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Former Hoffman Brickworks

Heritage Listed Location


72-106 Dawson Street Brunswick, Moreland City, Victoria, Australia

Places Nearby

Brunswick South, 3055 1.0km Brunswick Lower, 3056 1.1km Moonee Vale, 3055 1.6km Brunswick North, 3056 2.4km Moreland, 3058 2.6km

Details / Significance

The Brunswick area, now an inner suburb but once considered to be the north of Melbourne proper, has long been an important centre of quarrying and manufacturing industry associated with the building trades. As early as the 1860s it was recognised that the Brunswick district contained some of Victoria?s best clay and stone resources in close proximity to Melbourne. In addition to brick-making the valuable clay deposits of Brunswick enabled the production of all kinds of pottery to be manufactured in the district.

In 1870 the Hoffman Patent Brick and Tile Company was established in Albert Street, Brunswick. (these works no longer exist) this company introduced large scale brick-making to Victoria. Central to this process was the Hoffman kiln for which the company had patent rights. This kiln, developed by Friedreich Hoffman in Stettin, Prussia in 1859 revolutionised the brick-making process by allowing a continual process of loading "green" bricks as well as being more economical with fuel. The speeding up of the brick-making process which followed encouraged the mechanisation of the making of "green" bricks and as a consequence the development of the Bradley-Craven brick press and other brick-making technology and improvements in work processes.

The Bradley-Craven principle was employed by the Hoffman Company in 1887 when they accepted a tender by Langland's foundry to manufacture on in Victoria and a year later purchased another at the centennial exhibition. This "copying" of the Bradley-Craven design by local heavy engineering works would appear to account for the majority of machines which survive.

In 1884 the Hoffman Company purchased 36 acres of the "Dawson" estate and opened a new yard which boosted employment to over 400 men and production to over 40 million bricks a year. The expansion of this firm at this time (both in terms of the new site and the development of new technology) was directly related to the dramatic growth of Melbourne according to Professor Graeme Davison "probably no other industry underwent such an intensive programme of innovation and expansion, or shared as fully in the profits and perils of the Melbourne land boom."

The depression of the 1890s saw the collapse of the building industry in Melbourne, although the company had begun to diversify out of an exclusive dependency on brick-making by the late 1880s with the manufacture of drainage pipes and other domestic items such as urinals and pottery ware. From 1900 the building industry returned to normal and this saw the continued expansion and development of the Dawson Street site. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, which was engaged in the construction of Melbourne?s sewerage system, was an important source of orders for pipes.

In 1907-1908 the works were "modernised" and a further Hoffman kiln erected. Gradual expansion by the company appears to have continued after the 1914-1918 war until the depression of the 1930s which again halted works. After this the company concentrated on the Dawson Street site following the realisation that the clay hole at the No 1 Works at Albert Street had reached its limits.

In the post war period the development of new, and cheaper, kiln technology saw the emphasis shift away from the Hoffman mode of operation; although the Dawson Street complex still continues making bricks and the general superiority of its process, as far as quality is concerned, remains acknowledged.

In 1960 Clifton Holdings took over Hoffman?s. The drain pipe division was closed in 1962 and the other pottery works in 1969. A great deal of the company's land holdings were subdivided and sold.

The Dawson street site remains operative as a brickworks utilising the Bradley-Craven brick press principle and Hoffman kiln technology. It is the last collection of Hoffman kilns and associated technology operative in the metropolitan area and the most important in the state, possibly the country.

The former Hoffman Brick and Pottery Works are of architectural and historic importance for the following reasons:

- The complex is the sole survivor of the clay manufacturing industry which was central to the history of Brunswick which, in turn, was a major centre for these trades for Victoria.

- The complex comprises the last Hoffman kilns still operating in the metropolitan region. The Hoffman Company was the first in Australia to employ the patent Hoffman kiln. In combining the use of these continuous burning kilns with the latest brick-making technology the company pioneered the industrialisation of the brick-making industry in Victoria and, probably, Australia.

- The Dawson Street works of the company were established in 1884 at the beginning of the building boom of that decade. The three Hoffman kilns, brick presses and buildings which date either in whole or in part from this time, or are their successors, are a vital link with the boom decade of the 1880s.

- By the early twentieth century the Hoffman Company was the largest pottery in Victoria. The associated buildings and remnants provide the only remaining evidence of works which produced many of Melbourne?s building materials and household products.

- As a record of changing practices in the brick, pipe and pottery making industry over 100 years.

- For its working collection of rare nineteenth century "green" brick technology ( including an edge runner mill, brick presses and associated fittings, including remnants of steam powered operations)

- As an illustration of working conditions and practices in a large traditional industrial concern.

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former hoffman brickworks dawson street brunswick front view
former hoffman brickworks dawson street brunswick side view & chimney
former hoffman brickworks dawson street brunswick storage entrance
former hoffman brickworks dawson street brunswick vaulted cellar
h00703 plan a
h00703 plan b

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