The Maylands Brickworks was established on the Maylands Peninsula in 1927 by Messrs, Atkins, and Law. It was the most modern brickworks of its kind in the State. Mr K. Atkins and Mr R.O. Law had previously established the Metropolitan Brick Company (Metro Brick) in 1906.
In 1922, Mr Law discovered extensive clay deposits that had formed along the Swan River and purchased the land on the Peninsula. The site was chosen to take advantage of the better quality clay and easier access to Perth.
The bricks were transported by motor trucks instead of rail. The brickworks included a Hoffmann kiln, drying sheds, pug mill, a brick making extruder, gatehouse, change rooms and workshops. Between 1927 -1936 the brickworks had a capacity to produce up to 7 million bricks per year.
Brick Making Process
In the early years, the clay was extracted from the pits by hand using picks and shovels. A McCormick Dearing Motor Steam shovel later replace the laborious manual process.
After the clay was extracted from the pits it was loaded into skips and buckets and transported by rail trolleys (pushed by hand) to waiting cables known as the “endless loop”. The skips were then attached to the cable by large hooks and transported to the pug mill. From the pug mill, the skips were emptied into a feeder bin, where the clay was hammered and rolled. The clay was then fed through an extruder, producing a line of wet clay. The wet clay was then pushed through a seven wire cutter which cut 6 bricks at a time. The wet bricks (referred to as “green” bricks) were then loaded by hand onto timber pallets and transported to the drying sheds. The green bricks were then bagged or sacked and left to dry for two weeks before being transported to the Hoffmann kiln. During the wet months of the year, coal was ignited and placed under the green bricks to speed up the drying process.
At the kiln, the bricks were stacked into bunks and placed into the kiln by a four-directional hand trolley, which allowed the bricks to be placed closer together. The Hoffmann kiln had a single 34m high chimney and 19 chambers, From 1927 to 1967 the kiln operated on powdered coal. This system later changed to an oil fired system. The kiln worked on the principle of rotating fire from above. Once the kiln was filled with bricks, powdered coal was poured into the kiln from holes located on the roof. This caused a fired that would burn between the bricks. The kiln operated 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. While one section was being used to fire bricks another section was being filled with green bricks and another was being emptied.
In the mid-1930s, a Hoffmann kiln at the Helena Vale brickworks was dismantled and brought to Maylands. During the Meckering earthquake of 1968, the kiln was damaged and later demolished. Also during this time new methods and processes were being introduced to increase efficiency. This included using new drying shed methods and the introduction of high-speed rollers in the pug mill process.
The brickworks employed over 130 people and became one of the major industries in the Maylands area. The old Maylands brickworks ceased operations in 1983 and was to be completely demolished on its closure. However public outcry resulted in the area being preserved as an example of industrial archaeology.
The Maylands Hoffmann kiln is one of only two that exist in Australia. Even though the brick making technology has advanced over the years, during its time the Maylands Brickworks was considered and innovative and efficient brick producer and remains an important symbol of the social and economic history of the area.