‘Bricks and Mortar’ Symposium, Spanish Town

St Catherine Council Chamber (Brent Fortenberry)

A symposium exploring the development of a brickworks in Jamaica and associated matters was organised by the FGSJ.  The symposium took place on 9th March during the FGSJ’s visit to Jamaica.  [For information about assistance given to other buildings see posts under Buildings at Risk and Projects.]  The symposium was held in the Council Chamber of St Catherine Parish Council Offices in Spanish Town.  The council building sits on one side of Emancipation Square.  Built in 1762, it originally housed Jamaica’s House of Assembly.  The Council Chamber proved comfortable without air-conditioning due to being oriented north-south, sheltered by a deep arcade to both east and west, and having generous natural cross ventilation – a good exemplar of low energy environmental control.

Dr Ivor Conolley speaking at ‘Bricks & Mortar’ Symposium (Brent Fortenberry)

Archaeologist, Dr Ivor Conolley, has enthusiastically taken up the idea of establishing a brickworks on the island.  Bricks have not been made in Jamaica since the 1960s.  

Repairs to historic brick structures rely on sourcing a locally made brick using Jamaican Clay and using lime based mortar in place of concrete bricks and cement mortars which, when used, damage buildings.  The ability to produce bricks on the island would lead, naturally, to their availability and use in modern structures for instance as architectural roofing tiles and paving.  It should also reduce, if not eliminate, the theft and re-use of bricks from standing historic buildings. 

The FGSJ brought Anthony Minter from the Bulmer Brickworks in Suffolk, and René Rice from Cliveden Conservation to Jamaica to advise Dr Conolley and to present at the symposium. Other speakers were: Brent Fortenberry (Texas A&M University), Ann Hodges (Wattle and Red Earth Collective), Sherene James-Williamson (University of the West Indies), and Evelyn Thompson (Jamaica National Heritage Trust). Peregrine Bryant chaired the event which was attended by around 50 people including representatives of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Jamaican History Society, and the Georgian Society of Jamaica.

We were kindly hosted and facilitated by the St Catherine Parish Council, specifically by Bill Poinsett, Spanish Town Heritage Tourism Project Coordinator.

Anne M Powers