Stop by our tent at the Urbanna Oyster Festival – Brick Building 101

November 5, 2022 @ 12:00 pm

The museum will be at the Urbanna Oyster Festival this year with Jenga wood blocks to help teach the kids about colonial brick building patterns used here in Middlesex buildings. (November 4th and 5th)

   Bring out your inner child and learn a skill at the same time.

Brick was a popular and important material to build with in the 1700s. It was sturdy, lasted a long time, and made from materials that Middlesex had a lot of: clay and sand for the bricks; sand and oyster shells for the mortar. Brickmaking and bricklaying were two trades in which immigrants, indentured workers, and enslaved craftsmen could all excel. It was one of the Virginia colony’s earliest trades. 

In the 1700s, bricks were made by hand by loading clay mixed with sand and ashes into wood frames. They would dry them in the frames and then remove them to bake them in a hot kiln as a firing. Brick making and bricklaying was learned through an apprenticeship and was hard physical work. One needed a good eye to keep all of the bricks lined up straight when the wall was built.

Running bond: Bricks are staggered by 1/2 brick from the course above and below, in a classic one-over-two pattern. A simple, structural bond used for basic wall construction. All bricks are laid lengthwise, with the long sides, or “stretchers” facing out.

Common bond: Running bond pattern with intermittent courses of “header bricks” (bricks laid with their ends facing out). Often used for double-thickness walls so that header bricks are flush on the ends with two stretchers laid side by side.

English bond: Similar to common bond but alternating running bond (with all stretcher bricks) and all header bricks with each course.

Flemish bond: Stretcher and header bricks alternating in each course.

Stack bond: All stretcher bricks laid in a grid of identical courses. Joints are not staggered between courses. A non-structural bond used primarily for decorative interior walls.

Stop by our tent at the Oyster Festival and try your hand at brick building. Then take a walk around Middlesex. The Historic Middlesex County Courthouse, the Historic Clerk’s Office, the Old Tobacco Warehouse, Lansdowne, Wilton, Hewick… all wonderful examples of brick bonds that have stood the test of time and weathered our Middlesex summers and winters. Some for over 300 years. Now that’s endurance!