Newtown's brick making industry

Cross the road from the church in the peaceful and ancient town of Newtown on the Isle of Wight and you will see Myrtle Cottage. It is now a holiday let, but this cottage was once a show home for the renowned local brick makers: the Prangnells of Newtown.

Their brick works was tucked away on the Elmsworth Peninsula on the far side of Newtown Harbour. However there is no public access as it very close to a cadet firing range. The story of brick making at Newton makes for a fascinating story.
 
The Prangnell brothers
There is a long history of brick making on the Isle of Wight. Clay of suitable quality was easily accessible, and it was economical to deliver the finished bricks by boat.
 
Brothers William, Henry and Alfred Prangnell first set up their business here in Newtown in 1866, but a big storm washed away the whole brickyard soon after it opened. Undaunted, they found good deposits of white and red clay which could be used to produce high-quality yellow and red bricks not far away at Elmsworth on the east side of the estuary, and they started all over again.
 
Brickfields Cottage
The Prangnell brothers built a more permanent brick-lined coal-fired kiln after their enforced move. They lived a remote and self-sufficient existence nearby in newly built Brickfields Cottage, and they used an individual dialect that was often difficult to understand.
 
Even though they were considered to be eccentric, they were undeniably experts at brick making and their intricate products were much sought after. Their cottage contained many decorative bricks for customers to see, including a magnificent barley sugar twist chimney in the scullery (see the photograph taken in 1953) which can now be seen in Newtown Old Town Hall.
 
Making high-quality bricks at Newtown
Throughout the 50 years of production, Prangnell's Newtown bricks were all made by hand. In fact, the only machinery on the site appears to have been a horse-driven clay mixer. Finished bricks were taken away by the barges that brought in coal for the kiln from Cowes.
 
Part of the kiln is still standing, but it is unstable and hazardous so we don’t encourage visitors to the site. It was unusual in that it combined a highly efficient design with style and ornamentation.
 
Brick making at Newtown ceased shortly before the First World War, and Annie, the last of the Prangnell family, moved away in 1954, leaving little but memories. But their legacy lives on in the houses like Myrtle Cottage, built with their recognisably elaborate but functional yelllow and red bricks.