Most of Hungerford's buildings are of brick and tile. A very small number are of Bath stone, these mostly dating from the first decade or so after the Kennet
& Avon Canal was opened in 1810.
History of Brick making:
The earliest bricks are those found in use around 7,000BC in Turkey and near Jericho. Baked clay roof tiles are known to have been used in Greece in the 2nd millenium BC.
All of these early bricks were simple sun-dried clay blocks.
The Romans introduced hard kiln-fired clay bricks all over their empire, and for building in Britain but the Saxons preferred wood for building and brick
making died out in Britain.
Building with brick was only reintroduced from the Continent after the Norman Conquest and then only with imported bricks, many arriving as ballast in ships
returning after transporting wool to Flanders.
Brick making in England started in the early 1300s. The first English bricks were 12" long and were known as Great Bricks. In the time of Elizabeth I bricks
that we recognise as Tudor bricks became standard. These were 9" x 4½" x 2¼", and these were fixed by law in 1571 and became known as Statute Bricks.
Modern bricks have the metric size of 215mm x 102.5mm x 65mm.
Brick works were established at sites where there was suitable clay available. Brick clay needs to contain some sand, and also minerals, many of which
influence the colours of the finished fired brick. Iron-rich clay and plentiful oxygen during firing results in bright red bricks; grey bricks result from low oxygen levels.
Local brickworks: The quarry pit often became a pond. Such ponds can still be see at Dodsdown near Wilton, where
over a million bricks has been made in preparation for the building of a huge palace for Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector in 1548.
Other brick kilns locally included:
- Hopgrass Brick Works, near Kiln Cottage and Brickkiln Copse on the hill between Hopgrass and Chilton Foliat. This is
clearly shown on the 1882 OS map.
After digging the clay, and adding sand, chalk or other products as necessary, the clay is cleaned of stones in a pug mill. The bricks and tiles are then
formed in a wooden mould, and left in stacks to dry. Sometimes animal prints are seen from walking over the wet clay.
Enclosed "Scotch" kilns were normally used to fire the bricks - the dry bricks being stacked with fuel (bracken, twigs, sticks) in ducts between them. Those
bricks exposed to the ducts often got very hot indeed, and the sand became vitrified like glass. Those bricks which were partly in contact with others might show the banding effect of
varying temperature. Firing might last for 2-3 days.
The way bricks are laid when making a wall is called the bond. There are several common types in English walls, and examples of each are found in Hungerford:
Flemish bond (also known as Dutch bond, has throughout history been considered the most decorative bond, and for this reason was used
extensively for dwellings until the adoption of the cavity wall. Each course consists of alternate headers and stretchers. This bond is two bricks thick. It is quite difficult
to lay Flemish bond properly, since for best effect all the perpendiculars (vertical mortar joints) need to be vertically aligned. If only one face of a Flemish bond wall is
exposed, one-third of the bricks are not visible, and hence may be of low visual quality. This is a better ratio than for English bond, Flemish bond's main rival for
load-bearing walls. A common variation often found in early 18th-century buildings is Glazed-headed Flemish Bond, in which the exposed headers are burned until they vitrify
with a black glassy surface.
English bond: This bond has two alternating courses of stretchers and headers, with the headers centered on the stretchers, and each alternate row
this bond consists of all bricks laid with only their long narrow sides (their stretchers) showing, overlapping midway with the courses of bricks below and above. It is the simplest repeating pattern, but, since it cannot be made with a bond to the bricks behind, it is suitable only for a wall one-half brick thick, the thinnest possible wall. Such a thin wall is not stable enough to stand alone, and must be tied to a supporting structure. It is common in modern buildings, in particular as the outer face of a cavity wall, or as the facing to a timber or steel-framed structure.
An expensive decorative bond where all bricks are laid with only their headers showing. This is especially used with heavily fired vitrified blue bricks, and there are several examples in Hungerford (including 107 High Street).
The use of blue and red bricks and varying bonds allows a number of local vernacular styles to develop.
In Hungerford, much use is made of blue headers with red
stretchers. Many properties have red bricks on window surrounds, on a background of blues. There are several examples of diamond "diaper" decoration.
Mathematical tiles: This refers to special tiles which were used to hang on a timber-frame building in order to
give the appearance of a brick front. They were shaped in such a way as once in position, with the joints filled with lime mortar, it was hard to tell the difference from a true brick
wall. They were used extensively in the south-east of England, especially Sussex and Kent. They were widely used in Brighton.
Mathematical tiles are easier to lay than brick,
resistant to wind and rain, and, of course, lighter and cheaper when re-fronting a timber-frame building. They also avoided the Brick Tax (1784-1850).
There are many examples in Marlborough, and at least two
in Hungerford - on 14 High Street (Co-op) and on 24 High Street (Hungerford Book Shop and Azusas).