It's not just another brick in the wall!

By Jonathan BarnesIT is not just another brick in the wall, for the building block that has its foundations in Suffolk is making a comeback.For the first time in several years, Suffolk White bricks - made from Gault clay - can be found in the county from which they take their name.

By Jonathan Barnes

IT is not just another brick in the wall, for the building block that has its foundations in Suffolk is making a comeback.

For the first time in several years, Suffolk White bricks - made from Gault clay - can be found in the county from which they take their name.

Shortages of the clay, thought to have been laid 120 million years ago, caused Suffolk White bricks - rumoured to have been used for part of the White House in Washington - to become extremely rare and expensive.


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But traditional brick-making firm York Handmade Brick Company has been able to find an “excellent” match for a Suffolk White and the bricks are being supplied through Cobar Services in Ringshall, near Stowmarket.

David Armitage, chairman of York Handmade Brick, said: “Gault clay was found in abundance in the eastern counties, especially in Cambridge and Suffolk, in the past and, as a result, the Suffolk White or Cambridge Gault became a famous name in the brick-making tradition.

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“However, in recent years, this brick has not been available. Customers requiring sensitive extensions or bricks for restoration have had to use reclaims - secondhand bricks from demolition sites - or make do with the next best match.”

But York Handmade Brick solved the problem when it bought a stock of buff-burning clay from a redundant brick company in Lincolnshire.

It realised it could offer a perfect match for a Suffolk White, not only in old imperial sizes to match up for restoration purposes, but also special shapes required for more intricate brickwork.

The first stockist in Suffolk is Cobar Services, run by brick specialist Andrew Cook. He said: “This is a real boost to the type of reclamation products in which we specialise.

“Obtaining Suffolk Whites in reasonable quantities and in reasonable condition was becoming an extremely difficult task and in addition to that the bricks have become very expensive. We are delighted to be able to offer this new range from our depot.”

Mr Cook added Suffolk White brick had been extremely popular in Victorian times and a number of houses in the Constitution Hill area of Ipswich featured the prestigious brickwork.

“There is a lot of evidence that the brick was widely used in the early and mid-19th Century, and it was used for many railway buildings,” he said.

“There's even the classic legend that part of the White House in Washington was made from Suffolk White brick. I have no idea if that's true.”

jonathan.barnes@eadt.co.uk

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