Initially established as the Hoffman Patent Brick and Tile Company on Albert St in 1870, the company soon grew after
purchasing 36 acres on Dawson St. With the addition of the new yard the Hoffman company was sitting on over 70 acres making it the largest of its kind in Victoria, revolutionising the brick industry as it was one of the first company’s to use and have the patented rights to Hoffman kilns which were developed by Friedreich Hoffman in Stettin, Prussia.
The company also began using Bradley-Craven design brick presses in 1887. During the 1890s the company moved into manufacturing other items such as drainage pipes and pottery due to the collapse of Melbourne’s building industry. In the 1930s it was realised that clay pit 1 at the Albert St site had reached its full potential, so the company focused on their 2nd clay pit at Dawson St. In 1960 the Hoffman Company was taken over by Clifton Holdings who closed the drainage division in 1962 later followed by the pottery division in 1969. In the 1990s the three kilns that were still in use were taken over by Nubrik, however by 2005 the site had been completely shut down and abandoned to make way for development. And as apartment blocks arise on the former Hoffman site, kiln 2,3 and the chimney from the now gone kiln 1, are all that remain at the location, and they are thought to be a few of the only ones that are left in the country.
Workings of the Hoffman Kiln.
A Hoffman kiln consists of a tunnel as pictured in my 1st photo.
Which runs all the way around the outer ground floor of the kiln
The tunnel in working days was divided into somewhere between 12 and 24 cavities
(Depending on the size of the kiln) with each archway being basically a doorway (explained later). The cavities were filled with loads of bricks and filled with coal from above (explanation in next paragraph),
Each cavity was then fired one at a time by a continuous fire that in some cases could take up to 8 weeks to complete a full circle of the kiln.
The way the kilns were fired.
Above each tunnel in the 1st floor of the kiln ran a series of openings in rows (known as ‘feed holes’)
The feed holes were covered by a thick steel ‘cap’. Each opening
went through the floor to the tunnel below.
The workers in the 1st floor of the kiln were known as ‘stokers’
Using a coal shovel the stokers poured a small evenly crushed amount of coal through the feed hole to the brick stackers or ‘setters’ below.
The setters set the unfired bricks in a way that the coal could be poured straight from the feed hole above into the middle of the bricks, basically using the bricks to be fired as their own fireplace or as a way to hold the coal that was to be lit.
Once the bricks were stacked in place, before the coal was added a temporary brick wall was built over the entrance to the archway to keep the heat in, this wall would remain in place until the fire had completed a near full circle. And the bricks that were fired some weeks ago had cooled and hardened.
The coal was then dropped in once the hot gases from the next chamber down had got to such a high temperature that the coal would automatically light once dropped through the feed hole, so in that way no one would have to risk entering the chamber to light each one. The excess gases and smoke exited through small holes in the wall into the chimney flue, then up and out the smokestack.
Workings of the continuous fire.
Say there is 12 chambers or cavities in a kiln.
Chamber 1,2 and 3 will be fired at once, at the same time chamber 4,5 and 6 will be being pre-heated by the hot gases from the first 3.
Chamber 7 and 8 will be heated by the hot air running through the tunnel from the kilns being fired, the 9th chamber will be being filled while the 10th will be empty and the 11th and 12th will be cooling.
Anyway some of my photographs of the location.
Noticed this strange ceramic face on a beam, above an old hanging switch.
Not sure what this was used for or where it had been dragged out of.
Small generator, I'm unsure of its use.
The old gate keepers cottage.
Brick display chart.
Upstairs of kiln.
Feed hole & steel cap.
The old brickpress shed & new apartments.
Thanks for looking.
I'll be posting up a similiar thread of Box Hill Brickworks soon.