It won’t come as a surprise to any local gardener that brickmaking was a big industry round here 100-150 years ago. Our heavy clay soil, as well as the local chalk downland, made this area an obvious site for several brickfields over the centuries. In fact, in the late nineteenth century in Hampshire there were 100-150 works producing clay products such as bricks, tiles and pipes.
It was in around 1870 that it was discovered that our clay soil was particularly suitable for brickmaking. There were three brickfields in Chandler’s Ford. The biggest, which was also one of the largest in the country, was Bell’s, which occupied the land now taken by Chandler’s Ford industrial estate. The position of the railway no doubt helped its success as this was the main means of transporting the finished bricks. A short single-track branch line ran through the brickfield, joining the Eastleigh-Romsey line at the station near the signal box. The whole process of clay extraction, moulding to shape and firing was done on site. This last was not always popular with local residents due to the fumes emanating from the kilns. This brickfield had the honour of providing 35,000 bricks for the construction of the Royal Courts of Justice in the 1870s.
Other, smaller, brickyards in Chandler’s Ford were in the Fryern Hill area, in Oakmount Road and later in Scantabout, and in Common Road.
These brickfields were used for the construction of houses in Chandler’s Ford and Eastleigh, and also for the Railway Carriage Works. Workers’ houses (still there) were constructed along Bournemouth Road, as well as shops and a post office. Local school teachers often complained that boys were either late of absent as they had been up all night working in the brickfields.
Brickmaking declined in the twentieth century. The two world wars shrank production as men were drafted into the forces, as well as a reduced need as few building projects were undertaken. During World War ll the light from the kilns also caused a bombing risk. After 1945 new materials, such as concrete, glass and steel, were starting to be used for building, causing further decline in brickmaking. By 1971 all the Chandler’s Ford brickfields had closed, with only six remaining throughout the county.