With the recognition of Australia Day as the anniversary of the First Fleet’s arrival, 26 January 1788, comes the delivery of the first clay bricks in Australia.
Governor Arthur Phillip, a man of progressive views, envisaged durable buildings of quality. He believed that in time, like any civilised town, Sydney Cove and its environs would be built in brick.
Even before the Fleet’s departure from Portsmouth, Phillip had anticipated the adoption of brick as the key construction material. Indeed, the cargo manifest of the transport Scarborough carries a reference to 5,000 bricks. That was enough to construct solid foundations and walls for a small number of Government buildings. Wooden brick moulds to form the clay into unbaked bricks were also stowed in the holds, although for reasons that remain unclear just about every type of building tool was lacking. Phillip’s first request to London for stores included house-axes, carpenters’ axes, pitsaws, set-saws and crosscut saws, files, augers, nails, paint and lead.
James Bloodworth, first brickmaker
It also seems strange that Phillip could find only one man among the convicts, skilled in brickmaking. This was James Bloodworth, a London bricklayer and builder whose career had come to an end almost three years earlier following his conviction for forgery. Fortunately, several other men were identified as having brick-related occupations.
Bloodworth was more than just a brickmaker and quickly established a reputation as a builder of note while also identifying the source of his building materials. Within months of arriving in the colony, he was asked to construct an official residence for Governor Phillip.
This delivery of 5,000 bricks from Britain, transported across the world on the First Fleet, was the start of our industry and the forerunner to the skills and dedication of the 24,000 brick and blocklayer workforce in Australia. For more on famous and outstandingly successful people in Bricklaying, search the Brickie’s Blog at this website.