Brickworks, Railways & Rope Incline Planes

The Nottingham Suburban Railway was intended to provide commuter transport for the growing suburbs of Sherwood and Mapperley, which were inaccessible for horse-drawn trams and omnibuses because of the steep hills, and to serve the Nottingham Patent Brickwork Company works at Carlton and Mapperley. One of the leading promoters, Robert Mellors, was chairman of the Nottingham Patent Brickwork Company whose works were on the proposed route at Thorneywood, and it was put forward that a branch be built to serve them. This plan received approval from a director of the company, Edward Parry, who would go on to become the line’s chief surveyor and structural engineer.

Route Map

Route of the Nottingham Suburban Railway – Image From by Alan Young

Extensive brickyards existed on Mapperley Hills for several centuries. They ultimately supplied much of the building material for the city and 10 million Mapperley bricks were used to build St Pancras station in London. Nottingham Patent Brick Company amalgamated all their brickworks at Mapperley and Carlton.

In 1969 brick-making at Mapperley and Carlton Hill ceased because NBC estimated there was only enough accessible clay for another 10 years and it was economically preferable to concentrate efforts on its more modern, highly automated site at Dorket Head, where there were clay reserves for another 50 years. In 1970 the last NBC kiln at Mapperley was demolished. Since 1987, the NBC works at Dorket Head amalgamated with larger companies, currently trading as Ibstock Brick.

Thorneywood Station was the location of the Nottingham Suburban Railways major branch line on the up side of the line with a short headshunt behind the platform giving access to a rope-worked incline plane running through a tunnel a distance of just 198yd, of which 110yds were in the tunnel taking it beneath Thorneywood Lane. The rope worked incline plane allowed wagons to be hauled to and from the Thorneywood Brickworks of the Nottingham Patent Brick Company. 


Tunnel to brickworks at Thorneywood Station

Tun1 (2)

Tunnel to brickworks after closure

A pub called The Engine House opened in 1969 on the site of the old brickyards of the Notthingham Patent Brick Company just off Honeywood Drive. It incorporated into the building a steam engine made by Tangyes, of Birmingham in 1850, which was first used at a colliery in Nottingham before being purchased by the Nottingham Patent Brick Company in 1867 for £659.

The engine was used to drive mills and agitators, processing and working raw clay into a suitable consistency to make bricks. It helped to produce 450 million bricks before it was retired in 1966 and donated to Shipstones Brewery. The engine was incorporated in the design of the pub and housed in a long glass-fronted lounge. When the premises were refurbished in 1982 the pub was renamed the Steam Engine. Later, the brewery decided to donate the engine to Nottingham Industrial Museum at Wollaton Park. Due to the engine’s immense size and weight, the lounge roof had to be removed to allow it to be hoisted out.

Written and Posted by Edward Kendall
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