The Cafferata Firm of Newark

Photo:Cafferata site on Beacon Hill Road

Cafferata site on Beacon Hill Road

Richard Cafferata

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'The Cafferata Firm of Newark' page

Approximate position of the Cafferata site

Development of a Newark quarrying and brick industry

By ROGER PEACOCK

Cafferata & Company Ltd, Newark

What comes to mind on hearing the name of Cafferata, Newark? The immediate response is bricks. The Cafferata firm was most active during the period of Victorian development in the town, and most of the homes, from working-class ‘slums’ to larger semi-detached town mansions, were built of materials made by that firm. It is perhaps less well-known that the Cafferata family also mined gypsum and manufactured plaster in Newark. In their early years, they also made boilers.

Mr. Richard Cafferata, a representative of the family, came along to address the NALHS Family History Group.

The first reference that was made to the Company's history was in 1862. Then, at Beacon Hill, Newark Plaster Company owned quarries, mines, a plaster-mill, brickworks and a boiler-making workshop. William, the son of local businessman Joseph Cafferata, bought these out. In 1862, William moved into the town of Newark, an area which he knew well thanks to his marriage in 1839 to Elizabeth Waterworth. Unhappily, a serious accident four years later, in 1866, which involved a Cafferata boiler, led to lawsuits and the need to pay compensation. After this, the firm returned to Beacon Hill, where the main task turned to plaster-making. Boiler-making for general use was gradually discontinued, boilers being retained only for their rôle in the mining and quarrying processes.

Between that year and 1911, though, a series of industrial and environmental accidents beset the Cafferata family and its employees. In 1874, William Cafferata died, leaving his widow responsible for the management of the firm. In 1881, their son, Redmond Parker Cafferata took over the leadership.. Thirty years later, by 1911, Beacon Hill works had made terrific expansion and become a well-known Newark institution. There were 500 employees at that time. The Hawton works, a smaller affair, was set up by Redmond in 1874. Much later, in the 1930s, came the Jericho works along Bowbridge Road. It is probably the Beacon Hill works, though, with which most Newarkers are familiar, thanks partly to the huge overall employment offered in the area, which drew many workers, but also to the fact that the Beacon Hill works was on the edge of the expanding Victorian township. The brick-making aspect of the firm had not been its most successful, and had been neglected to the point of closure, but brick-making was resurrected with the opening of the works at Jericho Farm. It was here, at the Jericho works, that the famous Cafferata bricks were now to be made. This grew to become an industry of incredible size; 300,000 bricks were produced weekly until 1939, when the demand for housing was at its height. After 1945, and the end of the Second World War, the demand increased once again owing to the ‘returning heroes’, and was especially high after 1951, during the era of Conservative Housing Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, later to become England's Prime Minister. Several Cafferata houses and factories became listed buildings, particularly on the west side of the Newark branch of the Trent, where industrial expansion became the order of the day. However, closures of factories became widespread during the later twentieth century, and industrial activity was replaced in this area by housing, shopping and a marina. This has been completed quite tastefully, involving particularly the conversion of old Midland Railway structures and sheds. There will be many who remember the older area with affection, though, even though it cannot have been called attractive. All of the buildings were of Cafferata bricks, and, of course, the Midland Railway Station building, which includes stone, has been conserved. It is the only one between Nottingham and Lincoln that has. So, too, has that part of the Nicholson factory that housed the famous clock, and is clearly visible from Trent Bridge and Beastmarket Hill.

Successive kinfolk of the Cafferata family continued to run the Company until the mid-twentieth century, expanding outwards in terms of productivity and demand. In 1922, Cafferata & Company Ltd was constituted, as the family reorganised themselves from the disruptive effects of the First World War. Though the chief supply of bricks and gypsum continued to be local, the name of Cafferata became widespread across the Midlands and beyond. The family was large, 13 children being born to Redmond Parker Cafferata, who took over the Company before the turn of the century. He retired in 1908, and died in 1913, after which a limited company was run by five brothers until 1930. Chemist Gerald Cafferata, in 1928, took over responsibility for quality control. In 1935, the shares of British plasterboard were bought by Cafferata & Company, enabling the formation of a much larger organisation, which had works outside Newark. Then Gerald Cafferata, along with two uncles, Hubert and Bernie, remained as directors of the new company. In 1967, the Company expanded still further by the acquisition of St. Monano Diesel Locomotives , enabling a return to the field of engineering.

The Cafferata Works, as it now became known, continued most successfully until 1974. Then the retirement of Gerald Cafferata, who was by then leading the organisation, signalledthe beginnings of a wind-down. This was at a time when engineering was rapidly disappearing from the town, to be replaced, after a short time when concerns were raised about decay and stagnation, largely by service industries. Thus evolved a character change in Newark resulting in the town of today.1

© Roger Peacock for NALHS: 16 th April 2012.

1 Information used in this report has been supplemented by the factsheet The history of Cafferata and Company, compiled by Richard Cafferata. The illustrative site plan at the beginning of this report is also reproduced from the factsheet.

This page was added by ROGER PEACOCK on 14/05/2012.

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