Milton Keynes lies in the Oxford Clay belt and the local area has a rich history of brickmaking as evidenced by surviving brick kilns, at Great Linford, former clay pits and in local place names – such as Brick Kiln Spinney, the small copse behind the marina facilities building.
Little Woolstone, the closest village to the Campbell Wharf development, was surrounded by villages each with a tale from the brick making era. From the Tickford brickworks at Newport Pagnell and Bailey’s Brickyard in Great Woolstone, to the factories at Bletchley and Marston Vale, and even a hostel for industry workers in the Drayton Parslow area. The area was characterised by brick making and the Grand Union Canal was key to the success of the industry.
The Canal was used to deliver the coal for firing up the kilns and to take the bricks by horse-drawn barge to surrounding areas for use in building work. As well as providing plentiful bricks for the local area, the narrow boats journeyed along the waterways to supply London and beyond.
Little Woolstone has been home to several brickmakers in the past and local records mention both the Thomas Roger’s and Alfred Foster’s Brickyards in the late nineteenth century – and there are brick kilns shown on the Newlands site in the 1881 map.
As well as a brick maker, Alfred Foster was a local landowner in Little Woolstone who held the title ‘assessor and collector of the taxes’ – there is also a possibility that he shared a wharf on the Grand Junction Canal with fellow landowner William Smith.
The decline of the canal based brickworks went hand in hand with industrial advancements, such as the rise of the steam engine and mass production.
The Oxford Clay below the Campbell Wharf site has been excavated, to create the basements of the new apartment blocks, and has been re-used to form the core of the bund and floor which retains the water within the marina.