The beauty of handmade bricks

As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of the finest traditional handmade, wirecut and pressed bricks, Imperial Bricks specialise in producing a growing range with a strong focus on regional variations, in both imperial and metric sizes.

Using time-honoured manufacturing methods and the finest quality materials, their skilled brick makers expertly reproduce authentic colours and textures found across the UK for the past 500 years, which results in each brick having its own unique character. Their distinctive appearance brings an authentic touch to any building project, making them perfect for the restoration, renovation and conservation of period properties, as well as adding instant charm to new build developments.

The definition of a Handmade Brick

A true handmade brick is made by skilled craftsmen and involves throwing a ‘clot’ of clay into a wooden mould dusted with fine, dry sand. Excess clay is removed with a wire bow and a flat wooden pallet is placed on top, with the mould being inverted to remove the brick. These bricks are known as ‘green’ bricks and are then stacked and left to air dry, creating the unique creases or ‘smiles’ on each brick face. After air drying, they are stacked by hand into a coal fired kiln. The process is labour intensive, but results in a characterful, unique product.

Jason Hughes, Managing Director of Imperial Bricks said:

“The colour and texture of fired bricks depend on the minerals in the clay, as well as kiln temperatures. Pink bricks contain more iron, while bricks with yellow tones are produced from clay with a higher lime content and as the kiln temperature increases, the bricks undergo a spectrum of colour changes.”

“No two traditional handmade bricks are ever identical; each is unique and has its own individual character and appeal, due to the natural materials used, as well as the firing process.”

In addition to the unique features of a handmade brick, Imperial Bricks has the ability to add a reclaimed and aged appearance to the bricks, through a combination of gentle distressing or weathering processes and the addition of oxides or lime mortar residues.

The Benefits of using Handmade Bricks

Handmade bricks will add instant character and offer an authentic look for any building project. In addition to this, it can often be a stipulation of the planning permission to ensure a new build is sympathetic to its surrounding environment.

Handmade bricks also offer the ideal solution for the restoration, renovation or conservation of period properties, especially where an existing structure needs to be matched. Imperial Bricks produce a range in both metric and traditional imperial sizes, which, along with specialist facilities to weather or distress bricks and create custom blends, enables them to achieve a perfect match in most cases.

Jason adds:

“Planners will often insist on achieving an indistinguishable match, especially within conservation areas. We work very closely with clients, architects, planners and conservation offers, to find the most appropriate solution for each project.”

Regional Focus

Imperial Bricks develop all of their products with a very strong focus on regional variations. The current product range includes over 20 traditional handmade brick types, along with a number of wirecut and pressed bricks, in both imperial and metric sizes.

Jason Continues:

“There are many of regional variations of brick influenced both by the local clay and architectural trends down the ages; our range is designed to expertly match these traditional colours and textures.”

Some of the best known traditional regional variations include:

Yellow Stock

Often know as a London Stock, this is a yellow toned brick used extensively during the capital’s building boom in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Colours vary from a dark gold to pastel yellow, with black flecks from the ash in the clay.

Soft Red

These vivid bricks were used in regal buildings and townhouses in Southern England throughout the 17th century. They were known as ‘Red Rubbers’ because their soft texture made them ideal for carving.

Farmhouse Orange

Ranging from a soft, light shade to a strong mid orange, these bricks have been popular throughout middle England since the 17th century.

Cambridge Buff

Gault clay gives these neat, square bricks distinctive shades of white, buff and pink that can be seen in many fine buildings in Eastern and Southern England where they were used for high quality facing work.

Orange Wirecuts

A true brick of the Shire counties, ‘wirecut’ refers to extrusion through a die that helps create characteristic orange hues with buff flashing. Whilst not a handmade brick in the traditional sense, they were and still are widely used in all types of development from the 19th century onwards.

The Cost Factor

Jason comments:

“Bricks make up on average just 6 per cent of the total build cost, yet aesthetically they will define the success of a project and it is worth spending a fraction more to achieve the best finish possible. Handmade bricks are truly unique and will offer a wealth of character to any building project, not achievable with machine-made mass produced alternatives.”