Wednesday, July 28, 2021
HomecommentMark's History: Finding Wortley bricks in the Tower of London

Mark’s History: Finding Wortley bricks in the Tower of London

Words & Photos: Mark Stevenson

My opinion of the Tower of London was that it was an equal opportunities prison as it did not discriminate. Men, women and children of any nationality and religion were tortured and executed there without discrimination.

I imagine people would have looked at it the same way people looked at prisons run by the Gestapo, KGB or Stasi. 

Luckily today that is all behind us? When I visited the Tower the other week despite seeing all manner of interesting things the high point wasn’t the Crown Jewels or even the torture instruments they had on display – it was a brick.

This is where I found the bricks. Photo: Mark Stevenson

I always try and find something Leeds related when I go away, even better if it’s West Leeds because then that’s my article sorted out for when I get back.

The very first room I went into in the Tower was in St Thomas’ Tower.

St Thomas’ Tower sits over the Water Gate (later, Traders Gate) and is connected by a bridge to the Wakefield Tower to provide a water entrance to the Tower. This gate is known as Traitors’ Gate today, but was once the Traders Gate.

The brick (all were Wortley Bricks I later noticed) I mentioned was visible in what appeared to be a fireplace.

Even though the light wasn’t great you could just make out what looked like Joseph Cliff Wortley but the Joseph part looked to be spelt different or abbreviated. I was fairly certain that Joseph Cliff of Wortley was not around in the 13th-century when the St Thomas’ Tower was built. 

Wortley Bricks in the Tower of London. Photo: Mark Stevenson.

Joseph Cliff (1806-1879) had a Brick & Sanitary Tube Works in Wortley and it seems his bricks were rather popular and were shipped all over the world, including the USA.

I was only able to find one other picture of the brick that I saw and that was used in the building of London Docks and wasn’t much clearer than the one I took so I was not able to date it.

I’m assuming that at some point the fireplace in St Thomas’ Tower needed repairing and, as Cliff had a good reputation for the quality of his bricks, they were then used.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I think you meant “Traitor’s Gate,” which is historically the gate through which those accused of treason were brought to the Tower from boats on the Thames.

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