Brickworks

Matthew Stickney Gray
Harriet Elizabeth Anstead Gray. Photo found in ancestry.ca.
  • In 1847, Rev. Matthew Gray, age 24, arrived in Canada from England with his wife Harriet who was 21 1.  Their first child, Rachel Emily, was born in July 1848; her birth is recorded in Peel Country 2
  • In August 1848,  Matthew purchased a 3.5 acre parcel backing into the Bolton’s south hill from Charles Bolton.  In 1846, Charles had acquired the 200 acre Clergy Reserve in the southeast quadrant of Bolton directly south of the grist mill 3 and he lost no time in starting to sell lots
  • Matthew immediately started to set up a brickyard.  Brickmaking is a seasonal business so it is unlikely that the business was operational before 1849.  He built a house on a one-acre lot below the brickyard 4
  • Matthew and Harriet were joined in Canada by her father Charles Anstead and her brother William, his wife Emily and their infant daughter.  Charles and William are listed as brickmakers on the 1851 census, Albion Township
  • Making bricks in an age before mechanized equipment was heavy, hot and labour-intensive work
Harriet and Matthew Gray’s house, built circa 1850, at what is now 68 Willow Street.
Extract from T.C. Prosser’s 1854 Map of Bolton. Peel Archives.
  • The earliest evidence of bricks from Matthew Gray’s brick yard is likely the circa 1852 store built by the Callendar Brothers at Bolton’s ‘four corners’.  That building, the oldest commercial structure in Bolton, still stands although the bricks have been plastered over
  • The pre-1859 house at 117 James Street which faced the brickyard was built as a brick worker’s cottage.  Interestingly, the brick on each side of the house has been laid using a different style- an early ‘model’ home 5
  • Late in 1856, Matthew Gray gave up brick making and moved his family to Laurel in Amaranth Township, north-west of Orangeville.  He took up farming
  • He sold the brick yard to David Norton 6 who came from a line of experienced brick makers in the UK and had pursued brick making first in Toronto and then in Vaughan 7

Callendar Brothers brick store, built circa 1852, at what is now 1 Queen Street North.

Regency style cottage, built pre-1859, at what is now 117 James Street. The brick on each wall was laid in a different pattern. Part of the rear addition is a cottage moved from Humber Grove around 1970.

  • The 1857 Bolton Business Directory lists Norton as brick maker 8
  • Around 1860, David and Ruth Norton built a large house for their growing family.  The beautiful red brick home still stands at 116 Meadowvale Court
  • David Norton was a respected businessman who also served in the local council and as a School Board Member
  • The brickyard was a major employer keeping 12 to 16 men working during the summer months.  Horsepower was used to mix the wet-processed clay with a large mixing paddle held in a large kettle 9
  • Warm weather was needed to dry the bricks before they were ‘fired’.  In the fall season, clay was dug and left exposed to the elements to help it break down.  In winter, firewood was hauled from nearby farms and stacked ready to fuel fire pits the following year 10
  • In 1880, bricks sold for $6.00/thousand
1859 Tremaine map
116 Meadowvale Court.  The original part of the house, built circa 1860, is to the left in the photo.  The later two-storey addition, to the right, has different brick patterning details.

The brick house built circa 1887 for Ruth and David Norton to retire to, at what is now 68 Louisa Street.

1906 School Board members.  L to R: Donald Kennedy (Chairman), John McDonald (Secretary), David Wilson, William Stubbs, Alsey Norton and Ernest Beamish.

  • Making bricks created strong arms and Alsey Norton along with his younger brother George were key players on the 1884 Bolton baseball team that won the Three Counties championship (Peel, York and Ontario)
  • David Norton transferred the brickyard as well as the business and house to 25 year old Alsey around 1887, the same year Alsey married Margaret Devins
  • David and Ruth retired to a new house that still stands at 68 Louisa Street.  The side additions sit along what used to be Brick Lane.  The lane was re-named David Street after David Norton
  • Alsey was as a founding member of the Bolton Board of Trade and served as a member of the School Board

After the brickworks

  • The impact of WW1 and the depression which followed quelled virtually all building activity in Bolton from 1918 until the end of WW2. 
  • The brickyard ceased to exist after 1918 and by 1921, that year’s census for Albion Township recorded that Alsey and his two sons, Charles and Howard, had taken up farming
  • In the early 1950s, the brickyard property along Louisa Street (north side) and James Street (east side) was sold and the streetscape was transformed into post-war housing
  • In 1968, Mrs. Alberta Norton Haines died.  She was Margaret and Alsey’s daughter and had remained living in the family home at 116 Meadowvale Court
  • The Norton house was sold and by 1973, the balance of the Norton property had evolved into the Cherry Lane /Meadowvale Court housing development
Panorama of the Bolton Valley with Norton’s brickyard visible in the upper centre. Humber River in the foreground. Photo circa 1897.
Norton Brickworks employees circa 1890s: Jack White, William Stewart, Fred Stubbs, Alsey Norton, William Robertson, George Norton.

 

Looking east from Walford Hill over the Norton brickyard. The Norton home is in the foreground to the left. Drying hacks are in the foreground to the right. Albert Street School is visible in the background on the far left.

  1. Their marriage licence can be found by searching Harriet Anstead, Born 1826
  2. Details found in ancestry.ca
  3. Abstract Index to Deeds, Albion Township, Reels A&B, Lot 8 Concession 7, Inst# 33875, Region of Peel Archives at PAMA
  4. Abstract Index to Deeds, ibid., Inst# 37013 dated in 1850
  5. Information from Heather G. Broadbent, Heritage Resource Officer, Town of Caledon from 1985 to 2000
  6. Women of the W.I., Bolton Tweedsmuir Book,  ‘Norton Family and Brick and Tile Yard
  7. Abstract Index to Deeds, ibid., Inst#3120 October 1856
  8. The 1859 Tremaine Map still shows Matthew Gray as the property owner, perhaps because Matthew Gray held the mortgage or possibly just an error
  9. Deirdre Sweetnam, Norton Brickworks, a paper for the June 1996 walking tour
  10. ibid.