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Cheltenham Brickworks

History

Town site photo

The former brick works

©Copyright: Jeri Danyleyko

The name says it all. During the late Victorian and early 20th century periods, brick was the predominant building material in Southern Ontario.

Cheltenham Brick Works was a tiny worker's community, situated between the villages of Cheltenham and Terra Cotta. Due to an abundance of 'Medina Shale', a hard clay, renowned for it's excellent brick-making qualities, a number of brick works were established in the area and in 1914, one of them, the Interprovincial Brick Company, acquired the site in order to expand their operations.

The company built a massive set of six downdraft kilns and one continuous burning kiln which enabled them to produce 90,000 bricks at a time. Rather than living in nearby Cheltenham or Terra Cotta, many of the workers preferred to pay the much lower rent of $13 per month to live in one of the 14 houses also located on the site.

By the 1950s things had changed considerably. The village of Cheltenham was on the verge of dying, sustained only by the brick works. In 1958, Domtar acquired the site, promptly closed up the brick works and demolished the houses. Although Cheltenham survived, the giant kilns, fenced off and inaccessible, remain standing, a massive ghostly ruin and a stark reminder of the area's earlier industrial history.