Bay's building blocks of history

The ARC celebrates the brickworks which helped to develop the region. PHILIP ENGLISH looks back.

Hobsonville's Limeburners Bay and its long-gone brickworks feature in a poster explaining one of the earliest and most important industries in the Auckland region.

The poster is the third in an Auckland Regional Council heritage series.

The clay industry dates back to early European settlement when works manufactured bricks, field tiles for draining farmland, and pipes.

The industry relied on extensive deposits of clay laid down during the Pleistocene period about 1 million years ago.

In pre-European times Maori produced baked clay objects by moulding wet clay into shapes which were then hardened by fire. Some decorated pieces have turned up in archaeological digs in the Auckland area but their use is not known.

In the early days brickworks in the Auckland region were first set up near the centre of settlement but as demand for residential and commercial properties grew they moved to Grey Lynn, Freemans Bay, Ponsonby and Newton.

By 1860 there were about 20 brickworks established in Auckland. When local clay deposits were exhausted the brickmakers looked to the west - to the Whau River and Hobsonville.

By the 1870s, 16 brick and pottery yards were established in West Auckland.

The poster illustrates two major brickworks - those of R.O. Clark and Joshua Carder - which operated at Limeburners Bay from 1869 to 1929. The area was also known for its lime kilns.

The pen and ink work by Chris Gaskin shows the view west over Limeburners Bay and the two works with their clay pits and the Clark house, Ngaroma, which is today used by the Air Force.

Although the brickworks have long been lost to the past the area is one of the country's most important industrial archaeological sites.

On the reverse side of the poster the geology, history and archaeology of the Auckland clay industry is laid out in text and pictures.

Mr Gaskin, who produced the two earlier posters for the council, said the pen and ink illustration was based on early photographs.

"You go there now and there's a bit of scrub on the edge of a subdivision and some pasture. For a lot of people, they would not be aware of just how much was going on.

"You can stumble through there and see the odd remains of kilns and old shards and pipes and things that have been cast among the mangroves but there is no real sign of the huge industry that was there."

The poster also makes reference to a call to preserve the Clark house as a national pottery and ceramics museum.

Mr Gaskin's previous posters featured pre-European South Auckland Maori stonefield settlements and maritime heritage at Devonport.

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