In 1841 George Clarke was appointed to build Whalley (Billington) viaduct for the railway company. At the time working for construction companies in Derbyshire and Gloustershire, he moved to Rishton in 1851. Over the next twenty years several members of his family followed him, and by the end of 1871 they accounted for more than 4% of the population.
At the time of moving he lived in Mary Street, but moved to Norden view in 1861, employing 30 men in his brick making company, known as Norden Fireclay Works.
Shale was carried from Close Brow, and Rishton pit, and turned into firebrick. George was instrumental in the building of Victoria mill in the town, which became the largest mill in Rishton. The mill was built during 1861 - 63 and word reached him about 6 men in Bacup who were planning on building the mill. He was able to persuade them to relocate the building to Rishton.
Clarke initially had brick fields at various sites before erecting a permanent works at Norden. Products included slopstones, chimney pots, drain pipes, urinals, waste water closets, fire and common bricks. Fire clay was obtained from local collieries and brick shale from Close Brow Quarry. By the 1930's Clarke & Sons were concentrating on fire brick linings for furnaces and fireplaces and employing about 20 operatives. Machinery included grinding mill with bucket elevator, pug mill, two brick making machines and a small single cylinder horizontal engine. At least three coal fired circular downdraught kilns were in use. Production gradually ran down during the late 1950's.
The brick works finally closed down in 1959.
All that now remains are a single storey office/manager's house at main gate, with the adjoining weigh bridge. The office retains a number of original fittings. Brick built machine house and moulding room with central square brick chimney, reduced stone chimney on north wall, ruins of engine house, stone built two storey warehouse, remains of tunnel kiln on canal side. Mill pond east of buildings. The canal bank is stone lined below the site of the works, indicating the position of a loading stage. Notice the barge turning place to the west of the wharf.
A Plan was submitted for a proposed store shed on the 6th August 1936, at Norden Fireclay Works for Messrs George Clarke & Sons (Rishton) Ltd., which was approved by the Council as a temporary building under the Councils Byelaws.
Numbers 3 to 11 Norden View are a short block of terrace houses, these were formerly the homes of the Clarke family. The dwellings in the Clarke - Company Street areas of Rishton are probably built with brick manufactured by George Clarke & Sons.
The brick works were closed in 1960 and for a short time was a scrap metal yard. It is now used by a milk bottle top manufacturer. The last chimney was removed about 1990 by myself!! This was the smallest chimney of the 3 in the above picture. Each brick was dislodged and knocked down the centre of the chimney because of the base of the chimney sitting in the middle of the factory roof.
John Blackmore who produces foil bottle tops for farmers throughout England now owns the site.
Here’s a picture of the site in January 2000.
Alongside the canal are some of the original buildings which the current owner has not yet demolished. They are falling down anyway! They show some of the brickwork which still exists, and are possibly made from this site, here's a photo……
Industrial Rishton by Kathleen Broderick & M Rothwell.