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The Industries of Scotland
Manufacture of Earthenware


THE conversion of clay into articles of domestic use is one of the most ancient of arts, and the potter's wheel is the first mechanical contrivance mentioned in history. The Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Etruscans carried the art to a wonderful degree of perfection. The Etruscans produced many graceful forms; and though for a long time the dull red of the clay, and a black pigment, were the only colours employed by the potter, some of the designs on vases, &c., were brought out with admirable skill. The figures were subsequently scratched in outline on the surface, and then painted— those of men in a sort of flesh-colour, and those of women in cream- colour. From this stage the art was carried to its highest point of excellence in form by the Greeks. The finest Grecian vessels were made of a red-coloured clay which was glazed black, the figures of the design being left clear in the natural colour of the clay. Large numbers of those ancient vases have been found, and specimens may be seen in every collection of any pretensions. The Romans appear to have endeavoured to give strength and durability rather than graceful forms to their earthenware. They improved the quality and processes of manufacture, and made the art universal. When they had established themselves in Britain, they set up many potteries, traces of which exist in various parts of the country. In Maitland's "History of Edinburgh" mention is made of the remains of a Roman pottery having been found at Cramond about the middle of last century. At Peterborough and on the banks of the Medway debris of Roman earthenware and kilns extends over many miles. These are not the earliest indications of the existence of the art in this country, however, for in the "barrows" or dwellings of the ancient Britons urns and fragments of earthenware, evidently of native manufacture, have been found. When the Roman Empire fell art went to decay. The Arabs and Moors had, however, acquired some knowledge of pottery, and preserved it from extinction during several centuries; and it was from them that the Italians learned how to make the majolica ware for which they became famous. Towards the middle of the sixteenth century majolica reached its highest point of perfection, and then gradually declined until the art of making it was lost. When the Portuguese merchantmen penetrated into the far Eastern seas, and returned laden with the riches of China and Japan, they brought specimens of porcelain which, by their beauty, attracted much attention in Europe, and purchasers and imitators were not wanting. The potters of Italy, Germany, and France tried to find out how the Chinese porcelain was made. New interest was awakened in the art, and some most encouraging results were attained. In France, Bernard Palissy, in the course of his experiments, which were conducted with extraordinary perseverance, discovered a new kind of porcelain; and subsequently Biittcher, of Magdeburg, succeeded in producing wares similar to those of China. The royal porcelain manufactories of Sevres and Dresden were established about that time, and a great impetus was given to the manufacture of all kind of earthenware.

In Britain the only earthenware articles made up till the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—when the potteries of Tambeth, Burslem, and Liverpool devoted some attention to the production of ornamental wares—were of a coarse kind. But it may be said that not until Josiah Wedgwood came upon the scene, about a hundred years ago, did the British potters produce any noteworthy examples of ceramic art. Wedgwood's success arose from no accidental causes. He was a chemist and a mechanician, and he added to his great practical knowledge of his trade indomitable perseverance. The delicacy, beauty, and taste displayed in the works which Wedgwood produced in conjunction with Flaxman, the famous sculptor, attained for them a world-wide celebrity, and they are still eagerly sought after by art collectors. Up till Wedgwood's time the people of this country derived their chief supply of ordinary domestic ware from Holland, and of the superior kinds from Germany and France. That order of things has been reversed, and home-made earthenware and porcelain are now used almost exclusively, while the people of all parts of the world draw a large proportion of their supply from the British potteries. A French traveller thus refers to the widespread use of English ware:—"Its excellent workmanship, its solidity, the advantage which it possesses of sustaining the action of fire, its fine glaze—impenetrable to acids—the beauty and convenience of its form, and the cheapness of its price, have given rise to a commerce so active and so universal that, in travelling from Paris to Petersburg, from Amsterdam to the furthest part of Sweden, and from Dunkirk to the extremity of the south of France, one is served at every inn upon English ware. Spain, Portugal, and Italy are supplied with it and vessels are loaded with it for the East Indies, the West Indies, and the continent of America."

The value of earthenware and porcelain exported is steadily in-creasing:—In 1834 it amounted, from all the British ports, to L.493,382; in 1864 to L.1,422,014; and in 1867 to L.1,635,216. From Scotch ports about L.117,547 worth was sent out in 1867; but as a considerable quantity is carried into England by land, and thence exported, the above sum does not cover the actual value of the goods of Scotch make which annually find their way into the foreign markets.

