No longer viable the Steer Point Factory, located near the Yealm estuary in Steer Point Road, Brixton, was once part of ‘the brickbusiness’ group.
The original brickworks dates back to the 1890s but the present factory was built after the Second World War in the quarry of the original works. The factory was mechanised in 1966 to manufacture extruded wirecut facing bricks. Highly automated it was considered to be one of the most modern of its kind, featuring automatic setting of the bricks onto the kiln cars.
The plant was originally designed to produce 14 million bricks annually. Modifications to the plant through the 1970s steadily increased output to around 26 million bricks per annum. The factory went through another major change in the mid-1980s with an extended dryer and the construction of a specials plant. These improvements helped to increase the output to its present day capacity of 40 million bricks per annum.
The factory produces a range of bricks, manufactured from the Devonian shale that is quarried on site and faced with a sanded colour finish. The specials plant produces a range of special shaped bricks to match and complement the mainline facing range.
Greatly oversimplified, what the brickmaker does is to take an argillaceous rock (clay, shale, slate), crush it to powder, mix the powder with water to make a plastic mixture that can be moulded into the required shape, dry the shape so that it can be handled without distortion, then fire the clay shape back into ‘rock’ again.
Early in 2003 the factory at Steer Point employed 70 people, largely drawn from the Brixton, Yealmpton and Eastern Plymouth (Plymstock and Plympton) area. Production at this time was running at 30 million bricks per year, less than full capacity. Its closure, along with so many in the financial crisis, came in 2008. Nevertheless its effect on the locality remains obvious!