The airhorn went three times and within moments, the skyline in Stewartby, Bedfordshire changed forever. Today (26 September 2021) the four remaining chimneys from the former brickworks were demolished one by one to make way for 1000 new homes and a business park.
The four chimneys, which were 230ft (70m) tall, were demolished due to “safety concerns”.
DSR Demolition have been involved in decommissioning of the former brickworks since 1989, and were tasked to bring down the chimneys. Around 10lbs of high explosive was used for each one. Guidance holes were made to ensure that the chimneys fell in the right direction.
Ahead of the demolition, Simon Ogden, managing director of DSR Demolition, told reporters that while people are connected to the chimneys, they are at the end of their life and it is time to move on, he said:
“It’s out with the old and in with the new, and let’s get the site developed and get some housing on it, we desperately need housing.
“They’re redundant, they’re old chimneys and they need a lot of maintenance. It’s a lot of money to keep them up.
“They’re just decayed and they just blight the site, so you can’t develop the site with them [here].”
An exclusion zone was set up ahead of the demolition, with residents and bystanders viewing the spectacle from the village’s playing fields.
As well as many residents in Stewartby and the wider Marston Vale area, the demolition was opposed by the village’s Parish Council and Historic England, as the chimneys should be “protected for the heritage of the whole of Bedfordshire”.
Bedford Borough Council said that public safety “must come first.”
The site’s developer, Cloud Wing, said its plans will revitalise the former industrial site, bring back jobs and build homes to create new, sustainable communities firmly rooted in the area’s history.
As part of the proposals, a new replica chimney with ‘Stewartby’ written down it will be reproduced on site to honour the heritage of the site and workers of the London Brick Company.
Renold Tang, director at Cloud Wing said:
“Today the chimneys coming down from the landscape does not mean that this is the end, this is just a new chapter for Stewartby.
“There is going to be a replacement chimney. We have already paid a deposit to make sure that it is built, and it is our honour to do so.”
Representatives of the Hanson Group, and family members of the Stewart Family were among those who pressed the buttons.
In 1936, the brickworks produced 500 million bricks a year and employed 2,000 people. However, in 2008 the brickworks closed after being unable to reach the limits set for sulphur dioxide emissions. A timeline for the Stewartby Brickworks can be found here.
In 1980, 18 chimneys at the Coronation Brickworks (also known as ‘Chimney Corner’) in Kempston Hardwick (part of the Stewartby Parish) , were demolished simultaneously, which set a Guinness World Record.