mob when they tried to invade the green that is when we were not fighting each other.
      Dad had a metal hand frame with 1/4 inch elastic and killed rabbits with it so quite deadly weapons. I would make lead pellets by melting lead and pouring it into a pair of pliers that produced a lead ball, a touch with a file and it was ready to fire.
      Dad was not best pleased when he found me on the green shooting at the other gang, “You will kill someone”, they are the enemy, he snatched the catapult and said use your fists. No wonder we grew up hard.
      Frank.

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  3. Yep I remember Blacketts Brickworks we lived at no 4 Queensport Close my brothers were Jimmy, Matty and Mick I was Billy and my sis was Josie, my granny Wilson lived in Nicholson Street and our adventure existed in the kilnes where the bricks were made, we called them the moving bricks because they wobbled when you walked on them. Portrack will be in my blood forever it was where we were born and cultured into real people, I will never forget the beautiful Portrack girls full of giggles and curves, and my wonderful loyal pals (thank you boys and girls). Our Mick passed away today so any one knowing our Michael or my family please look out for his departure next week, your prayers and support would be greatly appreciated. My love and thoughts and fond memories go to you all xxx. Billy Wilson 3.5.2018

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  4. I recall the gang fights, between Portrack & Tilery. We would throw anything at each other. I remember getting a bow and arrow from the ragman. Taking off the rubber end and putting a expended bullet on the end, I only fired it once at the Tilery gang. Never hit no one but trembled in fear that Sgt Elliot would come knocking on Grans door.

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  5. I remember just how violent and intimidating to us young kids was the way that the excavator used to swing round, from the face of the Claggy to the waiting bogies. I had never thought how uncomfortable it might be for anyone inside, especially someone holding a shovelful of coal in the middle of feeding the fire.

    Could Peter Dickenson give more info about the Ruston Bucyrus steam excavator at Blackett’s. Did it get around on caterpillar tracks? I also seem to remember that one could actually see the single cylinder steam engine at work, and that the drivers cab was covered in corrugated sheeting.

    Were you, Peter, only acting as fireman? If so how old was the driver and what maintenance was needed?. Where was the tank for the water and how often did you fill it? Where did the water come from? When were you working there?

    This type of vertical boiler was used on some of the locomotives running alongside Stockton Quay. There is an excellent article by Peter Rigg in December 2011 issue of the magazine Steam Days which covers these locos, plus stuff on the line running down through Tilery and Portrack to the Malleable. Stockton Library should have a copy in its archives

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    • Fred you asked The excavator was stood on long railway sleepers a banksman constantly moved them in the forward position the excavator had six cylinders if I remember two for lifting the bucket the cross jib and turning the glands were always leaking the boiler was regularly tested. Everything was tightened up at the end of the shift. The water tank was underneath the firebox a rubber hose was used extending from the pick up point of the bogies. I kept the water constantly running under my control. In the winter time the hose would freeze up and I had to drag it up to the drying flats, production was lost the lads loved that Water feed to boiler a regulator back up westinghouse pump the westinghouse was too severe it knocked the steam down the driver did not like that the driver was Jack Umpelby about 60 the banksman was also Umpelby. Fred you can find similar excavators on Google hope you can understand my writings long time ago but loved fighting to keep the pointer on the red, I think they were making about 15000 thousand bricks at the time per day.

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    • Fred I was a fireman on the steam navvy great experience for a 16 yrs old Ruston Bucyrus verticul boiler you got knocked about navvy constantly spinning round rotten coal difficult keeping 100 psi the driver was Jack Umpelby I think he was a well known family from Portrack loved every minute of it

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  6. i remember as a child in the 50s the waggons going up and down Nicholson Street to the brick works some kids used to jump on the back of them and slide over the cobbles a dangerous practice I suppose but I dont recall any one being hurt!!!!

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  7. Wonderful sketch! I recall that back in 1965, I was at the Art College in Middlesbrough and in the process of putting together my end-of-year ‘exhibition’ folio. My Dad worked at Allan Kennedy Flooring and each day for a week he’d bring me in his car over to Stockton, where I’d decided to produce a series of pen and ink watercolour sketches of the ancient riverside buildings that still existed at that time. A week or two later we had a student ‘sojourn’ to Scarborough, from where we decided to ‘hitch-hike’ home to Teesside, split into groups of two. I’d given my precious sketch-book, containing my Stockton work to a pal, to carry in his shoulder-bag. The next day, back at the college, I discovered to my utter dismay… that he’d accidentally left the bag… on the back of a lorry!

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