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Q: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: ricksterm-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 23 Jun 2004 01:36 PDT
Expires: 23 Jul 2004 01:36 PDT
Question ID: 364940
I found piece of an old worn brick while fossicking along the Thames
River in London at low tide on a recent trip. A picture of it can be
found here I am trying to work out what the
words are on this brick. I estimate this is about half of the original
brick. I'm quite sure its a brick because the base and the left side
(in the picture) are quite flat.

One explanation I've heard is that it might be the name of the brick
manufacturer and Stourbridge is indeed the name of an old brickworks.
However that letter is definitely not a T there. Looks more like a P,
B or R. I also thought of "Bourbridge" which is very uncommon old
English name.

Money goes to the most convincing answer of what the inscription is
and/or why it would have such an inscription and when it would have
been made. If no convincing answers are given, then the money goes to
the best background knowledge provided about brickmaking and
brickmakers in London between 1800 and 2000.

Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 23 Jun 2004 15:11 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

You know, sometimes the internet is just so unbelievably cool that it
makes me shiver.

I searched on brickmaking in the UK, found the email of a brickmeister
who seemed quite knowledgable, sent him a note with information from
your query, and a few hours later, Voila!


Hi David,

Its a Firebrick.

The imprint if complete would read RUFFORD / STOURBRIDGE. (the /
indicates a change in line when brick marks are recorded)

They were importing bricks into New Zealand about 1880-90 ref BBS Journal No 34.

There is an excellent article on the Stourbridge Industry web site
about Rufford & Co by Tom Cockeram. Another web site has the history
of Lye and Wollescote by the late Wesley Perrin MBE which also talks
about Rufford & Co.

Hope that's been of help



With the information in the email, I did a bit more searching on:
 [ (stourbridge OR rufford) brick ] and...Voila!

Here's another picture:

and here's some history:


By the way, I don't want to post the full email address of my
brickmeister, in case he values his privacy, but if you want to
inquire further on the matter, the links on this page should be most
valuable (and yes, the brickmeister is on this page as well).

I hope this is the information you were looking for.

Before rating this answer, however, please let me know if you have
need of any clarifications, or would like more information.  Just post
a message, and I'll be happy to assist you further.



Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 23 Jun 2004 15:20 PDT
P.S.  Look at your picture again.  The first letter on the brick, is
in fact a "T" with a largish, overhanging serif.  Had me fooled, too,
into thinking it was a P or B type letter.

Request for Answer Clarification by ricksterm-ga on 23 Jun 2004 16:16 PDT
Wow I agree. Too fantastically cool. And despite my initial
confidence, I have now convinced myself that is indeed a T with an
overhanging serif. That totally threw me. Awesome job thanks.

The reason for this clarification is simply because the answer the
brickmeister gave has some interesting significance for me. I am
actually migrating to New Zealand later this year and would be very
curious to know how these bricks were used and where in NZ.
Interestingly at the time I found this brick, I had been planning to
migrate to the UK but changed my mind when I returned home. No I am
not kidding.

Answering this is not critical. Your answer is more than enough to
totally clear up the mystery but if the brickmeister has any more
information about the NZ connection that would reinforce my view that
the brick was some sort of sign. ;)

Thanks again. Amazing.


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 23 Jun 2004 17:34 PDT

Glad you liked it all, and how funny that there's a cosmic NZ connection.

(Another connection...just read a joke earlier today that was something like:

Announcer:  No news yet from New Zealand.  If they ever have any,
we'll be sure to let you know.)

Well, now that I've offended an entire country, let me respond to your
note.  I actually emailed the brickmeister earlier (before you posted
your note) letting him know that this whole Q&A existed, and asking
him to take a look.  I'm sure he'll post a comment on NZ if he's so

If he doesn't post a note, though, I'm a bit reluctant to email him
again right away.  He's been so helpful...I don't want to become a

So let's give it a day to see what happens.  If no word by tomorrow,
I'll send him a f/u note and post any new information here.

Sound OK....?

