Junior school trip to the brickworks

Miss Burgess was a fantastic junior school teacher. She took her class of 9 year-olds on a series of trips to see at first hand how things were done. We went to a jam factory, a lighthouse, and fish docks, among others. One of the most memorable was the class visit to the local brickworks. Set in the countryside a short bus ride away, it featured a huge clay pit, from which the moist clay was extracted. It was moulded into bricks by being extruded through shaped nozzles, and chopped into brick lengths as it emerged. These were dried to remove any excess moisture that might have made them crack, then fired in huge kilns. It was very exciting to stand near the heat blast from those ovens as the bricks went in.

Each of us was given a block of clay to take away. Later at school we shaped it into whatever took our fancy. There was a foot-powered potter's wheel to assist us. Our efforts were then taken away to be fired in a kiln and returned to us as brick-coloured pottery that we could then paint. Most of the children made dishes, though I remember one elegant flower-pot. I chose to make a triangular dish, rather than a round one. Mine had quite thick sides that I shaped and smoothed by hand, it survived the firing process, though some that were too thin did not. They all came out fired to a red-brown colour. I painted the inside of mine grey, the outside blue, and the flat tops of the triangle one red, one yellow and one green. I thought it looked elegant, though in retrospect it must have seemed rather squat. It was my only venture into the art of pottery.