1854 Prosser Map of Bolton
- Brick making was one of the early industries in Bolton and the brickyard was started by Matthew S. Gray around 1852
- It continued to produce bricks under the management of David Norton, then his son Alsey, until about 1918
- Brick making was heavy, labour-intensive work; the brickyard was a significant employer requiring crews to work around-the-clock in summer months tending fire pits which ‘kilned’ the bricks
- Evidence of this once thriving business is visible in the many red brick buildings and homes throughout Bolton’s downtown (see Bolton Architecture section)
Brickworks – a history
- In 1846, Charles Bolton received the patent for the 200 acre Clergy Reserve in the southeast quadrant of Bolton, Lot 8, Concession 7, immediately south of the grist mill. Charles lost no time in starting to sell building lots along King Street East
- In 1847, Matthew Gray, age 24, arrived in Canada from England with his wife Harriet who was 21. Their first child was born in Peel Country in 1848
- Within 2 years, Matthew purchased 2 properties from Charles Bolton; in 1849, a 3.5 acre parcel backing into the south hill on which he took a mortgage, paying it off in less than a year, and in 1850, a 1 acre lot which he bought outright for a house
- At the time of the 1851 census, Matthew, Harriet and their first two children, were living in a small ‘shanty’ near Goderich where Matthew had worked as a brick maker since their arrival in Canada. In 1852, they were living in Bolton by which time Matthew was able to finance his own brickyard
- 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 4 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.
- Late in 1856, Matthew Gray gave up brick making and moved his family to Laurel in Amaranth Township north west of Orangeville where he took up farming.
- He sold the brick yard to David Norton who came from a line of experienced brick makers in the UK and had pursued brick making first in Toronto.
- The 1857 Bolton Business Directory lists Norton as brick maker; yet, the 1859 Tremaine Map still shows Matthew Gray as the property owner, perhaps because Matthew Gray held the mortgage
- 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
- 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
- In 1880, bricks sold for $6.00/thousand
- 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
Alsey and George Norton were both part of the Bolton baseball team which won the three counties championship (Peel, York and Ontario) in 1884
The Norton brickyard circa 1914 showing the covered drying hacks:
- Middle centre is a horse powered mixing paddle held by a large beam in the kettle containing wet-processed clay for bricks.
- The Norton brick house, facing east, is to the left in the photo
- The totally denuded north hill is in the background behind
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 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 Nolton house was sold and by 1973, the balance of the Norton property had evolved into the Cherry Lane /Meadowvale Court housing development