1870 | Hoffmans brickworks site
Series 01 | Part 5/7
Brunswick's building blocks
Place: Hoffmans brickworks site
In 1865 the population of Brunswick was 3,000. At this time there were many small to medium brickworks operations who capitalised on Brunswick’s clay deposits – employing relatively primitive methods for manufacture. In 1870, the enterprising Jenkin Collier, David McKenzie, and Barry and William Owen established the Hoffman Patent Brick & Tile Company. Hoffman’s were the first brick works to embrace modern processes to brick making– and they named their company after it’s patented kiln. Developed by Friedrich Hoffman in Prussia in 1859, the Hoffman Kiln ‘revolutionised the brick making process by allowing a continual process of loading 'green' bricks and using fuel more economically’(1). Their innovative approach to the business of brick-making saw a massive boom to their operations – and by the late 1880’s they had established themselves as the largest brick-makers in Victoria, listed on the stock exchange, and employed over 400 people.
But Hoffman’s was more than its manufacturing capabilities – it was the heart of a community, and its story is weaved into the fabric of Brunswick.
Its whistle rang through the streets: calling workers to begin and end their shifts. Its chimney towers climbed skyward: standing as beacons. Its brick dust permeated the surrounding houses: laundry day was relegated to Sundays to avoid its blanketing. Its water run-off streamed along surrounding gutters: creating imaginary rivers for local children to play in. Its workers united in friendly gatherings; rallied for the eight hour day; and built the foundation for the Labor stronghold in Brunswick. In 1888 the population had risen to 14,792, and by 1905 it was 24,012.
1. Heritage Council of Victoria, Victorian Heritage Database Report: Former Hoffman Brickworks, p 7.
Stay tuned for more field tests: marking time in and around Brunswick and Moreland Station for the duration of MoreArts 2016, October 23 - December 18.
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