Bakers & Brickmakers!
My 3xgreat grandfather, James Shingles, came from a long line of bakers. Obviously not content to follow the family trade, James boarded the barque Saxon in 1849 bound for Australia. By the time he arrived he was listed as ‘Gone ashore at own request’.
Whether James learnt his trade by accompanying fellow passenger and his future father-in-law, John Price, into the employ of Joseph Raleigh or not, he became one of the pioneer brick makers when he started a brickyard in Sydney Road, Brunswick in 1851. Thus began another long line of Shingles tradesman but this time it was brickmaker!
For one of his jobs, James received £14 10s per 1000 for the bricks he supplied to a Mr Hugh Glass, probably for the building of Flemington House which was valued in the 1850’s at £60,000. Mr Glass was a local speculator, squatter and merchant who had immigrated from Ireland in 1840 and was reported to be the richest man in Victoria by 1862.
By the time he married Mary Ann Price in 1853, James was earning £8 – £9 a week from his trade.
It is thought that the Shingles move to Victoria’s Gippsland region in 1867-8 was at the suggestion of Mary Ann’s brother, Thomas Price, who had settled in the Sale area around 1861 and was a brick maker himself.
James began making bricks at Greenhill, Bundalaguah midway between Sale and Maffra. He made around 40,000 bricks for Mr. Schroeder and Mr. A Clark.
After this job was complete, James moved his business to Gibney Street, Maffra using materials from the swamp near Cooks Hill. Made by hand the bricks were stacked into long sheds then put in the kiln to bake. This process taking weeks to complete.
James was initially joined in the business by sons Frederick James and John Thomas, but working at the brick yard became a rite of passage for future generations. The brickyard produced the bricks that made many of the buildings in Maffra including the Post Office, Macalister Hotel and most of the churches.
At the inaugural Maffra Show in 1888, James took first prize for the best 50 bricks and followed it up with another win in 1889.
It was noted in their 60th wedding anniversary article in The Maffra Spectator in 1913 that:
Since Mr Shingles had come to the town then composed of a few small houses, he had made nearly all the bricks. In fact he practically built the town, and since then he and his descendants had had some say in populating it. (Laughter.)
The brickworks closed down in the 1950’s as the clay had started to dry up and they were having to cart some from Traralgon some 60km away. It is also thought that the town’s folk were getting feed up with the noise as they blasted the clay out of the ground with explosives!