The first pottery in Scotland was established at the Broomielaw, Glasgow, in 1748; but for a long time only the lowest qualities of goods were made. There are now fourteen potteries in Scotland, which give employment to upwards of 5000 persons. The most extensive is the Glasgow Pottery, belonging to Messrs J. & M. P. Bell & Co. This establishment covers upwards of three acres of ground, and gives employment to 800 persons, whose wages amount to upwards of L.20,000 a-year. The head of the firm has devoted much attention to the higher departments of the art, and has produced some excellent work. Technical difficulties of the most formidable kind have been overcome; and in the show-room of the establishment there is a display of ceramic art of which the makers may well be proud. Both in articles of use and of ornament, Messrs Bell have produced elegance of form and beauty of colouring that might be put in competition with the best work of English makers in the same class. In porcelain table, tea, and toilet ware, and in some ornamental branches of their art, such as the making of Etruscan vases, they have been very successful, and among their chief triumphs are admirably executed copies of the Portland vase.

The Glasgow Pottery is peculiarly interesting, as in it almost every variety of work may be seen going on. The raw materials, which are three in number, are deposited in a series of enclosures, separated by low walls, and occupying a great part of an extensive courtyard. In one enclosure is a pile of light-coloured stone of a coarse crystallised grain—that is "China-stone," a species of soft granite obtained in Cornwall, and composed of quartz and felspar, with little or no mica. The stone, when fused, forms a pearl-white transparent mass. An adjoining compartment contains " China clay," which is composed of the felspar of the granite in a disintegrated state in combination with a small proportion of other substances. Another compartment contains flints. In order to reduce these materials to working condition, they have to be treated in different ways. The clay is diluted with water until it assumes the consistence of cream, when it is passed through a series of sieves, which remove all except the finest particles. The liquid thus produced is stored in cisterns. Were the clay used alone, it would be impossible to produce a vessel that would stand firing. In order to prevent cracking and distortion, it is necessary to incorporate with the clay some substance having the power to counteract its tendency to shrink. Silex, or ground flint, is the most effective agent, and is prepared by subjecting common flints to the action of fire in a kiln, which makes them purely white, and renders them quite friable. The nodules of flint are broken by hand with a hammer or in a stamping-mill, and the fragments are then placed in a large circular iron tub, where they are ground with a large admixture of water. When the flint is ground sufficiently, it is of the consistence of cream, and; after being washed, is stored in cisterns to wait further operations. The China-stone is prepared by grinding in the same way. The liquids thus got ready are mixed in certain proportions, and produce what is technically termed " slip." In that form it is too fluid to be operated upon, and a large proportion of the water must be got rid of. That used to be done by means of the "slip-kiln," in which the stuff was evaporated until it became like putty; but in the Glasgow Pottery the superfluous water is drawn off by means of Needham & Kite's filtering-machines, which effect a great saving of time and fuel. When the clay comes from the filtering-machines it is passed through a pug-mill, which works it into a homogeneous mass. Before being used the clay is "slapped" or beaten, until on being cut in any direction it exhibits a perfectly smooth and uniformly close appearance. The clay prepared as described is that from which the finer kind of common ware is made. If it be desired to produce porcelain, there must be added a certain proportion of phosphate of lime, which is obtained from burnt bones ground in the same way as the flints.

The clay is brought into shape either by "throwing" or by "pressing." The first of these processes is performed on the potter's wheel, which is simply a vertical lathe, the upper part of which consists of — a wooden disc Each thrower has two female assistants, one Of whom divides the clay into suitable pieces, while the other assists generally. Potters' wheels are usually driven by hand, but here they are impelled by steam. Taking up a lump of clay, the thrower dashes it upon the wheel, and by pressing the clay with his fingers as it spins round gives to it the desired shape. Nothing could be simpler than the thrower's operations appear to be, and yet a considerable degree of skill is required in order to produce exact work. As the vessels are formed, they are detached from the wheel by drawing a wire along the surface of the latter. In this state the vessels will not bear much handling, and they are placed in gently heated stoves until they become firm. They are then placed in a turning-lathe, and have their external surface smoothed down, and the whole body reduced to a standard thinness. Shallow vessels— such as plates and saucers—are made by laying a thin piece of clay on a moulded block attached to the wheel, and rubbing it down evenly, first by hand and then by a profile mould. This applies only to moulds of a circular shape. All others are made on suitable moulds, without the use of the wheel. Handles, spouts, and other appendages are attached, when the clay is soft, by means of "slip," with which the parts designed to come together are moistened. Handles of the simpler kind are made by pressing the clay through a die, which gives it the required form. The moulded clay is made in lengths of several feet, which are afterwards cut up into pieces of suitable size, and bent to the desired shape. Spouts, ornamental handles, &c., are made by pressing the clay into moulds.

