pug mill house

This brick and stone structure was built to house a horse-powered pugmill, in which clay was prepared for brickmaking in a small rural brickyard. Near the pugmill house is a horse ‘gin’, or engine, from Patching, Sussex, which was used for pumping water from a well.


A reconstruction of the pugmill house in use.

Preparation of the clay is an important part of the brickmaking process. The first stage is natural weathering during the winter, when the frost breaks down the heavy lumps into a manageable form. Before being moulded, however, the clay has to be tempered to achieve a workable consistency. This can be done by treading the clay and turning it with spades, but the pugmill eventually replaced such labour-intensive methods.

A pugmill is essentially an upright barrel, open at the top and containing blades attached to a vertical shaft. The shaft is turned by a horse, or sometimes by wind or water-power, and the blades temper the clay in the barrel. The clay emerges from the base of the barrel as a smooth and workable paste, and is taken to be moulded. The process is known as ‘grinding’ even though no grinding takes place — the clay is simply churned and mixed.

The Redford pugmill house is a 19th-century building of brick and stone, designed to house a pugmill and the horse turning it. It is six-sided, and the diameter of the internal walking circle is seventeen feet. Two of the walls have small windows, two have wide openings, and two have doorways, but the purpose of this arrangement is not known. No pugmill had survived at Redford, so we have installed an example which came from a brickyard at East Grinstead.

All other traces of the brickyard at Redford have now disappeared, but it is shown on the Tithe Map of 1838 as having four drying sheds (each nearly 100 feet long), a kiln, a moulding shed, and other unidentifiable buildings which probably included a stable.

Near the Redford pugmill house is a 19th-century horse ‘gin’, or engine. Horse-driven engines were used to power many mechanised processes, from threshing corn to raising coal from mines. This one was used for pumping water from a well. It came from the village of Patching, and the lining for the well, which consists of curved blocks of chalk, came from a disused well close to the Old Forge at Ashington.