The early years
The working methods employed in De Rijswaard a century ago were entirely different to those of today.
For instance, there were ‘moddertrappers of -kruiers’ or mud treaders/ hoddies, who carried the prepared clay in a hod – in their bare feet – to the moulder’s bench on their shoulders. The so-called ‘aanschuivers’ had to make sure that the moulds were washed, sanded, filled and struck off. The ‘stokers’ had the dangerous task of operating the kiln, while ‘hittenrijders’ were employed to ride the draught horses used in the factory. These hittenrijders were later replaced by the drivers of steam locomotives, dredgers, diesel locomotives and draglines. The bricks were pressed using a steam-powered press, and then dried in drying sheds. In the early days, the bricks were fired in an old-fashioned field kiln. However, this was replaced by an intermittent kiln in 1929, while the first tunnel kiln was commissioned in 1963.
Ups and downs
Throughout a history spanning over a century, the brick factory has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs.
For instance, the Germans bombed the factory during WWII. As was the case with all other factories along the banks of the River Dender, De Rijswaard was shut down during the war: There was no coal to fire the kiln, its fifteen horses were requisitioned and the workforce was mobilised. After the war, De Rijswaard was gradually transformed into a modern brick factory. In 1954, it acquired the machinery to dry its bricks, and then a fully automated press was installed in 1957, while a new extension comprising a clay store and a mixing plant was built around 1962.