IT'S A CURIOUS feature of the Bugle that, due to copies being passed on to friends and family, often doing circuits of the globe in the process, we regularly get responses to articles months, and even years after they were printed.
And here is a follow-up to an item which appeared in our December 23rd edition — of 2004. Back then we featured several letters regarding Hamblet's Marl Hole in West Bromwich, a huge pit left by the digging of brick clay from an area of Greets Green, between Claypit Lane and Bull Lane. The whole thing had been sparked off by a Hamblet's blue brick, and though we had some interesting letters no one had come across a photograph of the marl hole.
However, West Bromwich historian Terry Price recently unearthed a couple of photographs of it — one from the days when it was still being worked, and one from later on when it had been partially filled in and then filled with water. Our thanks go to Terry for loaning them to us.
We know from those previous letters that Joseph Hamblet's bricks were being manufactured at least as far back as 1895, probably several decades earlier, and it seems that they ceased trading when the clay in the pit ran out in the early twentieth century.
Tracks It's thought that the 'working' picture dates from around 1900- 1910, and it gives an impression of the grand scale of the marl hole.
There is a road or path leading down into it at left, and two railtracks curving into it from the bottom of the picture, which vanish into a tunnel at the far side. In the middle is a brick building with a tall chimney; presumably an engine house. Up on the surface, beyond the cliff edge, are a cluster of houses, dwarfed by the scale of the pit works.
As regards the tunnel in the picture, this was alluded to in one of the letters from our 2004 article.
Derek Hanley of West Bromwich wrote: "The marl hole eventually filled with water which was extremely clear and full of aquatic life — prior to World War II we used to fish it and swim in it. Unfortunately it has seen a few deaths and suicides. I also recall that Hamblet's was connected to Swan Village Station by an underground railway, which became an air raid shelter during the war."
A turn of the century map shows a large pit near Hamblet's Brick Works with just one track running into the tunnel, running under Albion Road and into the brickworks.
This would have taken clay directly to the factory, though at the time of the map (1904) there was no rail track out of the works towards the main line.
The later picture, of the waterfilled hole, probably dates from the war years or the nineteenfifties, when the pool was a big draw to local youngsters. In that part of West Bromwich today, you'll find a lasting memorial to the brick firm, in the shape of Hamblets Road.