After the articles are completed, so far as the modelling is concerned, they are set aside until they become sufficiently dry to withstand the firing process. They are then said to be in the " green state." The kilns or ovens in which the wares are baked are of a cylindrical form, and have to be strongly built of the best materials. Before being put into the ovens, the vessels are placed in strong fire- clay boxes called "seggars," the pieces being carefully arranged. The seggars are built in lofty piles, between which space is left for the heat to have free passage. The fire of the oven is gradually raised until the seggars become of a white heat. The furnaceman has to be very watchful to keep up an equal temperature, and, in order to ascertain how the baking is proceeding, he uses certain tests. From forty-eight to fifty hours is the usual time required to bake the ware. When the furnaceman is satisfied that the operation has been satisfactorily completed, he stops firing, and the kiln is allowed to cool gradually. When the vessels are withdrawn from the oven, they are called "biscuit-ware;" and as they are then quite porous and brittle, they would be unfit for use.

Articles that are to be decorated with printed designs are now passed to the printing-room. The designs are engraved on copper plates, from which they are printed upon tissue-paper. While the ink is still wet the printed side of the paper is applied to the dishes, and rubbed firmly until the colour is sent into the pores of the ware. The vessels are then rinsed in water, which removes the paper, but leaves the colouring matter. It is necessary that the oil used in the colour should be got rid of, which is done by subjecting the articles to a gentle heat in a "muffle" or small oven. The chief colour used in pottery-printing up till about twenty years ago was a blue produced from the oxide of cobalt; but now a variety of colours are employed. The printing is followed by the glazing process. For porcelain and the fine class of earthenware, the glaze used is composed of a compound of borax, ground flint, Paris white, and lead. The materials, having been finely pulverised, are mixed with water until the liquid resembles cream. The pieces of ware are dipped singly into the glaze liquid, then they are placed into the seggars on sharply pointed tripods of "biscuit" clay, and subjected to the heat of the kiln until the glazing substances becoming fused cover the surface of the articles with a film of glass, which at once strengthens and beautifies them, and renders them. impervious to the action of acids. Sometimes the printed design is enriched by enamel, laid on above the glaze and made permanent by being burned in. The highest department of the pottery is that in which the porcelain goods are painted and gilded.

There is a wide field for the exercise of artistic taste in the decoration of porcelain, and Messrs Bell & Co. have in their employment artists who seem to have a thoroughly appreciative knowledge of their business. Both in form and colouring, some of the dinner, dessert, and tea services are exquisitely beautiful. The enamel colours used by the porcelain-painters consist of metallic oxides incorporated with a fusible flux, such as borax and flint. The enamels are worked in essential oils and turpentine, and in some cases bear no resemblance to the colours they are intended to produce. Owing to this circumstance the painter is a toiler in the dark, so to speak, and is unable to judge of the quality of his work until it has under-gone a process which makes rectification of faults impossible. The enamel that produces crimson, for instance, is when applied of a dirty violet or drab hue. During the firing it varies from a brown to a dull reddish hue, and from that progressively to its proper tint"; --consequently a good deal depends upon the fireman, for should he fail to raise the proper degree of heat, or, on the other hand, exceed it, he ruins the intention of the painter. By over-heating, what was intended for crimson comes out a dull purple. Then there is great risk of the article being broken by the too sudden raising or lowering of the fire in the kilns Vicissitudes such as these make enamel painting in its higher branches an occupation requiring great patience and perseverance on the part of those engaged in it. Gold is now extensively used for decorating purposes. It is prepared by being mixed with quicksilver and flux, the result being a fine black dust, which is mixed with turpentine and oils like the enamel colours. Firing restores the gold to its proper tint, and fixes it; but when the articles come from the kiln the gilded parts are dull, and require to be well rubbed with a bloodstone burnisher before their full effect becomes apparent.

