The Benfleet Brick and Tile Works Limited, 1895-99

A company history

The Formation

On the 26th February, 1895 an agreement was made “between Alfred Butler, the younger of Treginna Terrace, Victoria Road, Romford”, described as “Brickmaker and Salesman” and “Philip Solomons, Merchant” to form, “The Benfleet Brick and Tile Company Limited”. The agreement also states that Alfred Butler has, “for some time carried out the business of Brickmaker and Salesman at Benfleet in the County of Essex”.

It is interesting to note that Alfred Butler senior is the Foreman of the brickfield. The Poll Books show that he resided at “Lower Brickfield” from 1894 to 1898. As an employee of the company he received 30/- a week, paid one-week in arrears on a Saturday. His contract was for nineteen months and could be terminated by written notice of not less than three calendar months. He held one share in the Company, his daughter-in-law, Emma Alice Butler, wife of Alfred junior was also a shareholder.

It was very much a family business, supported by venture capital provided by a few people who have been encouraged to risk their money in the manufacture of bricks and tiles. The appointment of Alfred junior was for a period of twenty-two months. It may be that the shareholders intended to run the company for a trial period of two brick making seasons, possible the major shareholders were not fully convinced that Alfred Butler junior was the right person for the role of manager and he had a two-season period to prove himself.

The Butler family had had a long association with Benfleet and its brickfields, the 1881 Census Returns for South Benfleet give the information that Alfred Butler, Senior was a “Brickfield Foreman” and Alfred Butler Junior, aged fifteen years, is “Clerk of the Brickfield”.

The area of land is well defined in the agreement, the field names and location is provided. The brickfield comprised three adjacent fields with a total area of 20 acres, 5 rod, and 50 perch. They are “Channell Field”, 12 acres, 2 rod and 30 perch, “Grass Marsh”, 5 acres, 2 rod and 5 perch. “Reves Field” at 3 acres, 2 rod and 5 perch was situated on the South side of The London-Tilbury-Southend Railway, abutting the Creek; this gave direct access to the waterway. Further information contained in the agreement states that the fields are a part of Reeds Hill or Reeds Hill Farm, measuring 71 acres, 2 rod, and 18 perch in size. This information is drawn in the margin of an indenture of conveyance dated 28th day of October 1892 between Charles Hawkins and Henry Lionel Richard Hall, this may refer to the sale of the farm.

Company in Trouble

During 1898 the company appeared to be in difficulties, on the 28th November of that year a letter was sent to the Alfred Butler, the manager, by the CRO at Somerset House. The letter was an enquiry as to, “whether your company is carrying on business or in operation”. The request for information stated, “on receiving a letter to that effect” a notification would be published in the London Gazette to give public notice that the company had been “struck off the Register and the Company will be DISSOLVED”; Butler had three months to reply.

On the 9th of January Butler was sent another letter informing him that if he did not respond to this letter within one month, “a Notice will be published in the London Gazette, with a view to striking the name of your Company off the Register”. Butler did not appear to have responded to either letter. The second letter was sent registered but was returned to sender with the remark, “Gone away”. The Benfleet Brick and Tile Works Limited, “was dissolved under clause 7 (4) of the Companies’ Act, 1880, by notice in the London Gazette dated 28th July 1899”. The Butler family’s long association South Benfleet and its Brickfields had come to a rather sad end.

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