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Family Business with Great Spirit

Our features on Handley's brickworks at Woodside have prompted Edward Handley, the son of the former owner, to write in with his stories and memories, and has supplied us with fascinating pictures of the brickworks.

As the son of the late owner of Handleys brickworks, I have been most interested to read, under your Heritage column in the Croydon Guardian, the recent articles and correspondence relating to the brick company.

I was born in the mid 1930's and the first memory I have of my father's brickworks was by way of an order from the War Ministry he received in early 1940 that brickmaking was to cease at Woodside immediately. The Works he was told, was to become a staging post for troops of the Canadian Army who were to be billeted there prior to the eventual invasion of France by Allied Forces.

With great help from the staff still based at Woodside, a large majority having been called up for service - the task of extinguishing the fires in the brick kilns, the removal of the green (i.e. un-burnt) bricks from the drying shed and the clearance of the machine areas was accomplished in seven days. No mean feat as the works was producing 500,000 bricks a week prior to the order.

Despite being evacuated for periods during the war, leaving my parents to endure the blitz, I still managed to spend some school holiday time in the brickworks.

My father formed a plant hire company at this time and I was allowed (with supervision) to drive the many vehicles, including bulldozers and scrapers around the works. The troops were kind to me and I drove some of their equipment. For a small boy it was very exiting.

After my father died in 1946, the family trustees, with financial help from the War Damage Commission, restarted brick making. The Works had been badly damaged by enemy action and it was very difficult to restart, especially in the winter of 1947, notable for shortages and power cuts. However the following summer was quite superb so that the machines could be cleaned and the kilns re-lit.

I was appointed Director in 1957 and as it was a family concern, I was anxious to establish a community spirit within the works. I helped promote a pension scheme (none existed beforehand) for the work force of 250 and formed a cricket club which flourished for 16 years.

We were one of the first employers of staff from the New Commonwealth, particularly the West Indies. I was elected captain and we enjoyed friendly fixtures against other brick company sides in the south east, the British Legion and the South Norwood Methodist Church.

Because of a family disagreement the company was sold to Hall and Company - a very old and well established Croydon firm - in 1963, and in November of that year I left the brickworks. I have many memories of the time I spent there.

Last modified: 14th January 2013 - Copyright Canning and Clyde Residents Association
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