June 9th 2021
How do you like your bricks?
In case you hadn't noticed, they don't just come in one colour.
If you travel to different parts of the country, it will soon become apparent that some regions have a higher proportion of a certain colour of brick.
Although any colour of brick can now be used to build, wherever you are, some areas still have a certain colour associated with them.
There are a number of reasons for that, which we'll look at below.
If you're undertaking a house building project, you may want to know whether it matters what colour you use.
And if you're aiming to keep things local, you'll want to know what the typical colours are for your part of the country.
A brick's colour is largely dictated by the clay used to make it and how the bricks are fired. They can also receive tinting and colouring, which changes things further but this didn't used to be available.
Generally, bricks will fall into one of four main categories: Reds, Buffs, Browns and Blacks/Blues.
There are many more variations within these categories but they'll often be referred to as one of the above.
Blacks and blues are acquired through tough clay and a hotter firing process.
Reds are generally softer clays.
There's a pretty simple explanation for why certain regions have more of one particular brick colour.
That is, generally when building work was done, local clay would be used to manufacture the bricks.
Transport links around the country were not what they are today and so clay bricks wouldn't be moved across the country just to satisfy your average brick builder. They would just use clay from quarries in the area.
The older brick buildings you see around you are probably a pretty good reflection of the geological landscape of the British Isles.
And the impact of the clay on the colour of the brick would have been greater back in the 18^th^ and 19^th^ century, as the manufacturing techniques weren't nearly as developed.
Over time, changes in brick manufacturing and quarrying would lead to a greater variation in the number of colours available. If you want to learn more about the brick manufacturing process, have a read of our blog on how bricks are made.
In 1850, the brick tax in Britain was abolished, removing a major barrier to industrial expansion. The brick industry now had greater resources to improve mixing and implement better firing techniques.
Blended clays, better moulding and more even firing would lead to greater consistency in colours and a wider range too.
Better quarrying techniques allowed deeper clays to be extracted, producing stronger, denser engineering bricks, many of which became desirable for their dark blue colour.
This combination of factors lead to greater diversity in the colour of bricks used in local areas. However, locally sourced clay would continue to be popular for obvious economic reasons and later, to preserve the heritage of the area.
Of course, brick transportation is no longer an issue facing most developers and home builders. The increase in individuality and the internet boosting universal trends, means planning regulators have been forced to relax when it comes to the choice of brick.
That said, the brick colour can still come into play when seeking planning permission for a house or extension.
If the colour of brick differs significantly from the colours used in the surrounding area it's still possible to face some opposition.
This is more likely to occur in places where there is a greater desire for architectural conservation, due to the historical significance of buildings in that area.
But in most places, it shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Aesthetically speaking, it usually makes for a better look when the building is a similar colour to the surroundings but if you're working on your own self-build you may want to make a statement and try something new.
So, what colours are you likely to find in some areas more than others?
We mentioned above that the main colour groups are reds, buffs, browns and blacks. As a general rule of thumb, you get darker tones in the north and paler tones in the south.
Here, we look at different regions and the colours that are unique to them.
The London Stock brick is so called because it can be found in townhouses and city buildings all over the capital.
This light-yellow toned brick which has often faded into a darker buff over time, was used extensively during the building boom of the late 18^th^ and 19^th^ centuries.
Colours can now vary from dark golds to pastel beige and will often have black flecks from ash in the clay.
This colour was originally popular because it wasn't too different from stone. It has since been replicated in places around the country as a result of being associated with the London townhouse look.
The shire counties are the breeding ground of red and orange brick buildings. The classic brick colour, Farmhouse Orange has been used for centuries on, unsurprisingly, farm buildings, country houses and more.
Staffordshire which is home to an Etrurian marl clay led to the proliferation of deep red brick houses and terraces. When fired at high temperatures this darker clay makes the imposing Staffordshire blue brick.
The Iron oxide Wealden clays of Sussex and Kent also create vivid red bricks. These are particularly associated with the south east of England as they were used in many royal buildings and Georgian townhouses.
In the 17^th^ Century particularly, these Soft Red bricks were called 'Red Rubbers' due to their soft texture being ideal for carving. This meant richer occupants who wanted to show off their status could add features and embellishments to the brickwork, which will still be seen today in many places.
Cambridgeshire on the other hand is known for distinctive white buffs. This almost sandy colour, the result of Gault clay, native to the region.
Have you ever driven through a mining or industrial town in the north and noticed a lot of grey, dark buff colours in houses? This is partly from the fumes and ash of the industrial era but will also come from the clay used.
To be in keeping with this sort of area you may want to go for a similar colour.
Of course, there are some colours that are used all over the country, regardless of the heritage.
Traditional orange wire cut bricks are used in many new housing developments and estates. They're easy to come by and fit the bill when it comes to a typical house building material.
Hopefully this article has helped to give you a good overview of the variety of brick colours out there.
But there's an easier way to find out what you can get your hands on and what's typical for buildings in your area.
Brick experts will know exactly what you're looking for. Fortunately, we know a few.
With Brickhunter being a nationwide brand, we have people all over the UK who know their regional bricks well.
Get in touch with us today and we can point you in the right direction.