The Pump House and Canal brickworks

Two former brickworks are located on what is now the site of the nature reserve. These were The Pump House Brickworks and The Canal Brickworks. 

The layout of the site is shown below from an old ordnance survey map, showing how The Haines Branch canal extended to serve the works ending in a basin. The buildings would likely be kilns, an office and grinding house.

The proximity of The Canal Brickworks to The Pump house site is also shown below.

We know that the Wood family were a brickmaking dynasty in the area, with several of their clan setting up and running brickworks across Tividale, Oldbury and West Bromwich. George Wood is probably the most well known, and a street has been named after him in the Tividale area.

A brick made at The Brades Brickworks run by “The clayfather”- George Wood.

Peter and Samuel Wood , were two of his sons, and you can read more about this family tree at the link below.

UK Named Bricks : George Wood & Sons, Wood Brothers, Wood & Ivery, P & S Wood – Brickmakers in Oldbury & West Bromwich.

I have found a London Gazette notice from 1879 which clearly states that a third brother Daniel was no longer part of the partnership, and so this appears to be the start of just P and S Wood.

The London Gazette 10th June 1879

A further mention of the brothers and their business is made in the 7th November 1891 Birmingham Daily Post. This was a public auction of an estate formerly owned by a man called Horace St Paul Bart (1812–91), who was a former MP for Worcestershire East.

As part of this Lord of The Manors estate, it shows that he leased land on which the Woods had erected The Pump house brickworks, which was part of The Pump house Farm Estate.


At present there is little information available as to how these works operated, but we do know that like many others in the wider area, they were very dangerous places to work at and the associated marlholes were in themselves dangerous voids in the earth where people fell and drowned. Some newspaper articles we have found on The British Newspaper Archive demonstrate this.

An article from the 15th August 1893 Birmingham Daily Post shows that The Brothers Wood were fined for keeping explosives in their office works. Some berk also appears to have set off an explosive in a Great Bridge pub!

The following post is taken from 25th September 1895 from the same title  and details the inquest into Peter Higgs from Greets Green. The circumstances as to how he died are not clear, but he was found within the marlhole of the Pumphouse brickworks. Though the death was classified as “accidental”, concern was expressed about the poor state of fencing around the site which were not safe.

Ten years later, disaster appears to have struck the works again, as the 5th October 1903
Coventry Evening Telegraph elucidated. The engine house and grinding mill were destroyed in a massive blaze that would have been seen for miles around.

This event seems remarkably timed to coincide with the dissolving of the partnership between these two brothers. I’m not sure if the term “insurance fiddle” existed at this time, but it appears rather odd that Peter and Samuel parted ways just 11 days later with the works now entirely controlled by the former brother.

The London Gazette notice of 20th October 1893

Further woes befell the site owner as the Birmingham Mail of 1st August 1906 reported. Now clearly just P Wood, his company appear to have been embroiled in a complicated legal dispute with an insurance company after a girl named “Stephens of Tividale” had been injured at the works. The details of her injury are not stated, but Wood had brought a claim in that the insurers had not paid the policy taken out under one Act , but the company had been paying the girl compensation. The judge ruled in favour of The Pumphouse Brickworks giving a partial payment for the one they had sought.


It is not clear how long P Wood’s involvement with the works continued, but they are mentioned again in an article from 25th July 1912 Birmingham Mail. 

Some boys who were fishing on the canal had been shot at by a John McKnight “brick setter of The Pumphouse brickyard”. It is quite bizarre that this man was not charged for shooting a boy, after he claimed they were bothering his ducks , and his wife but I suppose that was “justice” in those days. (Maybe that’s a thought for todays Sheepwash LOL).

Like most bricks made in the area, the Woods Pump House were known for the Staffordshire Bluebricks which were used in canal bridge, railway construction and also buildings like the former Tipton Police Station. Their durability is demonstrated by the fact that these artefacts made over 100 years ago are still to be found, as evidenced by the stamps made into them all those years ago.

A P & S Wood Pump house Brickworks brick seen on the canal in Birmingham in 2021.

The P and S Woods also had a trademarked “W” symbol set in a star of David. I found one of these on Sheepwash itself above one of the tunnels.

Kelly’s 1884 Worcestershire Directory

The Canal Brickworks Located nearer to Sheepwash Lane appear to have outlasted the Pumphouse brickworks by several decades, and were at least for several of these under the control of Hadley Brothers and Taylor Ltd.

The Hadleys were another well known brickmaking family operation with other sites in Wednesbury and Wilenhall.

We have found a couple of early advertisements for workers for the Canal Brickworks.

14th September 1915 Newspaper: Staffordshire Sentinel

20th November 1916 Newspaper: Birmingham Daily Post

As with other yards in the area, these works appear to have been targeted by thieves and local boys in vandalism amusement.

The 29th September 1934 Birmingham Daily Gazette shows two local thieves, Thomas Eccles and William Abraham were convicted of stealing gelignite explosives from the works amongst other thefts in the area.

The 3rd January 1957 Birmingham Daily Post stated that police had recovered more gelignite from a brook, possibly the Groveland Brook, which connects to The River Tame.

Yet again in 1962, the same had happened with more theft.

13th January 1962 Newspaper: Birmingham Daily Post

Just four years earlier, some youths had caused vandalism at the works puncturing oil drums. It is clear that the owners were getting fed up with being “constantly troubled by wanton vandalism.”

The Works as part of a trade federation known as “The Midland Federation of Brick and Tile Manufacturers” did offer such “little criminals” a potential trade. Such adverts as these appeared in the late 1950’s

Despite this advertisement, the works do not appear to have lasted much longer into the 1960’s given that the entire plant and machinery was up for sale as listed in the  17th August 1963 Birmingham Daily Post. 


Brickmaking would give way to the site being despoiled as a tip.