THE closure of an historic brickworks synonymous with Accrington’s heritage could lead to over 80 redundancies as the credit crunch tightens its grip.

The Hanson Building Products factory, which has made the famous Nori brick for over 120 years, is to shut from the end of next month.

The red super-strength brick, used to build the foundations of the Empire State Building and Blackpool Tower, is unique to the area because of its special clay.

Bosses at the firm, which took over the former Marshall Clay Products site in Whinney Hill Road in 2005, say they are "mothballing" the site until the building trade picks up.

But they have warned that this will take at least two years and just a skeleton staff will be retained from November.

The grim news was broken to the firm’s 83 employees on Monday and negotiations between employers, staff and unions began on Wednesday.

Hanson, a subsidiary of the multi-national Heidelberg Cement group, has announced four other UK factory closures this year and is to cut production at a further four, citing a 40 per cent slump in demand for bricks.

Spokesman David Weeks explained: "Housebuilding starts are at the lowest level since the Second World War and have just ground to a halt. We’ve reached the stage where our production capacity is so great that we cannot continue making bricks when there’s no-one buying them."

He added: "We have sympathy for all those affected and will make sure that they’re looked after in terms of their redundancy packages."

Last October Hanson laid off the factory’s 23-strong night shift, while dozens of workers were told to down tools for two 28-day periods in May 2006 and January 2007.

But despite the turmoil in the industry the GMB union said the closure decision came "out of the blue".

Regional officer Graham Coxon said: "I know that there’s a recession in the building industry but bricks are still required. Since Hanson took over we have not had the greatest industrial relations but things had got back on an even keel. The staff work hard and produce a lot for the shifts they do and this is just another example of loyalty not paying off."

Some workers have been at the yard for over 35 years since leaving school.

One said: "We’ve just got to carry on and enter a consultation process but the workers are disheartened."

Hyndburn Council leader Peter Britcliffe said: "Nori brick is synonymous with the area itself and it’s so sad to see it go. It’s bad news for the people who work there but I think it’s symptomatic of what’s going on nationally. The chill economic wind is starting to have its effect on Hyndburn."

Altham councillor Miles Parkinson said: "There is a long proud history of brickworks within the Enfield area and what this factory has produced has been exported all over the world."

Huncoat councillor Paul Gott hoped the business would re-emerge in the future.

He said: "In the engineering world the Nori brick is known as a superior product because it is so hard. This is a real shame."

But Labour leader Councillor Graham Jones blamed "poor management" rather than the economy.

He said: "I have got friends who have worked there for years. The writing was on the wall for the company three or four years ago in their view. I feel for them as they are having to look for new employment, particularly in the run-up to Christmas."

The Nori closure follows hundreds of Hyndburn redundancies at Thomas Cook, Hilden Manufacturing, the Accrington tax office and Joseph Metcalf of Oswaldtwistle in recent months.


  • It is often said Accrington is known for three things – Accrington Stanley, the Accrington Pals and Accrington Brick.
  • The rare Nori brick has been manufactured in Accrington since 1887 but forms just a small part of the Huncoat plant’s brick production.
  • The factory is located in Huncoat but is within the political ward of Altham.
  • The brick’s manufacturers used to be known as the Iron Brick Company – Nori is iron spelled backwards. Two main theories exist as to why it came to be known as such. One is that the word "Iron" was painted on the factory chimney with the "I" at the bottom and the "N" at the top. Others believe the mould was put on the brick the wrong way round.
  • Before Hanson’s the brickworks were owned by the Accrington Brick and Tile Company and Marshall Clay Products.
  • Another former brickworks in Huncoat is now the Bluebell Way estate.
  • The brick industry produces three billion bricks in a year, but production is set to fall below two billion due to the housing market slump.