The Tilery was situated just off the eastern side of the Skipton to Grassington Road (B6265) about three miles from Skipton, and just after Scale House. The tile kiln was used to manufacture tiles for drainage and therefore for improvement of the rough pastures after enclosure of common land. In Rylstone the enclosure of four stinted pastures was in 1772. No documentation of the tile kiln has been discovered, but it is thought that it would have been in operation between 1790 and 1850.
In 1971, when a programme of field study was discussed for the Friends of the Craven Museum, Skipton, an investigation of this site was suggested. The site was then excavated by Dr Raistrick and a group of local historians. Below is a photo of the group excavating the site, and an extract from the article which appeared in the Craven Herald on the 3rd October 2009 about the work of the Friends.
'In those early days there was a strong interest in archaeology and in 1971, under the leadership of Dr Raistrick, members worked on the excavation of Rilston (Rylstone) Tile Works. The kiln uncovered proved to be a Scotch kiln and specimen tiles and bricks were collected for the museum.'
An abridged version of the 1971, unreferenced report which followed the excavation (given to Cynthia Rymer by Helen Lefevre, one of Dr. Raistrick’s students) follows:
Dr. Raistrick and colleagues' report
The road just past Scale House has a longish hill known locally as 'Tilery Hill' (Tile Kiln Hill or Tyke Hill). The large pasture on the east of this rise has been known occasionally as 'Tilery Field', though at a sale in Sept. 29th 1898 it was described as 'Two Shed Meadow'. Near the centre of it (SD971573), in a part called at the time of the enclosures 'Higher Far Bark', which was part of the common pastures of Rilston, there is now a very old and decrepit small cabin, stone built and with a stone slate roof. In this part of the field which rises rapidly to Bark Brow and to the pre-turnpike road to Rilston, there is a continuous line of grass grown depressions and low mounds, continuing into the Bark, which when a survey of pre-enclosure Rilston was being made a few years ago were put down as old clay or gravel quarries with their spoil heaps. A recent re-examination with a few trials have shown an extensive area of shallow clay pits in a thick plaster of boulder clay which has many pockets of an excellent, fairly plastic clay. Just below the line of quarries and within a few feet of the cabin, there was a larger spoil heap standing in a large excavated hollow of much more regularity than the clay pits. When some of the turf from this heap was removed fragments of brick and drainage tile were found and there seemed enough evidence to suggest this was the possible kiln site.
It soon became evident that the heap did in fact cover some kind of building and that the greater part of the heap was made up of bricks and tiles, a few complete and in good condition, but the vast majority broken fragments. The building was of brick but on its west side there was a 27 inch sandstone wall of massive, roughly squared masonry in complete contact at all points with the brick wall of the kiln. The only purpose surmised for this wall was strengthening support for the brick wall of the kiln, and possibly, some measure of insulation.
The building is a rectangle, ten feet long with a width not easily determined as the east wall has been destroyed. If we accept the massive wall as the 'side', then the two end walls have the firing places in them, three on each end and all six identical.
Inside the building this side wall is unbroken by any kind of opening. It goes down to a strong floor of lime mortar on which a working floor now rests made of the rectangular hollow draining tiles set on edge in lime mortar. This floor is very even and in good condition.
Each end wall is three feet thick and pierced by at least three arched openings, nine inches wide and two feet to the inside of the crown of the arch, the floor of these long openings being the same level as the inside floor. The floor is made of brick and the arch is framed in fire bricks, heavily fused by intense or prolonged heating. These archways are the firing holes, allowing a fireplace eight inches wide and three feet long. Two cast iron fire bars were found. They would fit lengthwise in the firing holes. Below the bars the smooth floor is that of the ash hole which had a stop at the inner end.
The whole building is set in an excavated area which leaves good working room in front of the firing holes and a wider work space at the east end in which there were possibly the loading openings. A common type of brick kiln at the beginning of the 19th century was a rectangular, open topped kiln (or rarely covered with an arched roof) generally about 13 feet long and 10 feet wide and about 12 feet high. The walls incline slightly inward towards one another. Bricks are placed on flat arches or hollow floor, and the kiln when lit, is covered with pieces of tile or brick. A light is put on for two or three days to dry the bricks without cracking them and then the fire is brought to a strong heat. The flame from the fires with hot air and smoke makes its way up through the piled bricks and as it breaks through at the top the maker covers parts with soda or clay, to force the heat to come out somewhere else. Thus the heat is directed in turn through every part of the piled bricks. The tile maker continues until all the top is earthed in, the firing continues until the top sinks due to the shrinking of the baked clay. The fire holes are then stopped with old bricks and clay and the closed kiln allowed cooling slowly for several days. The main burning will have taken two or three days, so the whole process from lighting to drawing will have been about nine days, and the loading might have been three days more. In addition acquiring the clay and forming bricks or tiles would take several more days. A kiln of this large size would take about 20,000 bricks, and the kiln excavated would have taken that number of drain tiles. They are of rectangular section 4"x 3"x 8½" with a rectangular hole through them 1¼" X 2 ¼".
Times Past article
A further article on the Tilery appeared in the Winter 2005-2006 edition of Times Past and this is reproduced below by kind permission of Bordley, Cracoe, Hetton and Rylstone Local History Group.