It was more by accident than design that late yesterday afternoon I found myself wandering around the Waterfront Museum at Swansea. It had not been my intention to visit the maritime quarter at all, we had been on our way to Bracelet Bay and Mumbles Pier, but exceptionally heavy traffic slowed our progress and as we passed the sign for the museum I turned the car on a whim and drove into the car park.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking my brother and sister-in-law, along with Mum, to local(ish) places that we haven’t been for years, sometimes never, and the marina area I knew I hadn’t visited in ten or more years so it was unlikely that the others had been there either – they hadn’t!
I’d only been inside the museum for a few moments and I was not really enjoying the experience, it seemed to be full of those condescending interpretation panels, which I hate, and too much vacant space which could be used to house more exhibits. For example, I’m thinking of the contents of the excellent former industrial & maritime museum at Cardiff Bay, which sadly are in store elsewhere and not able to be seen by the public at the present time but deserve to be put on show somewhere, this location would be ideal.
But I digress, in the middle of the museum I noticed a large exhibit with which I’d had a previous encounter in its former life, one of the Bradley & Craven brick-making machines from the Emlyn Brickworks at Penygroes near Cross Hands in Carmarthenshire. It was a little sad to see it stuffed away behind thick glass screens, all the history wiped away by the simple act of cleaning, restoring and repainting, and I couldn’t help thinking it would have looked much happier left in as-found condition and displayed in more sympathetic surroundings. Still, it’s been saved from scrapping and that’s good to see, I wonder what happened to the other brick-making machine from the works?
Back in 1995 I’d had an invite from an enthusiast of industrial archaeology to go with him on an arranged visit to Emlyn Brickworks, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and as our appointed time wasn’t until the afternoon we spent the morning visiting and photographing other industrial remains in the area. On our arrival at the brickworks we were shown around and the workings explained and then left to wander around to take photographs. The pictures of the Bradley & Craven machines are not good, hand-held in low light we have some motion blur but it will give you a good idea of the condition of the machinery and the building in which they were housed and operated.
Here’s my notes made during the site visit on 3rd April 1995: Previously known as Emlyn Anthracite Collieries Ltd, it was latterly owned by Aeron Thomas during which period the kiln was built in 1911, a 16-chamber Hoffman-type Manchester Kiln, the manufacturers supplied the lining and Emlyn supplied the construction bricks, cost at that time was £536. Previously, beehive kilns had been used on site. Emlyn Brick Company Limited was formed on 22/12/1920 when two second-hand brick presses were installed, made by Bradley & Craven of Wakefield, said to be 100 years and 80 years old (in 1995). Brick making capacity (April 1995) is 70,000 per week; maximum 90,000 per week when the new draught improver is installed.
The following photographs are a mixture of old and new, as usual by clicking on them they will enlarge in a new window or tab, and by hovering over them you will be able to read the captions.