Clay, Brick & Lime

In the southwest corner of the Lough an industry based on clay extraction developed during the mid 19th century. Here good quality red clay was in abundance in an area stretching as far as Coalisland to the north and Dungannon to the south.  Pottery and earthenware, brick, tiles, and fireclays were produced in the Coalisland area for local sale and export via the Coalisland Canal.

Pottery and earthenware manufacture in the Coalisland area was undertaken by small, family based pottery firms, each firm employing two to three potters along with labourers and kiln men. The clay was usually extracted on land belonging to the owner or leased to them for that purpose. While the local clay formed the main body of all wares, white clay imported from Toome was used for decoration on the finer table wares and glazing was achieved with lead ore imported from Belfast and Dublin. The earliest mention of a pottery in the Coalisland area is in September 1759 when the Belfast News Letter noted the founding of a new pottery at Port Tallyhoa on the Tyrone Canal. By the 1830’s there were nine potteries operating in this area. Although the industry continued into the 20th century by the 1940’s pottery was no longer being produced and the firms instead focused on the production of flower pots and press moulded drain pipes. Competition from cheaper plastic products in the 1960’s saw the demise of the potteries as a major industry.

The clay industry was also to be found on the southern and northern shores as brickfields were established to the south west of Maghery and along the banks of the Lower Bann at Toome. Anthony Martin recalls the brickfields which were situated to the southwest of his home on Bannside Road, Toomebridge. As a child he and his friends would climb over the clay heaps and collect the clay pipes ande other items long discarded by the men who dug the clay. Unfortunately the brickfields were levelled in the late 20th century as was the associated factory: an industrial centre now occupies the site. However, brickbuilding continues to this day in the Creagh townland and also at Tyrone Brick factory which is situated outside of Coalisland.

Lime was used as a fertiliser since medieval period if not earlier. It was quarried as limestone and the stones then burnt to form lime which was spread on the ground.  Very little is know about the production of lime as an industry but where it was not readily available it had to be imported into a parish such as those of Glenavy and Aghagallon. Lime quarrying was carried out on the western shore in the parishes of Cluntoe and Ballyclog and the lime was brought to Stewartstown for burning and sale. Gravel was also used for improving the soil and gravel quarries were located through out the Lough area. On the southern shore, lime was bought in Loughall.