Making History Since 1877
2017 marks 140 years of production of the iconic London Brick, of which Forterra is sole manufacturer. Used in approximately 23% of the UK’s housing stock, it is made from raw material millions of years old, the excavation of which has changed the landscape, created thousands of jobs, helped in the construction of some of our most recognisable buildings, and even created a wildlife reserve.
The post-war years in particular were a boom time for London Brick as new houses were built to alleviate the housing crisis caused by bomb damage and the halt to housebuilding during the war. Increased production saw output reach 16 million bricks per day.
Today, London Brick is produced almost exclusively for the residential renovation, maintenance and improvement market. The colours and textures in its range are designed to match the five million homes built using London Bricks, as owners look to improve and extend their properties. London Brick has been the original choice for professional builders since 1877, confident of the products’ ability to colour match existing dwellings and provide quality and reliability founded on 140 years of brick making expertise.
A story of enterprise
It all really started in 1877 when James McCallum Craig bought a property at auction near Peterborough, known as Fletton Lodge. He decided that the site was ideal for local brick making and started a small company doing just that. As with many present day iconic products and brands, luck and circumstance played a part in its development. Even the shape, style and name of the brick owe much to fate and geography, although at the time no one knew it!
When excavation of the surface clay at Fletton began, a much harder clay was found deeper down. This was the unique Lower Oxford Clay, a rich seam that ran from Dorset to Yorkshire and as a bonus, this clay possessed a unique quality, it burned! This was due to the amount of carbonaceous material in the clay itself and in order to help this natural process in the firing ovens, a section was scooped out on top of the brick, effectively making the heat travel through it more quickly and evenly.
This ‘scoop’ was known as the‘frog’, a term recognised throughout the trade as a key characteristic of London Brick. The term frog itself originally came from the name given to the indentation of the horses’ hooves left in the soft clay when they were transporting the raw material from pit to oven.
The Fletton is born
Locally known as the ‘Fletton’ because of its original place of manufacture, the main market for the product was in London, transported there on the Peterborough to London rail line, hence the established name London Brick.
The Fletton brick was essentially a utility brick, used for structural purposes and without any aesthetic appeal. Whilst it served its structural function extremely well and was the most commercially competitive around, it lacked any real style.
So in answer to this problem, the first Fletton specifically designed to be a facing brick, the ‘Rustic’, was introduced. Initially produced by machining a zigzag pattern into the surface and then firing in a special way, production of the Rustic has become more automated over the years as you would expect. The Rustic was the first in a range of facing bricks, with varying styles, colours and textures
Although updated, it is still available to buy today as one of 23 styles, able to trace their roots back to the 1920s.