The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
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John Cullis

If bricks could be made close to the canal route, the expense and difficulties of transportation would be avoided. Luckily, much of the local clay was suitable for brickmaking, and amongst others, Pewsham Forest Brickworks was established during the 1790s. Robert Whitworth estimated that Forest Brickworks would need to produce at least one million bricks, including those needed for Stanley Aqueduct. He decided that, to save the amount of Brick Tax which would need to be paid per brick, bricks should be larger than standard, meaning that 700 would be used instead of 1000.

In the early nineteenth century, John Cullis was producing bricks at what was locally called ‘Cullis’s Yard’ working with his sons and family members in a successful, prosperous business. They supplied bricks not only to the canal company, but also to local communities, and some of the ‘large’ bricks have been found within buildings on Wood Lane. Bricks were shipped out to Lacock and Melksham, and the business continued to thrive on work from the canal company which needed bricks for repairs to structures, until John Cullis was able to retire during the 1850s, passing the business on to his sons.

Unfortunately, this change coincided with the rise of the railway, and the decline of the canal, leading to reduced business for Forest Brickworks, until William Cullis was declared bankrupt in 1853. Many of the Cullis family left the Chippenham area, and it is likely that William Brinkworth, who owned the coal yard at the wharf in Timber Street, took over the brickworks.



Click here for a personal account of John Cullis written by Ray Alder
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