History of the Stafford Family

On 28th March, 1883, at the age of 24 years, William Stafford arrived in Sydney, Australia, from Gloucester, England. He wasn’t a convict, nor did he have assisted passage, he paid his own fare. His records show that he nominated his calling as ‘Bricklayer’. Fortunately there was an abundance of work for bricklayers in early Sydney, and William had no trouble obtaining work along Sydney’s southern beaches. However, being a rambler, he ventured to the country, probably travelling by train, and arrived at the now historic village of Carcoar. William continued his trade as a bricklayer by building culverts for the railway line between Blayney and Cowra. It was while working in Carcoar that William sought lodging and was taken in as a boarder by a Mrs. Harriet McGovern. Harriet was married to Patrick McGovern who was a teamster with a four wheel wagon and a team of Clydesdale horses. They had four children, Paddy (junior), Jimmy, May and Charlotte. Tragedy struck early and Patrick was killed, run over by his wagon. Sometime later, on 18th August, 1887, William married Harriet. Two of Harriet’s sons, Paddy (junior) and Jimmy helped as pug boys for a brick maker in Carcoar who was making and burning hand moulded sandstock bricks. A future of Stafford-McGovern brick making had evolved.

It is not known exactly when, but some ten years after the Stafford-McGovern marriage, the family moved to the Eden-Monaro area. This union was to produce another five sons and a daughter, Robert (Bob), William (Bill), Lot, Alfred (Alf), Leonard (Len), and Martha. With ten children the family soon became a formidable workforce.

William eventually purchased 100 acres of land at the top of Bellbird Hill, on the northern side of Eden. The land had arable land for growing maize and garden crops, as well as a deposit of clay that was suitable for brickmaking. Due to the weight of bricks and the distance for transport bricks, in those days horse drawn wagons, bricks were usually made ‘on-site’ where required. William manufactured many bricks for the gold mining area around Yowaka. Cost £1-2-6 per 1000 ($2.25).

The following is an extract from Ron Stafford’s book ‘Foundations of the Past’.

The years 1897 to 1914 were busy years for the Stafford and McGovern brickmakers. They supplied bricks for the construction of Churches, Hotels, Cheese Factories, and commercial buildings and, of course, millions of bricks went to the construction of housing. With primitive transport and dreadful roads it was common practice for the brickmaker to make bricks on site. This meant an on-site inspection of the property with the owner. First step was to prospect for suitable clay, next was to see if there was wood available to burn the bricks. Sand would be needed to mould the bricks and water to soak the clay. If all were available, a price would be quoted and, if accepted, work would commence. The brickmaker always had his own horses that became accustomed to the job of rotating the pug-mill. So the plant would be loaded onto the wagon or cart, and the journey from wherever, Bellbird, Cooma, Bega or Cobargo, to the site would commence. The plant would comprise of tools such as picks, shovels, crowbar, wheelbarrows etc. and of course camping gear. When the family was small, the kids had very little opportunity to attend school because for much of their school age years they were on isolated brickmaking sites. My father, Lot Stafford, often passed a remark that to be a good brickmaker you needed “a strong back and a weak head”. He did go to school at Pambula for a short time. Having arrived on site with the gear, work would commence on the construction of a pug-mill. The turf and top soil would be removed from where the clay was to be dug out; further work was to make hacks to dry the soft bricks on. The kiln, to burn the bricks in, would be built from green (unburnt) bricks. (See photo of pugmill, hacks pits, etc). Brick moulds were made by a firm in Sydney and were said to be constructed from oak timber. A skilled moulder could mould 800 bricks per day and, after moulding, each soft brick was taken from the mould and gently placed on a board and onto a long wheelbarrow which was named an “off bearing” barrow. These specially built barrows held forty green (soft) bricks, which were then wheeled to the drying hack. A hack was constructed by digging two parallel drains about 3 feet apart, with the clods of earth from the two drains being placed inward to form a platform. The hack could be any length up to seventy or eighty yards. When the first, or bottom row, of bricks had dried sufficiently after a day or so, further rows were added until a maximum height of seven or so was reached (see photo). The green bricks had to be covered against rain during the drying period and in winter against frost because the water content in the green brick could freeze causing the brick to shatter. Strong winds could also cause the bricks to dry too quickly causing cracks to develop. To counter the wind, long blankets were made by sewing together potato or maize sacks with packing needles and twine and placing the bag blankets over the bricks. Blankets could be 20 feet long on the rows of bricks. It was quite common to have to cover the green bricks in wet weather by rolling malthoid along the rows. The malthoid needed to be weighed down to prevent the wind blowing it off. Hack poles were split saplings placed at required intervals and, often, many were required. A round sapling was prone to rolling. After the bricks had dried, which varied according to seasonal weather conditions, they were picked up and wheeled by barrow to the kiln site. The size of the kiln depended on the quantity of bricks to be supplied. It could be a square kiln with three fire holes each side or a rectangle with 4 fire holes each side. The external walls of the kiln were built from green bricks. If a second batch were required, the wall from the first batch was turned around and the opposite side burnt in the second batch. Wood for burning the bricks in most cases of “jobs on site” was supplied by the customer. Where bricks were burnt at permanent sites, the brickmaker purchased the wood from timber suppliers. The humble brick weighed approximately three tons per 1,000 and took approximately 3 cubic yards of clay per 1000, and approximately 1 cord of wood per 1000 to burn. A cord of wood was a stack of timber cut into 5-foot lengths and stacked 5 feet along the ground and 5 feet high.

