Update on the Historic Camden Horticulture and Trade Program

By:  Southwick C Briggs II

Founder:  Hemp Earth & Lime Co & CI Labor Readiness Training Co.

The City of Camden has a long history of brickmaking and now visitors to Historic Camden will be able to get their hands and feet muddy making bricks at the new colonial brickyard.  The brickyard is just the first step in a series of trade and horticultural hands-on exhibits designed to understand, interpret and demonstrate the tools and manufacturing processes used within the context of an 18th century non-plantation, semi-subsistence society like the colonial town of Camden.  Colonel Camden was the only multi-functioning, South Carolina, inland settlement during the Colonial period.

Hand-making bricks is just the beginning of the story for visitors to the brickyard.  The brickyard will be hosting all kinds of interesting hands-on workshops, starting in early July, with a 2-day fun “Do it Yourself” workshop on how to build an 18th century wood-fired earthen oven. Great for making pizza!  The brickyard will also be available on Friday evenings for fun social and team building events.

Visitors to the new colonial brickyard this summer will also have an opportunity see how relevant the past is to properly train young men and women for the future.  Journeyman Richard French has spent more than twenty years working as a highly paid refractory mason, working all over North America.  This summer French will be spending six weeks at Historic Camden’s new colonial brickyard passing along his knowledge of bricklaying and refractory masonry to young men and women taking their first steps as apprentice bricklayers.

As French explained on a recent visit to Historic Camden, “Bricklaying and refractory masonry are ancient professions passed down from one generation to another through a formal apprenticeship. The basic bricklaying skills I learned at the International Masonry Institute over 20-years ago and am now passing on to a new generation of bricklayers are the same skills taught over 250 years ago in colonial Camden.

French feels the advantage of a 21st century pre-apprentice bricklayers program being taught at Historic Camden’s new colonial brickyard, is that student will be exposed to the history and fundamentals of brickmaking, bricklaying and refractory masonry in its purest form.  Something he wished he had experienced as a young apprentice.

The pre-apprentice readiness training program was created by Historic Camden to provide underemployed and unemployed young men and women, that have graduated from youth development programs like “YouthBuild”, with the opportunity to work for large commercial and industrial companies as apprentice bricklayers or certified support labor at a living wage with ample opportunity for advancement within those companies.

The new colonial brickyard is just the first step in a series of trade and horticultural hands-on exhibits coming to Historic Camden.  For example, in the near future, a portion of the Bradley house will be transformed into an 18th century potworks throwing room displaying a working reproduction of an 18th century Staffordshire potter’s wheel, that would have been used by John Bartlam, a Staffordshire master potter from England.  Bartlam moved to Camden in 1772 and was the first potter in Colonial America to manufacture porcelain.

Demonstration and workshops will be offered by Marti Wallace, a local Camden art teacher and potter.  And with the help our new colonial brickyard pre-apprentice masonry students we will be building a reproduction of an 18th century bottle kiln which would have been used by John Bartlam to wood-fire is pottery.