Introduction

Kingscourt Country Manor Brick is delighted to announce the launch of the Brick Architecture Newsletter. This bi-monthly online newsletter will celebrate the history of brickmaking in Ireland and, in particular, the brick made in Kingscourt, County Cavan, the home of the sole surviving brickmaking factory in Ireland. The content throughout this ezine has been curated by Susan Roundtree, conservation architect and independent researcher on brickmaking and brick use in Ireland.

The articles to be published will look at brick in Irish buildings of all types, described from an architect’s perspective. Brick has been a primary building material here since its introduction in the late sixteenth century, growing in popularity through the intervening centuries and now enjoying new popularity in some of our finest contemporary buildings.

Brick Architecture History

At one time brickmaking was widespread all over the country and was common in Irish buildings, particularly internally and in fireplaces and chimneys. Most brick found in Irish buildings is indigenous, generally of local manufacture. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a number of mechanised brick factories were established, the locations for these usually associated both with suitable clay deposits and with transport links that became available due to the development of the railway system. Many of these factories survived well into the twentieth century until construction methods changed when concrete and concrete blocks eventually took over from internal brickwork.

In the last decades of the twentieth century there were just four brickmaking factories in the country, at Castlecomer in Co.Kilkenny, The Swan in Co.Laois, Dungannon in Co.Tyrone, and Kingscourt in Co.Cavan. Today only the factory at Kingscourt survives, now owned by the Breedon Group. The bricks here are made using the locally procured Keuper marl clays, to produce bricks of the highest quality.

The Brick Making Industry

Generally, the brick industry is in a good place at the moment. Clay brick is acknowledged to be a terrific material for endurance and weathering and, thanks to our talented building designers, we have many excellent examples of innovative brick use in contemporary buildings. The simple brick, in the hands of good designers, can be, and is, a key feature of many of our finest buildings.

In these days of environmental awareness, building designers choose materials carefully. Kingscourt Brick is happy to supply EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) for the bricks produced. We take great pride in our materials and the buildings they are used to create.

Brick has always been an important and widely-used building material. Environmentally one of its major benefits is that it can be easily recycled, and so clay bricks are likely to serve well beyond the function for which they are first designed.

Kingscourt brick has a long history of use in the country and this newsletter will feature many projects, new and old, many that include Kingscourt brick but also other brick-related topics of interest.

We hope you will enjoy it.

The Writer

Susan Roundtree is a conservation architect with a particular interest in architectural history and historic buildings. She obtained a Master of Letters in Trinity College Dublin for her research on the history of clay brick as a building material in Ireland and this continues to be her area of special interest. She has contributed to many publications on this topic and is currently completing her own book which is a gazetteer of brickmaking history in Ireland.

Issue One: The Former Guinness Powerhouse (Roe and Co Distillery)

Constructed 1945-48

Situated on James’s Street opposite the original St. James’s Gate brewery, this large brick building in Art Deco-style is one of the finest industrial buildings constructed in this period in Ireland; it is the Battersea Power Station of Dublin. Built to the exacting standards of its clients, the building design chosen was contemporary but executed in red brick to compliment the older brick buildings of James’s Street. The power station was in use from its completion in 1948 for fifty years until 1998.