Brick Manufacturing in the 18 century Russia

Brick manufacturing and Brick Making in the 18th century Russia.

Procurement of building materials is the most important task facing the organizer of stone construction work. The list of basic materials included: brick, lime, white stone, quarry, tiles, sand, clay, garter and circle wood, oak ties, beds, and “iron supplies.” We would probably now refer to “iron supplies” as hardware. In the XVI-XVII centuries, all the building materials were prepared at the site well in advance. And it was done before the commencement of construction work.

illustration of brick manufacturing in old Russia, brick specimens

There was no “just in time” concept. At the beginning of the 18th century, there were no logistics companies and no trucks to haul bricks. Private construction was generally unregulated. Government interference was also nonexistent. And, as a rule, purchases and production of bricks, lime, and other materials took place both before the start of the work.

If something was lacking, then they bought additional supplies along the way but usually, everything was planned for and paid for in advance.

Scheduling of Deliveries.

The procedure for providing the so-called “goods” and “supplies” to the buildings under construction did not have a specific standard. Bricks and lime were more often made near the construction site itself.

In the course of construction work on private orders, building materials could be provided by both the customer and the contractor.

But in exceptional cases, masons who received a contract were also engaged in some purchasing. However, as a norm, materials, and work were paid for separately.

Contractors and subcontractors of the corresponding profile were involved through an agreement to organize a temporary brick factory or build a ” furnace or kiln on site.

Brick Manufacturing as a Niche.

illustration showing an early 18th century brick
An early 18th century brick

Temporary Production Sites


Usually, the contract with the specialists who created the brick production was concluded by the customer himself. But n some cases the construction contractor in his contract with the customer stipulated the procedure for the manufacture of brick, including its production in the list of obligations assumed.

As a rule, the primary task of a brick contractor hired to work on a rural estate was to build new kilns or bring existing kilns into working order. Such furnaces usually required two or three, they were made from the first portion of raw, molded by brick-makers who began to work. The brick that went to the furnaces was counted in the contract at the beginning of the century, and in the second decade of the 18th century. it was not “on account” of the ordered one.

Kiln and Furnace Construction

Regardless of whether the contractor himself made the furnaces or he used the existing ones, in the process of firing he had to monitor their technical condition. Contractor was also the production engineer.

Seasonality, a feature of brick production.



One of the peculiarities of brick production was its seasonality. The beginning of the season fell on the tenth of May. In cases where the actual brickwork was preceded by a preparatory stage, the contractors had to come to the site in advance.

The brick was always handed over ready-made. And often he immediately went into the construction of masonry. The production yield depended on the number of molders, capacity, and number of kilns on site.

Late Spring

Usually, the raw material began to be made in the tenths of May, molding, and drying took about two weeks. And firing – about 10 days or a little more.

The rate of brick production at a temporary private brick factory was about the same as at the large state “plants.” Brick production fluctuated depending on weather conditions from 8 to 10 thousand pieces of bricks per season. Two contractors came to the site with 20 brick makers in order to make about 200 000 bricks.

Thus, if the volumes of manufacture intended for the construction of manor temples most often ranged from 100 to 200 thousand pieces of bricks per season, then the number of performers involved in work in these cases ranged from 10 to 20 people.

Information is scarce.

The available scanty information about the payment of brick molders in the estates indicates that for a thousand raw materials they paid from 6 altyn 4 money to 7 altyn (that’s a currency unit).

Considering that molding and drying lasted about 14 weeks at a rate of production of a brick-maker of 10 thousand pieces, for a thousand he received an average of 9 altyn 2 money. So, if the contractor handed over a thousand baked bricks at the price of 23 altyns, the bricklayer’s payment was 40% of this figure.

Clay is important


Clay, as you know, is the main material for brick production. And it was usually taken from the estate territory. Clay was mined at the location, where bricks were made. And definitely far from the place of molding and firing. Sand and water, which are necessary ingredients for making the product, were usually also at hand. The main task of the contractor was to ensure the maximum yield of high-quality bricks.

Quality requirements for the brick were quite high .

Redbrick, considered the best, was used for laying walls and arches. It was hard and heavy.

Price Fluctuations.


Fluctuations in prices for bricks made under the conditions of a patrimonial economy occurred within noticeable limits. In the early years of the 18th-century prices were unstable. Bricks were made on a scale from 10 to 16 altyn per thousand. An altyn was a currency unit.

While the ten altyn payments were always accompanied by a food supply, while others were not always. In 1714-1725 brick was made at a price of half a dollar (thaler) and more, up to 26 altyn 4 dengas. An altyn was a currency unit. . The name meant “six”, since it was worth 6 dengas itself equivalent to three kopecks (or kopeks) in silver.

Prices of bricks increased in the first two decades of the 18th century. And compared to the 19th century, the 18th was an inflationary century.

Type of Bricks

Big bricks were more valuable. Usually, they did not indicate dimensions of the brick in the contract records. But sometimes there are some hints of how big bricks should big. Some of those records are fairly cryptic. Like to make a brick of a “big hand” or “in the sovereign’s measure”. Or “against the sovereign eagle “, or” against the sovereign of the brick, which is put to him, the great sovereign, affairs “. Or simply” big “.

Such “big” bricks were produced at Moscow factories. They had a mandatory length of 7 vershoks, a width of 3 or 4, and a thickness of 1.5-2 vershoks. A vershok is an old Russian measurement unit equal to 4.4 centimeters.

Regional Differences


Brick prices were higher near Moscow. The process of making bricks at a temporary brick factory was organizationally autonomous from the construction work itself a. And, as a rule, it was also subject to the special competence of the kiln contractor.

Now, if kiln contractor, like the stone business contractor made good briocks, then his popularity increased. As this happened he could begin to take in more orders. He earned more money. Sometimes orders increased to such volumes that he could not control personally oversee the production. Or even fulfill those orders. In such situations, he hired a subcontractor for part of his contract. And that led to the emergence of large commercial brick-making factories.


This is a technical story. It is our small contribution to the history of commerce and industry in Russia. Write to us if you want to read about some specific subject. And, obviously, that subject should somehow relate to the history of economy, commerce and industry. Now, in case if you are on the lookout for business opportunities and B2B contacts, then use the Dealing Monster. It is free and it serves as a good source of trade leads.

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