Photo by Frank Lawson
Benjamin Holmes was born in 1835 at Bagthorpe, Selston, Notts. In the 1851 census Benjamin is recorded as a brickyard labourer aged 15 & then in the 1861 census he is recorded as a Selston brickmaker & living with his brother-in-law Levi Hankin. By 1871 Benjamin had moved to Kirkby-in-Ashfield, living on Forest Street & still working as a brickmaker. In 1895 Benjamin had his own brickmaking business & brickyard on Portland Street, collecting clay from a field on Lowmoor Road. He also went to live on Portland Street. His two sons John (born 1873) & James (born 1875) took over the business at date unknown & in 1902 John & James established a new brickworks on Lowmoor Road. This was on the land that they had previously dug their clay from & this works covered a very large area of land which is now occupied by Tesco Express, a Car Auto Centre & the Lowmoor Inn, with the site extending from the back of these properties to the houses on Marlborough Road. The business prospered employing several local men which included Messrs J Radish, T Dring, W Smith, H Gregory, J Flint, J Butler, Sid Taylor, Tom Houlston, Sid Houlston, Earnest Marriot, Herbert Cutts, Bert Mercer & Jack Wykes. After John died in 1915, James carried on until his son, William (born1904) took over the business. The company ceased work when William & his workers were called up for war in 1939. After the war due to the deterioration of machinery & shortage of coal, William did not re-open the yard. The company was well known for producing top quality house bricks & so called ” Fancy Bricks” which can be seen on the houses in the streets around the works & district, which were built before 1939. The streets off Diamond Avenue are particularly rich in “Holmes’s Bricks.” James passed away in 1959 & William in 1967. Many Thanks to Betty & Joan, Benjamin’s Great-Grand Daughters for providing me with this information & photos. Betty & Joan are daughters of William & William was James' son & James was Benjamin's second son.
Top Left - William 1904 - 1967. Bottom Right - James 1875 - 1959.
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey 1900.
Benjamin's Portland Street works in 1900.
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey 1921.
This 1921 map shows the new brick yard on Lowmoor Road. The old yard on Portland Street now has railway sidings on it & today this site is occupied by two factories, a builders merchants & a diy shop.
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey 1938.
1938 map now showing Alexandra Street, Marlborough Road & Milton Street encompassing Holmes's brickworks.
Paving brick & reverse. Used in backyards & paths.
Some of Holmes's Fancy Bricks
Below is a later example by John, James or William.
Benjamin Holmes is first recorded in Kelly's 1888 edition at Kirkby Folly & this is followed by the same entry in Kelly's 1891 edition. From 1894 to 1900 editions the works is listed as East Kirkby. Then in the 1904 to 1925 editions the company is now recorded as Benjamin Holmes & Sons, East Kirkby. From the 1928 edition the works is listed as Lowmoor Road, East Kirkby. Benjamin's name & this address continues until the last available directory in 1941.
As previously wrote Benjamin owned his own works on Portland Street in 1894/5 & his sons then established a new works on Lowmoor Road in 1902. Benjamin had passed his business down to his sons, with it then being passed down to his grandson, but the name of the company remained in Benjamin's name. As already said William did not reopen the works after WW2, due to the deterioration of machinery & shortage of coal.
Going back to the entries for Benjamin in Kelly's 1888 & 91 editions & these entries record him as brickmaker at Kirkby Folly, so this now poses the question where was Benjamin working at these dates. I have found that Kirkby Folly was another name for East Kirkby, so there is the option that Benjamin first rented the Portland Street brickyard in 1888 before purchasing the land in 1895. Although I do not have any information from Benjamin's great-granddaughter's to collaborate this option, I think this is what happened.
© Crown Copyright. Reproduced by permission of NLS/Ordnance Survey 1877.
As previously wrote, Benjamin had moved to Kirkby by 1871 & he is recorded in the 1871 census as a brickmaker in Kirkby. So the only option is that he worked for someone else between 1871 & 1888. The 1877 map above shows that neither Portland Street or a brickyard existed at this date, (the location of which was in the next field above the red marked brickworks), so we know that Benjamin did not work there.
This 1877 map does show three brickyards in East Kirkby at this date & I have established that the yellow coloured yard at The Summit was taken over & later expanded by the Butterley Co. who sank Kirkby/Summit Colliery next to it in 1887. The green coloured yard was owned by George Hodkinson in 1881 & the red coloured yard next to Kirkby Station was owned by Mr. Oliver in 1876. So Benjamin could have worked at any of these yards between 1871 & 1888. If I do find any concrete evidence for my theories, I will update the post.
After visiting the nearly demolished CWS building on North Street, Huthwaite, I found that the outer walls of this building had been made with "Holmes's bricks" same as the one below. The main part of this building which fronted North Street & High Street was constructed in 1907. So it will have been a very lucrative contract suppling all those bricks for the Holmes family. Six photos of the CWS building can be seen at this link.
I think that John & James used Benjamin's stamp for this brick, just blanking out his name when they first took over & the one below will be a later example by John, James or William.
Many Thanks to Steve & Tom, two of my brick scouts for just finding me this brick in Kirkby. It's a little battle worn, but the lettering is spot on.