A place name impressed on a brick doesn’t necessarily indicate that there was a brickworks at that location, at least that’s the conclusion to which I’m rapidly thinking may be so with a brick that has recently been discovered. Shown as BEDFORD at Briton Ferry & Porthcawl I can find very little evidence of a works at the latter location although some documentation exists which suggests a brickworks had been planned.Research has shown that George Bedford owned a brickworks at Briton Ferry and he is first noted on the 1851 census as a brick maker. By 1858 he is shown in the Slater’s Directory with an entry thus: Bedford, George, (firebricks), Briton Ferry. Further directories and census returns follow George through to 1881 where he is shown as a brick manufacturer with his home address now as Pyle, Glamorgan where he died in 1884.
The aforementioned George Bedford (1811-1884) was the grandson of John Bedford (1725-1791) who founded the Ironworks and brickworks at Cefn Cribwr and whose life is well documented elsewhere. Brick making obviously ran in the family as George’s brother Stephen (1813-1876) also operated a brickworks in the Neath area, shown in the 1852 Scammell & Co directory as at The Green, Neath. George’s eldest son (John) is shown on various censuses as being a brick maker but we turn our attention to the second son, also named George (b.1843) who is shown on the 1871 census as a firebrick manufacturer employing 14 men; at this point in the story it is unclear whether this is the same works as that owned by his father. By 1881 George the younger is shown as a Commission Agent and living at New Road, Porthcawl. A further complication to the story is that another brother David (1845-1884) is shown on the 1881 census as a brick manufacturer employing three men and two boys, quite a small concern but no indication of where this operation might have been.
In 1910 various newspaper reports show that a brickworks was proposed to open at Porthcawl. A clip from the Glamorgan Gazette of 10th November that year is reproduced here.However, despite spending hours searching through newspapers following that date, in particular The Glamorgan Gazette which would most likely be the source of such information, I can find no further mention of the brickworks. In addition, I have studied every available map, 6” and 25” and can see no evidence that there was ever a brickworks in Porthcawl.
It is now that mention must be made of a short street in the village of Newton (Porthcawl) which goes by the name of “The Brickyard”. A curiosity it must be agreed, but again I can find no evidence of bricks being produced here. The name of this street predates any of the Bedford’s activities and the tithe map of 1846 does show one of the properties marked as “Yard”, but with no further details. It is possible that bricks may have been produced here at one time early in the 19th century, possibly in a clamp-style operation, but once again can come up with no firm evidence.
So we return to the question of the brick; we know that George Bedford the younger was dealing in building materials, this is shown in the town directories of the period. Is it a possibility that he had the name Porthcawl impressed into bricks made at Briton Ferry in order to pursue a market locally in Porthcawl? At any rate, the Bedford era predates the 1910 venture mentioned previously by some twenty to thirty years so are unlikely to be connected.
I’m sure one day some further information will come to light, in the meantime I’m hoping someone will read this who will be able to provide a little more knowledge of the subject. Until then, the Briton Ferry & Porthcawl brick must remain an unsolved mystery.