The London & Benfleet Brick Company, Limited, 1881-82

A history of this brickmaking company

The Formation

The formation of, “The London and Benfleet Brick Company” was set out in a “Memorandum of Association” between, “William Anthony Gregory and Joseph Barnabas French of the one part, and H. Saunders to purchase the brickfields and property comprising therein” on the 27th September 1881. The document continues “to construct and erect such railways, tramways, works, buildings and machinery as may be required for the purpose of said business”. Company capital was set at £40,000 divided into eight thousand shares of five pounds. This was a huge sum and gives an indication of the size of undertaking and returns envisaged from the venture.

A company Director required the “holding of not less than 40 shares either jointly with any other person or persons”. Presumably “Henry William Dent” and “Joseph Barnabas Green” were joint shareholders as they are not mention in the list of shareholders. Sidders gave his address as 182, High Street, Stratford, Essex it is likely therefore that he was responsible for the sale and distribution of bricks delivered to the Stratford wharf from South Benfleet. The lease of Phoenix Wharf was on offer to perspective purchasers of the company in 1882.

The Winding Up

The company was not in existence for very long, approximately nine months and it is likely that no bricks were produced. The “Special Resolution” passed by the members to start the process of “wind up the company” commenced in February 1882. The document reads as follows:

“At an adjourned Extraordinary General Meeting of the Members of the said Company, and held at No.14, St. Helen’s Place, in the City of London, on the 2nd day of February, 1882, the following Special Resolution was duly passed; and at a subsequent adjourned Extraordinary General Meeting of the Members of said Company, also duly convened, and held at the same place on the 21st February, 1882, the following Special Resolution was duly confirmed. That the Company be wound up voluntarily under the provision of the Companies’ Act’s, 1862 to 1880, and that Mr. Joseph Barnabas French, of 38, Hop Exchange, in the County of Surrey, Brick Merchant, is appointed Liquidator for the purpose of winding up.

Signed Henry Saunders, Secretary”

The winding up process was completed on the 12th May 1882 and the company was no more, it had lasted less than nine months.

Company for Sale

The Company was advertised for sale in the Essex Standard on the 3rd, 10th and 17th of April, 1882. The advertisement offered the “absolute sale” in “four lots (unless previously sold by private treaty), the leases of the extensive Benfleet Brickfields on Monday, 17th, April 1882, at Two o’clock precisely”.

This was the sale of a complete and working brick manufacturing company including four barges and the “lease of Phoenix Wharf, High Street, Stratford, Essex” and lease of the area known as “Benfleet Hill” brickfield owned by the London & Benfleet Brick Company. The 1923 Ordinance Survey shows the site of the, “Old Brick Works” as two fields of 12.162 and 9.11 acres, field numbers 690 and 691, (Ordinance Survey 1923, sheet 90.2). The adjacent field of 10.136 acres is not listed in the survey but would seem likely to have been a part of the site. A further two small fields measuring 0.180 and 1.346 acres, field numbers 694 and 695 respectively are also likely to been included as they contained large natural ponds, (Ordinance Survey 1896, sheets 77.6 and 77.7). The use of the ponds was a matter of dispute between the brick manufacturer Nicholas Stockwell and the Parish Council in 1899. The advertisement for the sale of the Benfleet Brickfields includes the size of the site, “an area of Thirty-two-and-a half Acres” this would suggest that the original lease included the four fields mentioned, the total acreage being 32.934 acres.

The Reasons

The formation of this Company would appear to have been to exploit the potential of a second brick-manufacturing site in South Benfleet. The shareholder had all the necessary skills to set up a brickfield, manufacture bricks and dispose of the same by sale or by use directly into building projects. The entry into London, the most likely market, was via the wharf at Stratford. This is apparent from the advertisement for the sale of the Company in 1882.

It seems strange that “Joseph Barnabas French” was appointed as the, “Company Liquidator” as he seems to have been in partnership with William Anthony Gregory to initiate the business venture. Gregory was residing in South Benfleet at “Hill Brickfield” in 1882. In 1881 he lived at Brighton, East Sussex and had a substantial business, “Brick Manufacturer and Merchant employing 80 men and 10 boys”. Gregory was the major shareholder with 400 shares so provided most of the venture capital to development Hill Brickfield. However it is unclear what financial interest Green had in the company; by 1883 Green was living at, “Benfleet Hill Brickfield”.

It would appear that Joseph French had more than a passing interest in the brickfield as its Liquidator, he purchased the rights to Hill Brickfield and proceeded to manufacture bricks. French is listed in Kelly’s for 1882 and 1883 as, “Joseph French & Co. Brickmaker”.

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