In the artistic department of the Glasgow Pottery, Parian statuary and copies of ancient vases are the chief objects produced. The most successful attempts to multiply in a cheap form the productions of high art have been made with Parian, which is simply a variety of porcelain. It is cast in moulds formed of plaster of Paris, and, for facility of manipulation, each figure or group is cast in a number of pieces, which are united while the clay is in a soft state. When the figures are put together and touched up so as to remove all traces of joinings, they are set aside until they become sufficiently dry to stand the heat of the kilns. A troublesome quality of the clay is the great extent to which it shrinks. A figure, which measures two feet in height when the clay is first poured into the mould, will measure only eighteen inches after being baked. Great experience and skill are required to produce works of this kind successfully; indeed, the difficulties which surround the manufacture prevent Parian of an artistic form from being sold at a low price.

In the pottery trade both the masters and the workmen have unions for the protection of their respective interests; but no difficulty worth recording has ever occurred in Scotland, all questions relating to work and wages being arranged by conference between the employers and employed. During the past twenty years the wages of the workpeople have, in most departments, been greatly increased, while their condition has been much improved. Piece work is the almost universal rule of the trade, and the men employed in the higher branches make from 24s. to 30s. a-week and upwards. The wages of the women are about the average of those received by factory hands. Three or four years ago the trade was put under the Factory laws; and as the reduction of juvenile labour increased the cost of production, the manufacturers were placed at a disadvantage for a time; but now machinery is being introduced, which compensates for the change.

The art of kneading common clay into rectangular blocks for building purposes seems to have been known from about the time of the Flood, though it does not appear to have been practised by the Western nations until a comparatively recent period. Pipes of clay were used by the Romans to carry off the sewage of their cities; and vases, lamps, statues, and architectural ornaments were formed of the same material. Like other arts which flourished among the ancients, working in clay became extinct for a time; but its value has been long fully appreciated, and the conversion of clay into bricks, tiles, pipes, and more artistic objects, constitutes an important branch of industry in most countries where the material exists. In England the scarcity of good building stone is compensated for by the existence of vast beds of clay, from which many millions of bricks are made annually Scotland is rich in building stone of the best qualities; but, nevertheless, many bricks are made and used, and we have also an extensive manufacture of articles of fire-clay and terra cotta. In Britain bricks did not come into use until the fifteenth century, and what are supposed to have been the first buildings of importance in which bricks were employed are still in existence. These are the Lollards' Tower of Lambeth Palace, built in 1454; and a portion of Hampton Court, built in 1514.

In 1784 an Excise duty of 2s. 6d. a-thousand was imposed upon bricks of all kinds. A subsequent Act of the same reign raised the duty and varied its amount according to certain specified varieties of bricks. The duty on common bricks was in 1835 raised from 5s. to 5s. 10d. a-thousand. Four years afterwards the distinction of size and quality in charging the duty was done away with, and a uniform rate of 5s. 10d. was levied. The tax was at all times regarded as obnoxious and as an obstruction to the improvement of the dwellings of the poorer classes; but notwithstanding repeated representations from the building trades, and the almost unanimous voice of the press against the duty, it was not abolished until 1850. Tiles were also subject to duty from 1784 till 1833. The number of bricks made in Britain in the year 1802 was 714 millions; in 1840, it was 1725 millions; and in 1850, the year in which the duty was abolished, it was 15631 millions. The number of bricks made in Scotland annually was 151 millions in 1802; and 471 millions in 1840. If the great increase in railway and other works, the rapid enlargement of towns, and other recent causes leading to amore extensive use of bricks be considered, the number now made in Scotland cannot be less than 200 millions a-year.

