Northcot Brick is one of the UK’s few remaining independent brick manufacturers, situated in the village of Blockley in the heart of the Cotswolds.

Originally known as Northwick, the company was established in 1925 by Captain E. G. Spencer-Churchill, the cousin of Winston Churchill, in order to provide housing and jobs for the local population, particularly the families, which lived on his estate.

Concerned about the high levels of unemployment in the village, he hired a team of geologists to survey the land for growing material with which to manufacture baskets, however instead they discovered a large quantity of Jurassic blue clay, which was excellent for making bricks and produced an intense orange base colour when fired.

Northwick Brick was therefore established adjacent to Wellacre Quarry, and as its reputation grew for fine quality bricks with distinctive warm tones and character, they were specified on a number of prestigious projects across the country.

One such example is Battersea Power Station, a flagship project of the 1930s, which uses Gold Brown pressed bricks on the exterior.  Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the noted architect and industrial designer, this imposing building is thought to be the largest brick building in the world (using an estimated 61 million bricks) and an icon of the industrial era.

During the Second World War, production ceased, due to the shortage of coal to fire the bricks, and the yard was used temporarily as dumping ground for empty ammunition shells.  Then, after the war, the old machinery was dusted down and normal brick production resumed.

In 1952, the brickworks was taken over by its current owner, and was renamed Northcot Brick as the previous owners did not want the same name to be used.  Under the new ownership, the company expanded and automated manufacturing processes were gradually introduced, whilst retaining the traditional handmade skills and craftsmanship.

The expanding mass market of the 1970s saw the introduction of traditional wirecut facing bricks, including Northcot’s highly popular 65mm Multi Red Rustic, and the 73mm Smooth Red (superseded by Victorian Mellow), which are still very much in demand today!

Then, as trends changed in the 1990s, the company invested in a ‘tumbling machine’ in order to bulk manufacture bricks with a softer, more mature look, replicating the distressed and irregular appearance of genuine reclaim bricks.  In fact, the Reclaim Mixture was considered to be a very popular brick.

Throughout its history, Northcot has been committed to its products. In the 1990’s, it was one of the first brick manufacturers to invest in a ‘robot’ handling system for its wire cut machine made range.

In the last ten years, the company has enlarged its ranges and created more authentic forms of bulk weathering, (or ‘antiquing’), more subtle staining techniques, and introduced computer controlled colouring technology, all of which have enhanced the company’s brick matching capability.

For instance, the ‘Packwood’, a bespoke handmade range with an unusual smooth finish, which often suits older properties, was created in 2000 to complement Packwood House, a National Trust property, before being incorporated into the main range.

Unlike many brick manufacturers, Northcot Brick has deliberately retained its traditional coal-firing techniques and age-old handmade brick making skills, in order to achieve effects that most modernised brickworks cannot reproduce.  In fact, during the recent recession, the company has actually doubled its handmade range, which now comprises over 10% of its entire output.

 “At Northcot, we believe in merging the best of old-style ‘character’ bricks and kiln-firing craft with modern technology and a bespoke personal service.  In a market which is largely driven by volume and commodity, we aim to be the ‘real ale’ of brick manufacturers,” said Michael Brown, Managing Director of Northcot Brick.

Today, Northcot Brick continues to be an independent and thriving business.  Still family owned, it employs around 50 people and produces a comprehensive range of traditional wirecut, ‘reclaim’ and specialist handmade bricks to a nationwide network of merchant stockists.

The quarry, which has always been a rich source of clay, contains numerous fossil fauna and ammonites, and has also become a site of significant geological interest since the discovery of a new species of plesiosaur there in 2000.

Confident of its future, the company has recently launched several new products, including the unique Cotswold Collection of wirecut bricks, which offers the distinctive olde-world charm of a bench moulded handmade brick at cost competitive prices. In addition, the existing Cherwell ‘reclaim’ range has been extended to match buildings in the North East of England.   There are many more in the pipeline.

“With our flexibility, commitment to quality and our specialist ability to produce bespoke blends and match bricks from many parts of the country, we are confident that Northcot Brick will remain the natural choice for customers wanting exceptional products and a personal service,” said Michael Brown.