Bristol building materials

Bristol building materials

While wandering around Bristol, looking at the underlying geology, I have been struck by the many areas that have used ‘slag building blocks’. These are distinctive because they have a shiny cast surface and ripples that are similar to those caused by pouring cooled golden syrup. They are also mainly black with, sometimes, a purple hue.


Bridge Valley road parapet

I have seen these in Bridge Valley Road, Ashton Court boundary wall, similarly in Blaise Castle estate. I asked the members of the Facebook Group – ‘Bristol and Somerset Folklore and History, for some help and they, as always, have been very helpful. One response was to tell me about The Black Castle at Arnos Vale which was built from these blocks – hence the name. Here are some details:-

“The Castle is built from pre-cast black copper-slag blocks from Reeve’s foundry at Crew’s Hole. They were cast from waste, solving the problem of disposing of the large amounts of waste produced by the industry, and made more profit for the brassworks.[3] Reeve went bankrupt in 1775 and his house and business were sold to a member of the Tonge family, who were important slave traders.” Wikipedia.

Black Castle

The Black Castle at Arnos Vale

There is also a suggestion that they were used in the construction of St Simon’s church (now Greek Orthodox), strangely enough located in Baptist Mills, spitting distance from the old Brass Mills !

There is an old book that refers to them and where they came from:’s+Hole,+Bristol&source=bl&ots=Vn6doZK5Wp&sig=rlw6IHoIIzzS0Wlf-tUbPmdytXo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiq3IK84rbNAhUJLMAKHaq_Dd8Q6AEIOzAF#v=onepage&q=Reeves%20copper%20foundry%20at%20Crew’s%20Hole%2C%20Bristol&f=false

Suggest page 140…

Can you imagine 49 foundries on the River Avon at Crew’s Hole, all dumping their slag in the river. It must have been a very noisy and dirty place to work and must have despoiled the country for miles around.

I have recently found out that these building blocks are know as, “Bristol Blacks.”


©Richard Kefford 2016

My Kindle books are on Amazon at:

One thought on “Bristol building materials

  1. Pingback: Steve Woods | Around the block history lesson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s