All in all, it’s just another 3,500 bricks in the wall for Jedburgh collector

Jedburgh brick collector Mark Cranston. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS
Jedburgh brick collector Mark Cranston. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

A collector of bricks has now amassed so many he’s almost halfway to having enough to build a house.

It’s now just over three years since the Southern first shone a spotlight on Paul Cranston’s colossal collection of bricks, and since then he’s added another 1,500 to the 2,000 he had at the time, and that number is going up every week.

Jedburgh brick collector Mark Cranston. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

Jedburgh brick collector Mark Cranston. Photo: Katielee Arrowsmith/SWNS

That tally of 3,500, kept in a garden shed at his Jedburgh home, is almost half the 8,000 estimated to be needed to construct the average home.

Mark, 56, took up that unusual hobby in 2010 after finding a white painted brick from a former colliery while looking for a doorstop for his shed.

That discovery inspired the retired police sergeant to look into the history of the brick, and his passion for the building materials grew from there.

Over the last nine years, Mark has amassed what might well be an unparalleled collection of rare bricks from all over Scotland, England, Wales and abroad.

The father of two stores them in his garden shed but has had to extend it to accommodate his ever-expanding collection.

It now measures six metres by three metres and has shelves, like a library, to store his bricks.

Mark said: “I was just looking for a brick to keep the garage door open, and the first one I picked up had a name on it.

“The first brick was the one from Whitehill Colliery in East Ayrshire which piqued my interest. When I looked it up online, I was surprised by the history behind bricks.

“I started to see there were a lot more bricks out there.

“They were once outside, but I’ve got a shed now where they’re all inside and dry. But I’m running out of space and it’s not ideal. I need to get bigger premises.

“Ultimately, the aim is a museum where people can come and see them all.

“Everything else like pottery, glass and iron go on display, but not the humble brick.”

Among his collection is a firebrick salvaged from the SS Politician, the County Durham-built cargo ship that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides in 1941 while transporting 28,000 cases of malt whisky, inspiring the 1947 Compton Mackenzie novel Whisky Galore, made into a film in 1949 and 2016.

He also has a brick retrieved following the demolition of the execution block at Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison.

In his collection too is a Scottish-made brick from an old gold mine in the US.

The oldest brick he has is a drainage tile dating back almost two centuries to 1833.

He said: “There was a prison warden who’d retired from Barlinnie and had rescued a few bricks stamped ‘Wilson and Son, Barlinnie’.

“They’ve had a few notable characters passing them over the years.

“Each brick tells a story.”

Mark set up the website Scottish Brick History, a database of thousands of bricks gathered by him and other collectors and enthusiasts, in 2014.

He said: “The website includes bricks I’ve found and bricks people have found that I don’t have.

“I really wanted it to be a one stop for all, and it’s well used.

“The idea was that every Scottish brick mark will be on there.

“There’s no known total, but we’ve over 3,000 Scottish brick marks. There’s new bricks every week or month.”

To add to his collection, Mark seeks out old buildings being demolished and scours old brickwork sites, rivers and shorelines.

He also has hundreds of contacts in Scotland and abroad keen to notify him about finds and tip him off about building demolitions and useful locations for sourcing centuries old rubble.

Mark said: “Over time, I’ve met other folk out and about, online and through email.

“They look for bricks for me or send me photographs and drop me hints of buildings coming down.

“There’s also other people who’ve once had a brick collection and donated them to me.

“I’ve got over 3,000 Scottish bricks and about 500 English, Welsh and foreign bricks. Scotland was a huge producer, and it was massive for the UK.”

Mark has racked up around three-quarters of his collection via his own efforts and the rest from donations.

Collecting is a family affair too as wife Karen, 47, son Jonathon, 28, and daughter Hannah, 30, have also got involved.

He said: “My son and daughter have been out and picked up a brick here or there, and my wife tolerates it, and she’s also been out on brick hunts with me before.

“I’ve never been out on a trip and not come back with anything.

“It takes up a lot of time, but it’s a passion.”

Here are some of Mark’s many bricks ...