Request for Answer Clarification by ricksterm-ga on 23 Jun 2004 18:26 PDT
Sure. I would actually close this question out now if I knew that
additional comments could still be made after doing so but happy to
wait a day as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if these bricks were mainly used in
Christchurch where there are a lot of old fireplaces and chimneys. It
still appears closely tied historically and socially with England too.
Would be fascinating to complete the journey and find a copy of my
brick somewhere in use in Christchurch or elsewhere.

By the way, I think that joke might be a touch out of date! Auckland
is listed in some important surveys in the top 5 cities of the world
for overall quality of life and Wellington is in the top 20.
I did find Christchurch a bit sleepy though when I visited (soon after
my brick-finding trip to the UK).

By the way, it is great fun fossicking the Thames at low tide in the
middle of the city. I found my brick close to the Tate Modern Art
Gallery via a little gate down to the water. Many hundreds of years of
history scattered amongst the rubble....

Looking forward to chasing Rufford/Stourbridge to the other side of the world ;)

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 24 Jun 2004 14:22 PDT
Apparently, the sun never sets on the Brick-ish Empire!

Here's the latest missive from brick-man:


Hi David,

BBS Journal No 34. The first paragraph of the article by W J Harris in
which he states "Amongst the few sources of information on the early
supply of bricks to New Zealand are the advertisements in our first
newspapers. Following the arrival of British settlers in 1840, both
building bricks and firebricks were included in cargo shipments. Small
quantities also came from Australia, Europe and the United States of
America. Imported fire-bricks were usually branded. The district name
and makers name, and sometimes both, provided a useful clue to the
origin of a particular brick."
He mentions 'branded' but the normal term is brick mark. These vary
and only became familiar in the second half of the 1800's, as the
bricks travelled further from their brickmakers and the purchasers
wanted a method of recognising a brick and therefore its quality.

W J Harris also states "Shortage of suitable fireclays, and the
expertise to manufacture acceptable fire-bricks at a competitive price
were reasons for dependence on overseas supplies until early in the

There are a lot of British colonies with firebricks that have
travelled across the world. They were used for boiler linings and for
other heating equipment. I have been on a number of the islands in the
West Indies were British bricks can be seen and recognised by the
brick marks. If you ever see a Brit with camera photographing a path,
the floor or a brick wall then say hello and ask if they are a member
of the British Brick Society. In the West Indies the fire bricks lined
the sugar refining boilers that were part of the process to turned the
cane into molasses and rum.


Not a lot of specifics on NZ, but at least some interesting additional context.

This has all been a lot of fun.  Thanks for bringing your query to Google Answers.

ricksterm-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Mystery solved. Very nice job. Thanks to both contributors. This
really is a great resource.

Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: fp-ga on 23 Jun 2004 05:25 PDT
These webpages may be helpful:

The British Brick Society

Brickmakers Index
Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: pafalafa-ga on 23 Jun 2004 17:34 PDT

Thanks for the links you posted.  They were a help in closing in on this one.

Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Jun 2004 18:39 PDT
Note to Rick:

Closing a question by rating and/or tipping does not prevent comments
from being posted in the future. Some of us have been astonished when
questions we answered two years ago suddenly acquired new comments
from people who discovered us only recently. It's a bit eerie.
Sometimes I don't even remember having answered a question, and
suddenly it pops to the top of my "answered questions" queue with a
fresh comment. Google Answers is a dynamic entity indeed.
Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: ricksterm-ga on 23 Jun 2004 23:36 PDT
Thanks to fp-ga for the useful leads. A British Brick Society. LOL.
Who would have ever thought?
Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: pafalafa-ga on 24 Jun 2004 09:53 PDT

Thanks for the wonderful rating.  And to prove pinkfreud's
point...see!...I can still post a comment after the question is

I've written back to my brick expert contact in the UK, and will let
you know what I hear back (if anything) on New Zealand.

Subject: Re: What is the inscription on this old mysterious London brick?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 24 Jun 2004 15:20 PDT
Regarding the matter of posting comments to "closed" questions, I
believe the only questions to which comments may not be posted are
those questions which were canceled by the customer before an answer
was posted. Comments may continue to be posted to questions which have
reached their natural expiration date (and thus have been closed
unanswered), and to all answered questions, whether or not they have
been rated by the customer.

That's just my personal observation. I have no "inside" knowledge
whatsoever, but I like to think that I'm a good guesser.

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