Brick spotting is one of the least expensive, needs minimal equipment and enjoyable pastimes you can have. Other than recommending a pair of gloves and some form of tool to help you turn bricks over – I use a slater’s hammer, cost about £20.00 – that’s all you need, the rest is simply legwork and getting outdoors into town, city or countryside and keeping your eyes peeled.
So, how do you go about actually finding bricks? The first thing is to head for a likely location. Any site where buildings such as factories, collieries and mines, demolitions sites and the like are often ideal, as are many stretches of coastline, particularly near built-up areas or industry, past or present and landfill sites often provide rich pickings. Though any stretch of beach may be worth a look. I once found a rare brick on an isolated beach with difficult access, miles from anywhere, the brick I suspect, having been used as a weight for a lobster or crab creel that had washed up on the beach.
Once on location, I usually search in a grid pattern, walking a line and scanning from side to side, then once the line has ended, I’ll take a couple of long strides to the side and follow another line back the way I’ve just come. If there are a lot of bricks, say on a rubble tipped beach, it can be fruitful to walk back the same line but in the opposite direction. From experience, I’ve found that bricks you missed on the first pass can be spotted on the return pass.
Of course, brickmarks are not always visible and are often facing away from you and need turned over to reveal, hopefully, another new brickmark for the collection. This is where I use my slaters hammer, using the pointed pick-shaped end, it makes turning bricks over so much easier than by hand. It can also be used to dig a brick out from the ground as well as chipping of any mortar adhering to the brick, perhaps obscuring the all-important brickmark.
When searching any given location for bricks it can take a while to get your eye in. A brick is a fairly distinctive shape and that’s obviously what you start looking for. However, bricks come if different colours and shades, shapes and textures and each of these can be a clue to a brick different from the more common “background” bricks at a location. I’ve been to sites where almost all the bricks were SHOTTS but once I started looking closer, others started to appear, so take your time. You should also be looking for half-bricks, as well as the lettering that creates the brickmark.
As a rule, I always start taking photographs as soon as I find a brickmark, even the common ones. With a new brickmark, even if only a half-brick or less, perhaps with just a fragment of the brickmark showing, I’ll also take a photograph. It might be the only find of that type you encounter. If you find a better example later, you can photograph that as well and not use the earlier, less complete example. Good hunting!
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