“ Address: Coal Park Lane / Swanwick / Southampton / SO31 7GW / Hampshire / England „
This is a medium sized industrial heritage site in the South of England about halfway between Portsmouth and Southampton.
You enter the site down a dusty track on one side of which is the car park and the other a narrow guage railway line.
On non-event days, all there really is to see is the brickworks building, a lovely old red brick building with a wonderful chimney stack. This stack has had to be shortened for safety reasons. Entering the building you are taken past some of the machinery used to crush the clay and process it through to the making of the bricks themselves. Through the next door you cab see the steam engine which would have turned the machinery. This is a beautiful piece of heritage. You can also see two great big steam boilers, though they are purely there for show, they are it seems, beyond repair. The lower level also houses some machine shops.
The upper level hold the main displays which tell you about the history of the brickworks - on open days this space has further displays and mainly traders.
The brickworks really come to life on events days - generally this is a gathering of steam engine enthusiasts, and if you will excuse my terminology, I am talking the steamroller, fairground type rather than those that pull the trains. There are rides on a carriage being pulled by these engines, which is charming.
The nostalgia value of these old steamrollers is great and educational, however they are dirty, filthy things. There was smoke and its stench all about the atmosphere. My throat was really irritated and I felt smelly and dirty. This was a REAL education. It is easy to witter on nostalgically about the past, but everyday life for the worker involved working amongst these filthy, coal driven machines and factories. Not only the workers, but their families within the vicinity would not avoid the smoke - add to that that every house was heated by coal.
I am of the generation (just) that remembers when houses had coal fires and in the winter there was a definite pong of burning coal about the streets , and although this was bearable, if Bursledon Brickworks open days are anything to go by, living in the heart of an industrial city must have been hell on the lungs.
There are usually a selection of small non-locomotive type steam engines, which might have been used for powering a machine such as a lathe or as a generator.
You will also see a selection of vintage vehicles, mainly working or industrial vehicles as opposed to the family saloon, though there is generally a nice selection of these. From time to time they have also had an double-decker bus such as a Titan for giving short rides.
The content of the open days do change from time to time, though what I have described here seems to be the core. You may also get displays of blacksmithing, hand brick making and pottery, some of which is hands on for the visitors.
There are also nice catering facilities where you can get a good cup of tea and a slice of cake and lunchtime snacks. Toilet facilities are clean and tidy.
All in all this is a good day out and of great interest to those in the south who like a bit of industrial heritage, but are a little too far away from what the north has to offer.