Gainford Street, London, N1. Photo © Roger Dean 2010
The Little World of London – by Charles Manby Smith, 1857:
London, which is never to-day of the same extent as it was yesterday, demands the services of whole armies of builders. brickmakers, bricklayers, and their subordinate fellow-labourers. The builders, who but too rarely condescend to invoke the assistance of a professional architect, though mostly Londoners, are by no means exclusively so, but comprise among their number a host of speculators from all parts of the kingdom – the facilities for building with very little capital being perhaps greater in London than in any country town in England. The brickmakers are for the most part Londoners but they have had latterly to contend with new rivals from the neighbourhood of Liverpool and Manchester, as well as with a new kind of pierced brick, brought hither by rail in large quantities from brickfields situated at various distances north of the capital. The work-men at this trade invariably work by the piece ; and by labouring during the summer months with an intensity that would kill the strongest animal in a week, earn extravagant wages, sometimes amounting to from three to four guineas a week per man, which they spend as extravagantly, being often reduced to dismal straits in the winter, when they cannot work. From three in the morning till nine at night is no uncommon day’s work for a brickmaker in the height of summer. As a class, they occasion the police more trouble than any other that could be named and they are at once the support and the disgrace of the suburban public-houses.
[London stock bricks, yellow in colour, were often made in Middlesex and were widely used in building in London in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The heavy pollution in London during those times turned the bricks black as can be seen on some of these salvaged examples. R.D.]