In the heart of Clay country lies brickfield

Brickfield is a community brickworks set up by Rosanna Martin at Blackpool Pit, Trewoon, St Austell in 2019.

Brickfield is part of Whitegold, a programme of art activities, events and commissions about the St Austell area where artists are working with people to look again at the “Cornish Alps”, the china clay tips and pits, with an eye on building a creative and sustainable future. The people of St Austell and the surrounding villages are being invited to help revive the centuries old Cornish art of brick making as part of a project designed to celebrate the unique history of Mid Cornwall and its links with China Clay.

Brickmaking in clay country largely existed as a trade in service to the china clay extraction industry making the specialist bricks and tiles for the clay driers in particular. We now know from local brick making expert John Osborne that the last local brick kiln to be fired was at Wheal Remfry Brickworks, just north of St Austell in 1971 and that it was fired by him.

Rosanna Martin in is working together with John Osborne and a small team to reconnect people with the material literally beneath their feet, taking groups on fieldtrips out into the landscape formed by mining, showing them how to mix brick clay from waste materials from china clay extraction, and to make a brick using the clay they have made using a simple wooden mould. The process is easy to do and is wonderfully absorbing – some people just can’t stop once they get started!

The project is supported by Imerys Minerals who are providing the site on an old gravel works at Blackpool Pit, support for storage on site and the materials used to make the brick clay.

In 2019 and 2020 they kindly opened up pathways around the perimeter of the pit especially for Brickfield participants to experience the surrounding landscape and on a clear day, tremendous views of Cornwall.

Dr Katie Bunnell, Whitegold Curator for the project, says: “Brickfield uses traditional brick making methods as a way of bringing communities together and exploring how through collective thinking and shared labour, we can make a new site of handmade industry. The processes involved in traditional brick-making are accessible and fun as well as providing a unique insight into an entire making cycle from clay collection to fired end product. Through this collaborative endeavour we aim to both galvanise existing communities and generate new ones”.

“We are incredibly grateful to Imerys for their support, without which we wouldn’t have been able to make Brickfield happen, and for the use of Blackpool Pit as a fitting base for a project celebrating clay past, present and future.”

Together with community groups from around Clay Country, we will design, make and fire a new Clay Country brick. Our aim is to make and fire a volume of bricks over the duration of the project and to use those bricks in co-designing and co-creating structures that enhance the local environment.

In 2019 the Brickfield community made and fired 150 successful bricks, in 2020 they made over 500 so we’re improving skills, quality and volume of production!  The 2019 Brickfield kiln was made with the invaluable assistance of John Osborne using bricks from the the old kiln at Wheal Remfry and in 2020 we salvaged 10 tonnes of bricks from the old site and built a mini beehive kiln to fire our 500 new community bricks. Find out what Brickfield are up to in 2021 here. 

What does the project involve?


The project invites participants to explore the china clay landscape around Blackpool Pit on foot, to experience how the china clay industry has shaped the countryside around St Austell and to see the incredible views all over Cornwall.

Brickmaking Workshops

On site there will be opportunities to get involved in all stages of making the new clay country brick. This will involve: mixing and preparing clay, adding combustibles to the mix, wedging the clay to remove air, pressing clay into wooden moulds, knocking out the bricks and laying them to dry before they are finally added to the kiln to be fired.

Materials Research

With help from Imerys, Rosanna and her team will be experimenting with by-products collected from the industrial processing of china clay and combining these with other materials to refine a clay body that will have unique characteristics specific to the area and suitable for making bricks.



Kiln Firing

The Brickfield team have built two kilns to date using heritage hand made bricks salvaged from the old Wheal Remfry brickworks near St Austell. The kilns are fired with wood and take several days to reach temperature starting with a gentle steaming to completely dry out the dense clay bricks and then reaching over 1100 degrees centigrade to harden the bricks and make them durable. The kiln and firing process provide a focal point for Brickfield community gatherings and fireside story telling as well as involving a lot of wood chopping and fire stoking.

Brickfield is a long term project about community building, team skills and wellbeing. If you would like to know more or get involved please email

Brickfield is supported IMERYS.

A community engagement initiative established at Imerys’ Blackpool Pit, Brickfield reconnects people with clay via brick making workshops and field trip tours.

Head over to @__brickfield__ on Instagram to see the latest images and video clips of kiln building, brickmaking and firing created by the Brickfield team including lead artist Rosanna Martin, Whitegold Curator Katie Bunnell and new members, Zenna Tagney and Bobi McFazdean. The Insta feed shows a community brickworks in the making from the ground up. See how they have collected and mixed clay, made bricks and follow the progress of the kiln firing as it happens in conjunction with the Virtual Festival. There are some special insights from former clay country brickmaker, John Osborne, who brings his expert skills and real regional knowledge to the project.

Click on the video above to find out more.

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Brickworks and material connections

Rosanna Martin continues the story behind the creation of Brickfield.


In this first instalment of the Brickfield blog, Rosanna Martin tells us how Brickfield began.