Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Here's a brickworks, old style, near Sonagiri, MP, India. Bricks are not things that are made in a huge industrial brickyard and exported on the back of lorries or by train for hundreds of miles; they are made in the local brickyard and come chugging to you along the country roads on a tractor trailer.
Brickworks by Andrea Kirkby
This is the way bricks were made in England, once upon a time. My father is a local and industrial historian; I remember the excitement of looking for old lime kilns on family holidays, sometimes hidden under brambles and briars, sometimes at the bottom of a well tended country garden.

So it was fascinating for me to see little local brickyards dotted all over the countryside. In the UK industry tends to be corralled and neutered - it's hidden out of the way on 'industrial estates' or whole swathes of townscape are given up to it, and we try to distance it from the places where we live. In India, on the other hand, manufacturing is still something that is done openly, that you see on the street and in the fields.

In some ways that's good. In other ways, not so good - pollution can be a problem, and some areas become degraded when there's no planning, no control over land use, and no oversight of public areas. But on this bright day on the way to Sonagiri, I got a smile and a wave from the brickward workers, and watched the smoke of the kilns that were being fired drift up into a still sky, and wondered, as I walked, whether the decline of British manufacturing started when we decided that it was dirty and noisy and uncivilised, and we ought to hide it away.

Brickworks, a photo by Andrea Kirkby on Flickr.

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