Port Stephens’ fire brick history

Crown Jewels: Society President Denise Gaudion displays an original fire brick made at Pipeclay Creek.

 

APART from rare documents and photographs, Port Stephens Family History Society has a very interesting relic which takes pride of place in its own, custom built, velvet lined box.

This ‘jewel in the crown’ is a fire brick stamped with the letters PSFB and the story of its manufacture dates back to the early days of last century.

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Brick making from clay deposits at Pipeclay Creek near Swan Bay began in the 1880s.

They were shipped to Newcastle.

It was however found that clay deposits there made excellent fire bricks so the Port Stephens Fire Brick Company was formed and officially opened in 1915.

Fire bricks can tolerate extreme temperatures and are used to line furnaces.

The brickworks could produce some 30,000 bricks per week and it had its own rail track to a wharf where the bricks were loaded onto the company steamer.

This could carry 40,000 bricks.

As many as 20 men were employed.

A 20 metre ventilation chimney dispersed fumes from the site.

Brick making ceased in the 1920s as new clay deposits were found closer to industrial centres and production methods improved making the Pipeclay operation unviable.

Recently, documents have surfaced indicating that the local Indigenous peoples used to gather at the site for special ceremonies and it is possible that the area may be listed as culturally significant.

 

By Geoff WALKER

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