Joseph Fenwick Owen - brickworks, Hill End

Local builder's role in the building of Hill End Hospital

By Catrin D

Hill End Chapel showing brickwork
xJasonRogersx's photostream on Flickr

When Hill End Hospital was founded in 1899, local Wheathampstead builder Joseph Fenwick Owen established a brickworks on the edge of the site to supply bricks for the hospital buildings.Using local boulder clay the bricks supplied by Owen’s brickworks were well known for their excellent quality.

For more information on the Owen brickworks, please visit Hertfordshire Genealogy

This page was added on 04/06/2010.

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  •  The notion that Owen’s supplied the bricks to construct the asylum has ingrained itself in local legend – I even remember my parents conveying this detail in the 1950s when I used to play around the old pits. I would dearly love to have this information confirmed with appropriate evidence, but the circumstances appear to prove otherwise. Work began on the asylum c1896 for an opening in 1899. This would mean that bricks would needed to have been available to the builders at the latest in 1897. Owen’s did not open on their site until 1899, as confirmed by their 30th birthday there in 1929 (Herts Advertiser). At that event they made no mention of the asylum project, which would have undoubtedly been their largest, although other smaller buildings using their products were triumphed. It is possible that bricks from their Welwyn works could have been used. The first annual report of the Asylum’s Visiting Committee, published in 1900, (HALS) stated that the building was constructed using Leicester Reds, a popular brick at the time for institutional buildings. If evidence to the contrary is available, that would be great; otherwise I think the official report should be deferred to.

    By Mike Neighbour (04/09/2010)
  • I have been intrigued by this relationship between the hospital and Owen’s for years. In fact, it became a local legend in the Fleetville area that Owen’s bricks were used for the hospital – and I would like to believe it if the evidence is there to support it. In fact, building on the asylum started in 1886/7 and Owen’s did not take over the nearby site until 1899, a fact they themselves acknowledged when celebrating their thirtieth birthday in 1929. The first annual report of the asylum visiting committee, detailing a huge range of building details, stated that the contract was for Leicester Reds, which is the main reason the railway siding off the branch line had to be completed by 1897. Owen’s may have supplied smaller quantities of their own bricks for smaller projects on the site or for later adaptations, but in all the research I have carried out so far no evidence has come to light. I think that the Hertfordshire Genealogy website is cautious, and I’m not sure that it is actually saying the Owen’s bricks went into the asylum, although I admit it appears to. If anyone can bring forward some evidence I would be delighted.

    By Mike Neighbour (29/08/2010)