IN 1873, Charles Buick and his surviving sons John and Charles, established the Hilton Fireclay Works, also known as the Carsebridge Brickworks, in Alloa.

Buick, a native of Alyth in Angus, was also involved with the Forth Iron Works at Oakley near Dunfermline, which had been established in 1846.

They produced various bricks and tiles from the clay pit on site and secured many of the larger contracts in Clackmannanshire.

The company supplied the bricks for the Clackmannan Mill, the 120 feet high chimney stalk at Paton’s Kilncraigs Mill in Alloa, and the Alloa Public Baths.

In May 1879 the company won the contract to build the signal station at Alloa’s railway station.

The Alloa Waggonway extended to the nearby Carsebridge Distillery and a small branch line extended to the Hilton works in 1907, which, due to expansion, now covered three acres.

Fireclay was a hard, dark blue deposit found beneath a coal seam and was placed into a grinding mill which had two three-ton rollers on it to crush the clay.

The ground clay was then transferred to a second-floor room where it was passed through a revolving sieve.

This dust was sent down a shute to a revolving pan downstairs where water was added, and it was pounded by heavy rollers.

Once the product had been moulded it was fired in the brick kiln then sent to the enamelling shop. Tiles were made from common clay, while bricks were made from a combination of the two.

On 4th February 1881 Charles Senior died aged 69 but the company name remained the same.

A year later Buicks exhibited works at the Clackmannan Cattle Show, showing not only cattle troughs and drainpipes but also intricate vases and flower boxes.

A few months later Alloa held its business fair, where around 60 workers, including John Smith the manager, and the Buick brothers, marched in a procession waving their banner which had the company motto ‘The harder pressed, the firmer we stand’ emblazoned on it.

This was an annual event when local businesses promoted their goods and services.

In 1886 an exhibition was staged in Edinburgh at the International Exhibition where they showed off their fireclay products such as sinks and wash basins but more unusually, they showed a rustic but pretty fireclay chair.

They later exhibited at the International Exhibition in Glasgow in August 1888 where they showcased a mantlepiece in enamel which had the look of marble.

This was the first time any such design had been seen and resulted in a great deal of interest.

THE following January, Buicks held a supper and ball in one of their larger buildings on the site which was attended by around 100 of their workmen.

John Buick presided over the gathering and welcomed them to their ‘first annual supper and assembly.’

In his speech he told his workforce how proud he was of them and their work. He said he felt that many employers did not interact with their employees and felt this had to change.

He ended his speech by suggesting that although this was the first gathering, he hoped many more would follow. This of course was greatly received.

Mr Smith, the manager, proposed the toast, which was to the health and prosperity of the firm.

Following more speeches and toasting, the company moved into the hall where the dancing began with the music supplied by Charles Buick. Supper was served in a smaller room, and the gathering did not disperse until well into the wee small hours.

This year however was to see one of the most severe injuries to one of their workers. Twenty-year-old Thomas Hutton from Sauchie got his hand caught in the brick making machine where it was crushed. It had to be amputated.

In the middle of the winter of 1897 there was subsidence at the brickworks. Four years earlier, the business had suffered a blow when the chimney was blown down in high winds, but this new threat was more serious.

The subsidence was measured between ten and 20 feet in length and between five and 20 feet in depth. At the old toll road, all traffic was stopped while the construction of a new house nearby was suspended until further examination of the ground was carried out.

The old coal workings had not been filled in. Clackmannanshire was peppered with old workings but the mine owners were unwilling to pay for them being properly dealt with once they were defunct, so structures built on top of them were at risk.

In 1927 John Buick died aged 78, and two years later Charles passed away aged 71. The company continued following their deaths and became a limited company in 1948.

Four years later, in front of all the workers, twelve employees were presented with a silver medal by Charles G Buick from the Institute of Clayworkers as each had 50 or more years service.

Two men, Thomas Gray and Alexander Snaddon, passed away before receiving their medal.

However, on 31st March 1960, following a special meeting, the company was voluntarily wound up.


Thank you for reading this story on our website. While we have your attention, we also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide trusted local news on this free-to-read site, we are asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper every week. Trusted news has never been so important, and your support will ensure we can continue to serve Clackmannanshire.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you to help us provide you with trusted news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.

We will be out every Wednesday, even if you can’t be. You can have a replica e-edition of the Advertiser on your PC, phone or tablet ready to read whenever you want. Just click the "E-Edition" tab under the Advertiser masthead on the homepage of this website.

Thank you for your support

Iain Smith
Regional Content Manager
Alloa Advertiser