The museum is based in a Victorian Steam Driven Brickworks on a 10 acre site. There is lots to see but we think the best bits are:
•Grade 2 listed original buildings
•Big working machinery
•Steam engines – big and small
•The old kiln
•Hands-on activities for all ages
•Making a brick
•Play areas outside and in
•The history of the men who worked here and the owners
•Over 100 chimney pots!
Bursledon Brickworks closed as a working brickworks in 1974 shortly after the motorway split the site into two. Half of the site was sold by the owners, Redland, to form the location of the air traffic control centre and Swanwick Nature Reserve and the remaining part, the brickworks, was left to decay for nearly twenty years. In the early 1990’s the site was sold to Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust for a token sum of £1.00
They were saved because of their unique history. For some reason the Victorian brickworks were never updated and when they closed the men working there were working in just the same way as their Victorian and Edwardian forefathers. In industry this is very rare. The site has been recognised nationally as one of high significance and it is almost definitely the only steam driven brickworks left intact in the country – possibly in Europe.
When Redland handed the brickworks over they had to include a dowry of £700,000 as the site with its Grade 2* listing had been allowed to get into such a terrible state. The money was spent restoring the machine house, the brick making machinery and steam engine, and building a new cafe/WC block.
For several years the site was used as a centre for conservation where you could learn about all kinds of heritage crafts. Whilst the museum still do offer training, in 2007 the decision was taken to turn the buildings into an industrial museum. In 2012 the museum was awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £666,000. This grant is for three years (the project is due to end in December 2015) and was awarded to help create a fully functioning museum open on a regular basis. Half of the money has been spent on continuing the restoration of the buildings and improving disabled access throughout.
The museum is run by volunteers. They carry out most of the restoration work and help to man the site when the museum is open. There are paid people on site. The Lottery project included paying for help with managing the collections, education and running the museum. The museum is independent