Re­search­ing Bridg­wa­ter tile-mak­ers

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - LOCAL INDUSTRIES -

The Bridg­wa­ter tile in­dus­try was de­feated by chang­ing fash­ions and yet the old tiles still grace the roofs of vil­lages around the town to this day. For many years the mar­ket leader was the town’s own tile, the Bridg­wa­ter, de­scribed as a ‘Dou­ble Ro­man’ and said to have been in­vented by the town’s tile-maker, Wil­liam Sy­mons.

Var­i­ous de­signs for the lo­cal tiles are on show at the Som­er­set Brick and Tile Mu­seum in Bridg­wa­ter, set up in the 1990s by Sedge­moor Dis­trict Coun­cil in an old dry­ing shed ad­join­ing the town’s last sur­viv­ing kiln, Num­ber 6. This was the site of the for­mer Barham Broth­ers of East Quay, Bridg­wa­ter, mak­ers of “bricks, tiles, ce­ment and plas­ter, glazier’s putty and dis­trict agents of Pudlo ce­ment wa­ter­proofer.” Although the com­pany, formed by Al­fred Barham and Fran­cis Forster, was a rel­a­tive late­comer to the tile-mak­ing scene – they opened around 1858 – their work­place was well cho­sen be­ing not only close to the river­side land­ing stage, but also to the new rail­way line link­ing Bridg­wa­ter and Bris­tol which was com­pleted 17 years ear­lier.

Of the hun­dreds of tile-mak­ers in the re­gion, lit­tle in the way of a pa­per trail sur­vives. How­ever, some of Barham’s com­pany’s wage books and stock cat­a­logues can be found at the Som­er­set Her­itage Cen­tre in Taun­ton along with use­ful trade di­rec­to­ries. There is also a small amount of ar­chive ma­te­rial in­clud­ing trade mag­a­zines at the Blake Mu­seum in Bridg­wa­ter. As for records of for­mer tile-mak­ers and their fam­i­lies who ended up in the work­house, the Som­er­set Her­itage Cen­tre’s ar­chives have lo­cal Board of Guardians’ minute books (1836-1930), ad­mis­sions and dis­charge lists (1916-1931) and the births and deaths reg­is­ter (1866-1914).

The Som­er­set Brick and Tile Musuem

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