There are in Scotland 122 manufactories of brick, tiles, and articles of a similar nature; and in connection with these from 4000 to 5000 persons are employed. The manufactories are widely scattered over the country, the farthest north being at Banff and the farthest south at Dalbeattie; but the greater number are in Lanarkshire and Fifeshire, in which counties valuable beds of fire- clay exist. The most extensive is that of the Garnkirk Fire-Clay Company, situated on the Caledonian Railway line about six miles east from Glasgow. The company was originally formed to work coal, but, finding that extensive seams of fire-clay existed on their properuy, they took to manufacturing that material, which now almost exclusively engages their attention. The principal seam of clay is seven feet in thickness, and lies at an average depth of twenty- eight fathoms. Its quality is considered equal to that of the best Stourbridge clay. The manufactory covers upwards of six acres of ground. Raw material is brought in, and finished goods are sent out by branch railways. 300 men and boys are employed, and 200 tons of clay and about an equal weight of coal are used daily. The clay is of a dark colour, owing to the presence of a small proportion of bituminous matter; but when that is dispelled by the action of fire, only silica and alumina remain, and it is the presence of these substances in certain proportions that decides the value of the clay. As it comes from the pits the clay is entirely devoid of cohesion or plasticity; and in order to bring it into working condition, it has to be ground. very fine, and then mixed with water. Several powerful mills are used for this purpose. They consist of great iron rollers, which travel round a circular trough, and pass over the clay.

Bricks are the commonest and simplest articles made. Some ingenious machines have been devised with a view to superseding hand labour in this branch of manufacture; but as yet hand labour has the advantage of greater economy. Indeed, the item of moulding, to which only the machines could be applied, forms a small part of the labour in brick-making. At Garnkirk all the bricks are hand-moulded, which is a very simple process, and is executed with wonderful rapidity. An expert moulder, with the necessary assistants to keep him supplied with clay, and to remove the moulds as they are filled, will make from 4000 to 5000 bricks a-day. The moulder works at a table, on one end of which is a supply of clay, the other being left clear for his operations. The bricks are formed in a deal framework, resembling a small box with the top and bottom removed. A boy dips the mould in water and lays it on the table. The moulder, taking up a lump of clay, dashes it into the mould, presses it with his hands, and then removes the superfluous clay by drawing a piece of wood over the mould. His assistant, who has meantime laid down an empty mould, snatches up the full one and deposits the newly formed brick on the floor of the workshop. Thus the work goes on until the floor is covered. An important matter in the manufacture is to take care that at least 25 per cent. of the water contained in the clay is evaporated before the bricks are subjected to burning. In some places, and in the case of common bricks, it is usual to expose them in the open air before firing; but that is a precarious practice in a climate like ours, and the best plan is to dry them under cover by artificial heat. The Garnkirk brick-sheds, and the drying-rooms in the other departments, are fitted with pipes through which the waste steam of the engines is made to pass, and by the heat which these give off the bricks are brought into firing condition in the course of twenty-four hours. The bricks are fired or burned in kilns, but another mode of firing is sometimes employed in which the bricks are built in " clamps," or large square heaps with layers of fuel between. Kiln baking is the best. The kilns are built in ranges of three or four together, the smoke from all of which is drawn off by one chimney. Internally, the kilns are about 12 feet in length, breadth, and height, and the bricks are arranged in them so as to allow the fire to act freely on all. About 20,000 bricks are placed in each kiln, and the baking occupies six days and nights. Flooring tiles are made after much the same fashion.

The improvement of agriculture, and the consequent increase of draining, has within the past twenty or thirty years led to a great and increasing demand for clay drain-pipes, and many millions of these are produced in Scotland every year for both home use and exportation. They are made of common red clay—a much softer and less durable substance than fire-clay. The pipes are formed by ingeniously constructed machines, which turn them out at a rapid rate.

The Garnkirk Company do not work in common clay, and make no agricultural drain-pipes; but they have an extensive trade in the manufacture of glazed fire-clay sewage and water-pipes. As already-- stated, clay pipes were used by the Romans to carry off the sewage of their towns and villages. The city of Rome had a complete system of sewage. There were main sewers built with bricks, and branch sewers consisting of pipes of wood or clay. With the decline of the Roman Empire draining as well as many other good things went out of use, and modern minds were only awakened to the importance of the matter when thousands of persons were carried off by diseases which could be traced to no other origin than defective drainage. The importance of providing means to carry away filth from centres of population is now generally known and understood, though in some cases action is tardy. For main sewers nothing better than brick has been devised, and for branches, nothing better than clay pipes—so that, in the all-important matter of town drainage, we are no further ahead than were the people who occupied the foremost rank of civilisation two thousand years ago; and it is not long since equality could be claimed. The making of sewage-pipes is an important branch of the manufactures in clay. The pipes are formed by pressing the clay through a die. They are made in lengths of three feet, and each piece has a "collar" worked on one end. After being dried in the stoves the pipes are baked in large circular furnaces. In the course of the baking a quantity of salt is thrown on the pipes, and that combining with the silica of the clay forms a glaze which covers the entire surface. The pipes are made from two to thirty-six inches in diameter. The heaviest articles made are gas-retorts and blocks for the furnaces of glasshouses. Some of the latter weigh fifteen cwt.

