Stockwell & Son(s), Independent Brickmakers, 1886-1916
A family history
Family moves to South Benfleet
The Census Returns for 1881 lists Nicholas Stockwell as a “Lab Brickfield”, living with his wife, three daughters and five sons at “Oare Village, Kent”. The three oldest sons, “John, Henry and Frederick” are listed as “Brick Moulders”. Some time within the next five years period the family moved to South Benfleet, either to work in one of the two established brickfields or to rent a plot of land and work independently. So far the answer to this question has not been found. By 1886 the family was living at the “Round House, Benfleet Hill”. Kelly’s Directory lists, “Nicholas Stockwell and son, Brick Maker, South Benfleet”, it is therefore evident that by this date Nicholas was working for himself.
The family is not listed in the 1887 Poll Book and for a four-year period their whereabouts is speculation. It is likely that the family lived and worked on unspecified plots of land that were rented for short periods, possibly they lived in makeshift accommodation so did not merit inclusion in the register. In 1891 the family re-appears at “Woodland House” on a small estate called “Woodlands”. Plans for the construction of three houses at Woodlands in 1903 show that the property had the advantage of a well, a continuous supply of water was an essential requirement for a brick manufacturer. Between the period, 1892 and 1895 the Poll Books confirm that Nicholas and his family lived at “Brickfield and Woodlands”, Nicholas held the “Land and Tenement”. It must have been a difficult time with so many adults living in the same house. The tenancy was in the name of Mrs. A. Stockwell, wife of Nicholas. Each of Ann’s male offspring, Edward, Frank, Frederick, Henry and John are listed as occupying a bedroom and having joint use of a furnished sitting room.
Established in South Benfleet
By the middle of 1890’s the Stockwell family had become established in South Benfleet. On the 26th December 1896 Edward Stockwell married Laura Wellinger, the daughter of a local Tailor. This marriage suggests that the Stockwell’s had integrated into the local business community. One of the witnesses at the wedding was Helenia Marie Howard. The Howard family owned the Hoy and Helmet Inn, but more significantly they owned barges and a wharf. A Stock brick manufacturer required the means to transport raw materials, such as chalk, sand and combustible refuse for use in brickmaking and to deliver finished bricks to locations outside of South Benfleet. A common business interest between a local wharf and barge owner and a brick manufacturer would be a natural development and financially advantageous to both parties.
By 1896 Nicholas had moved to a piece of land known as “Anchor Meadow”, it was previously held by the Benfleet Brick and Tile Company. Nicholas Stockwell successfully exploited this area as a brickfield for the next nineteen years till his death in April 1916. Throughout this period he is shown as the holder of the “Land and Tenement”. It is referred to, at different times, as “Anchor Meadow, Anchor Field, Anchor Brickfield and Village Brickfield”; Nicholas and various family members lived at “Brickfield Cottage”. There is further confirmation that Nicholas was using the land as a brickfield through an incident in 1899. He was in dispute with the Parish Council over the use of water from a pond on the brickfield. Throughout the 1890’s the population of South Benfleet had grown as land became available for residential development, as a consequence the water supply from the village wells was in greater demand. A crisis was looming and the Parish Council was increasingly under pressure to provide a solution.
In the last decade of the nineteenth century some of the driest years of the nineteenth century were record. 1887 had already been the “driest for sixty years”, following this 1893 and 1896 were listed as years of drought. The dry conditions added to the Council’s plight.
Stockwell and Water Rights, summer 1899
At the meeting of the 14th June 1899 Nicholas Stockwell was in dispute with the council over the right of the villagers to take water from a pond on his brickfield then known as “Anchor Field”. The minutes of the meeting read as follows, “Resolved that Mr. Stockwell be requested to remove the fence on the West Side of this land in order that the public may retain their right to use the same”. It is apparent from information contained in the minutes that South Benfleet was suffering a shortage of fresh water, the wells were insufficient to meet the growing demand. In 1899 a draught exacerbated this situation so that water for South Benfleet had to be collected from a pumping station at Tilbury. The London-Tilbury-Southend Railway Company delivered it to Benfleet railway station in rail tankers provided by the Anglo American Oil Company.
At the following Council meeting on the 29th of June “Anchor Pond” was an again on the agenda. A letter had been received from the solicitors, “Messrs. Rooper and Whately”, on behalf of Nicholas Stockwell, stating categorically that the public had no right to use the water, “the water in the pond being essential for the working of the Brickfield”. The response of the Chairman, “Theodore Attwell”, was “that the matter stands adjourned until some future meeting, for further consideration”; the matter was never raised again.
The Stockwell Family in South Benfleet
Successive Poll Books provide evidence that Nicholas and Ann Maria Stockwell continued to live at the cottage on the brickfield till their deaths in 1916. Their daughters Emily and Emma Lucy and youngest son Frank also lived at the cottage. Nicholas Parkhurst Stockwell died in 1916 age 84 years he was buried at South Benfleet on the 29th April 1916. Ann Maria died the following month and was buried on the 23rd May aged 75 years her address is given as “Brickfield Cottage” in the register. It is likely that Frank assisted his father at the brickfield with an input of local labour as required. Nicholas was the last brick manufacturer to be listed at South Benfleet. There appears to be no further evidence of brick making in South Benfleet after 1916.
Emma Lucy Stockwell appears to have remained a spinster living with her parents at Brickfield cottage. She died at this location just three years after her parents and was buried on October 19th, 1919 aged 60 years.
Emily, by now in her forties, married William Hacksaw in 1919 and continued to live at “brickfield cottage”. In 1928 the land was sold for residential development, it was the last year that the “Village Brickfield” was referred to in the Poll Books. William and Esther moved to “Willow Cottage”, London Road, South Benfleet, (Poll Books, 1928 and 1929, C/E 2/9/11-12). Frank Stockwell moved to Thundersley Park Road, South Benfleet.
Nicholas Stockwell provided employment in South Benfleet at his brickworks continuously from 1886 to 1915 a period of twenty-nine years. There were a number of terraced cottages in “End Way” occupied by unskilled labourers. “End Way” ran along the eastern boundary of “Anchor Field” so it is likely that some of these labourers worked for Nicholas.