Ralph Hall described himself as a ‘Brick and Tile Maker’ or simply a ‘Tilemaker’. He was born in Mitford, Northumberland in 1792. In 1841 he was working at the Shilbottle Brick and Tileworks, possibly being the Lessee. By the start of 1850 he had taken out a lease for part of ‘Aydon Forest’, today part of Alnwick Moor, where he had constructed a large Brick and Tile Works with a tramway of about 570 yards in length, linking his clay pit ( shown on an 1851 plan as ‘clay hole’) with his substantial works. This works, referred to as ‘The Alnwick Moor Tilery’, had been in operation from about 1828 with out-of-use clay pits are shown near to the works. These works were soon abandoned as the clay was only about three feet thick, whereas the clay pit from which the tramway emerged was, according to borings conducted by Alnwick architect Willam Barnfather, of at least 30 to 33 feet in thickness and of very fine quality; the colour of the clay varied from blue to red and yellow, being ‘… very fit for making bricks and tiles’. An acre of the land was said to contain enough clay to make 58,080,000 tiles! A cubic yard of the clay would make 1000 pipes of 1½” diameter.
At its lower end, on the map in the archives at Alnwick Castle, a siding is shown on the tramway though no derails are shown at the works end of the line. The line does not appear on the 1st edition OS map. There is no track gauge identified though it was undoubtedly ‘narrow’. The line left the clay pit on a curve but then became straight for the rest of its length. It crossed the burn known as ‘Long Letch’ on an embankment. There was an arched stone culvert over the burn. The cost of constructing the tramway (referred to in different documents as ‘the railway’, ‘the tramway’ or ‘the waggonway’) was estimated as £200-£220 with a ‘proper’ weight of rail of 20 lbs per yard being used. The sleepers to support the rails were of stone. The Agreement between the Duke of Northumberland and Ralph Hall referred to the gradient of the line being 1 in 24¾, and, in view of this gradient it is likely that horses were used to haul the wagonloads of clay to the works.
Ralph Hall agreed to maintain the railway in ‘fair repair’ and to compensate any parties whose ‘right to herbage’ was interfered with by the tramway line. Hugh Creighton of Morpeth, a painter and tile maker, who was in partnership with Hall agreed to be jointly and separately liable for these covenants.
Ralph Hall died in 1870 and the works is then believed to have closed in 1879. On the 1890s Ordnance maps no trace of the works and clay pit are shown but the line of the tramway can be clearly identified, especially the embankment near to the burn.
The present-day dwelling called ‘Pasture House’, to the north of the Alnwick to Rothbury Road just under a mile from the centre of Alnwick, was built close to the brickworks site.
Thanks are due to the archivists at Alnwick Castle for providing copies of the documents and maps which have allowed this item to have been written. The help of the ‘Keystothepast’ and ‘Ancestry UK’ websites is also acknowledged.