Works in terra cotta are also among the productions of the Garnkirk Company. Terra cotta is an Italian term signifying baked clay, but it is commonly employed to designate such articles formed of clay as are used in architectural embellishment. It is, if properly made, one of the most durable materials that can be used in building. It was so employed by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, and by various European nations in the middle ages. Monumental vases in terra cotta have been recovered in a state of perfect preservation from tombs in which they had been placed upwards of two thousand years before, and examples are not wanting to prove the weather-resisting powers of the material. Sutton House, in Surrey, built about the year 1530, is covered with ornaments in terra cotta, which yet retain the marks of the artist's modelling tools.

Many buildings erected in Italy between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries bear terra cotta decorations in a perfect state. The lodge in Merrion Square, Dublin, was built in 1786 of granite taken from the Wicklow mountains, and ornaments in terra cotta were provided for it by an English manufacturer. It is a remarkable fact that, while the granite mouldings have yielded to the action of the weather, the terra cottas are as complete as when put up. Among other honours which belong to the name of Josiah Wedgwood is that of having revived the manufacture of terra cotta in England. When he founded his great pottery in Staffordshire, he began to make articles in imitation of the ancient works in terra cotta, and in that branch he was soon followed by a lady named Coade. The chief materials employed by them were the Dorset and Devonshire clays, with fine sand, flint, and potsherds. Most of the coats of arms and other insignia placed over the shops in London were made of this material. Though they could not deny its advantages of durability and cheapness, builders did not regard terra cotta with a favourable eye, and it made little progress until within the past ten or twelve years. Its employment in the South Kensington Museum buildings, and in the Royal Horticultural Society's Gardens, gave the public an opportunity of judging of its suitability for decorating modern edifices, and the general opinion has been favourable to ids use. A large quantity of terra cotta has been employed in the construction of the Albert Hall of Science and Art, and in many other important buildings throughout England. In Scotland our beautiful and easily carved freestone does away with the necessity for introducing terra cotta in an architectural fashion except in the form of chimney-pots, for which it is well suited; but statues, vases, and fountains made of it are now much used for the ornamentation of pleasure-grounds and gardens. A recent discussion in the Royal Institute of British Architects shows that considerable difference of opinion prevails as to what are the best materials for making terra cotta. Some eminent men in the architectural world maintain that, in order to endure the severe climate of Britain, terra cotta should be made with a hard vitreous body composed of Cornish clay, ground flint, and Cornish stone, with a glaze added. Others are of opinion that the composition of the Albert Hall and South Kensington terra cottas are the best, and the weight of argument appears to lie on their side. Messrs Alexander Wilson & Son, fire-clay manufacturers, Dunfermline, have made a great part of the terra cotta required at South Kensington, and are now engaged with the columns, capitals, cornices, friezes, and other ornamental parts. They have been providing all the ashlar work required. The clay used is of a very fine quality.

The articles made of terra cotta at Garnkirk are chiefly statues, fountains, vases, brackets, pedestals, and chimney-pots. The clay for these is carefully ground. In the firing, and subsequently, a number of articles are broken, and the remains of these are carefully preserved, and, when ground, a certain proportion of the produce is added to the fresh clay. The object of this is to reduce the "shrinkage," or tendency to contract, which the pure clay possesses. The articles are formed either by modelling or casting in moulds of plaster of Paris. Most of the statues and vases are after classical patterns.

Only a small proportion of skilled workmen are required in brick and tile works, and the great body of the men rank as ordinary labourers. They are chiefly Irishmen, and their earnings may be stated at from 15s. to 17s. a-week. Some of the skilled workmen earn as high as 30s. a-week. The fire-clay is excavated by men who have been bred as coal miners.


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