The building blocks of history

Mark Cranston of Jedburgh with his collection of Scottish Bricks.
Mark Cranston of Jedburgh with his collection of Scottish Bricks.

A Jedburgh man who has collected an amazing 2,000 bricks has been shortlisted for a major heritage award, for keeping alive an important chunk of Scottish history.

Mark Cranston, of Scottish Brick History, is one of three entries in line for the Investigating and Recording category of the 2016 Scottish Heritage Angel Awards, for his ongoing dedication and work involving a unique part of Scotland’s industrial past – brick making.

This one-of-a-kind initiative has seen 53-year-old Mark discover more about the industry and its manufacturers, which were once world renowned for the quality and diversity of their bricks, in particular the refractories.

Mark, who runs the Scottish Brick History website, said: “I’m delighted and humbled that the much under-appreciated brick is at last finding a little piece of limelight.

“I believe that all the products manufactured at Scottish brickworks were an integral part of Scotland’s industrial, agricultural and social heritage.

“It is with great pleasure that I accept this nomination.”

Mark is one of more than 50 nominations to go through to the finals, funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, and held at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, on Thursday, October 18.

Mark said the collection started when his father began finding them while doing contract work.

He added: “Scottish bricks turn up all over the world ... Scotland helped build the industrial revolution across the globe. Unfortunately, there is only one brickworks left in the country, whereas a hundred years ago there were hundreds.

“They didn’t just make bricks ... anything used to build our houses today that is plastic used to be made out of clay.”

Mark’s knowledge has been called upon by archaeologists to help date a certain brick.

He said: “I was recently contacted by an underwater archaeologist who has found a ship full of Scottish bricks under the sea, and a contact in St Petersburg has found 22 differently-marked bricks on the Russian shoreline.”

John Pelan, director of the Scottish Civic Trust, said: “This shortlist once again demonstrates the great scope of volunteer-led heritage work that is being undertaken throughout the country.

“It’s fantastic to see the enthusiasm and passion that Scotland’s heritage ‘Angels’ contribute to the sector.”

Author and broadcaster Vanessa Collingridge, photographer and chair of the Scottish Civic Trust Colin McLean and Georgia Vullinghs, of the Scotland’s Urban Past Youth Forum, will join returning judges Professor John Hume OBE and Andrew Wright OBE, one of Scotland’s foremost conservation architects, to decide on this year’s winners.

More information at and find out more about Mark’s collection at