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Time at brickworks served me well

Barry King of Ellesmere Drive, Sanderstead, writes :

I was very interested to read your article about the old Woodside Brickworks. I noted your appeal for any recollections from people who had worked at the brickworks. I am just writing to give a few of my memories, which may be of interest.

As a callow youth (very footloose at the time) I was employed as a junior accounts clerk at the Woodside Brickworks.

I think this was some time in the early mid 60's (about 1964/65). As a young man I tried no end of jobs, and had already been an art student for a year at Croydon and dabbled in a few things as well.

For some reason I wanted stability and was interested in the brickworks because it had something to do with pottery, indirectly. I knew about the dark satanic mills of Wedgewood and places even further north, and I was interested in the industrial process, the chimneys and the muddy yard at the brickworks. I think at that time that a lot of clay was actually biought in by lorries, and of course there was the connection with Hall & Co.

Anyway, I was engaged as a junior accounts clerk, but I was much more interested in the stationary steam engine on the site which powered the big pug mills which pulverised the clay and made it ready for operations such as wire cutting. The cheapest bricks at the time I think were extrader "wire-cuts". I visited the major scenes of all operations at the works from time to time and I became fascinated by the brick kiln and the way they were operated.

All this was much more interesting than accounts. I suppose I was more technically minded than anything else and would have been happier in a technical role.

Anyway I did not stay long at the works. I do remember being informed when I left that I was probably going to be ear marked for a sales position if I had stayed. I'm not so sure I would have liked that, its hard to tell.

The Chairman of the brickworks when I was there was of course Jack Milster, who had a string interest in the Croydon Football Club.

Mr Milster was very friendly to everyone and sometimes came around the department. There was a strict hierarchy of status in the accounts office at that time, and no computers, which did give a sense of security. One must remember that this was the early 1960's, when it was easy to recognise each separate make of car, steam engines were still around a lot and things seemed a bit more secure in many ways.

The company secretary, Mr Horne, had his partitioned office in our department. Apart from Mr horne there was three other desks in the lower office which led up to a smaller office beyond Mr Horne, where two typists worked with the senior accounts manager, Mr Sweatman. I can see their faces very clearly in my mind's eye.

I must have had some 50 jobs since the brickworks, plus more than 20 years as a teacher, so I suppose I'm lucky to remember anything. I was very gauche and inexperienced at the time, and I went on to different things.

The experience has helped me as a teacher - I have made and used simple brick moulds in some of my lessons !

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