Lot Stafford decided to move to the Bega area. He lived in Walker Street and set up making bricks at Kisses Lagoon. Toward the end on the 1920-1930 decade motor transport was taking over from horse and bullock drawn vehicles. The handmade brickmakers had practically phased out making bricks on site and were setting up brickyards on permanent sites. Lot moved from Kisses Lagoon to Tathra Road, on land rented on Taylors Farm property, near Penuka swamp. With drying sheds erected and the brickmaking in production everything was going well until rains came and a flood resulted. The water covered the brickmaking area and was 4 feet deep throughout the house. 67,000 bricks were destroyed. Not long after another flood came and it was decided that the site was unsuitable. Land was purchased a few hundred meters away and production began on the current site. Lot’s son Ron was later to take over the business as it moved toward a more mechanized industry.

Over the next 50 years new down draught type kilns were built, several machines were purchased and millions of bricks were manufactured. In 1964 a Koyo Concrete Block making machine was purchased and installed, and then in 1973 a larger Columbia Model 8 was purchased with the ability to manufacture bricks, blocks and paving. Around the 1980’s it was decided that due to the difficulty with obtaining clay for bricks and wood to fire the kilns it would be wise to venture into other areas of building supplies. A large shed was built at Kalaru and builder’s hardware was purchased. On 13th April, 1990, the last batch of clay bricks was burnt, one of the last brickworks in Australia to burn bricks entirely with wood. In November 1992 a larger still Columbia Model 22 was purchased from a New Zealand company and shipped to Kalaru where it was installed.

In September 1989 the business of Bega Ready Cut was purchased. At the time of purchase the business was a member of the Homesaver group run by John Danks & Son. After the acquisition both stores, Bega and Kalaru had access to the Danks Warehouse and the catalogues that they ran. A few years later Danks formed the Home Hardware group of which we became members. By 1997 we had become disillusioned with the direction the Home Group was heading and were one of the first stores to join the new HBT (Heavy Building Traders) group. The group later changed to be called Hardware and Building Traders. Some stores, our Kalaru store included, have painted up to a high profile colour with the H (for Hardware) logo. The group now boasts over 600 independently owned hardware stores across the country.

At Kalaru we now carry a huge range of timber and building products, along with our brick, block and paving manufacturing plant. In Bega, at our Tarraganda Lane store, we manufacture quality aluminium showers screens, windows, shop fronts and doors.