The following information was provided by John Schubert.
The brickworks were established at Warracknabeal in 1884 by Samuel Trew, who had previously conducted a brickworking venture at Sawpit Swamp, south of Murtoa. An entry on Trew in the 1888 publication Victoria and its Metropolis Past and Present provides the following biographical account:
– Warracknabeal, was born in Essex, England, in 1828, and learned his trade of brickmaker there. He came to Victoria in 1852, and has followed the same avocation ever since in Geelong, Shelford, Camperdown, Portland, Coleraine, Sandford, Harrow, Horsham, Murtoa and at Warracknabeal for the past four years. For a time he was somewhat unfortunate there, through the rain coming on while the kilns were burning, but has now provided against that contingency and is in a fair way of doing well. He has about 14 acres of good brick-clay land and is the only brickmaker in the district._
Trew previously took over the brick-making business of Joseph Davidson & Co., at Sawpit Swamp, and it is known that he was in partnership with Alfred Alexander there 1880-1882. He sold his kiln at Sawpit Swamp to Peter Pianta, a coal-burner, before coming to Warracknabeal where he was a founding member of the Warracknabeal Corps of the Salvation Army.
In June 1884 the Horsham Times reported that the St. Arnaud Shire Council (which included Warracknabeal at that time) accepted Trew’s offer to make the bricks for the Warracknabeal Mechanics Institute. The following year he was advertising that he was charging two pounds and five shillings per thousand bricks at the kiln. In April 1886 the same paper reported on progress at Warracknabeal and the difficulty of procuring suitable building materials noting, however, “our local brickmaker (Mr. Trew)… has turned out some splendid bricks second to none out of the Melbourne district”.
Samuel Trew and his sons William, George and Edward worked in the Warracknabeal business. William (Bill) Trew married Mary Ann Bown, also from Sawpit Swamp, and they lived in a house at the kilns on the eastern bank of the Yarriambiack Creek, slightly north of the western end of Werrigar Street. Their daughter, the late Lottie Bloomer, recalled that this house eventually had to be vacated when its walls were partly demolished by flood waters.
These facts certainly place the brickworks in the vicinity of the St. Mary’s School oval, largely between the creek and the oval. When I was a child the Warracknabeal rubbish tip was on the old brickworks site, accessed from Werrigar Street, and was obviously established there to utilize the excavations created by the removal of brick clay.
Samuel Trew, who was married twice, died in 1903 aged 75, but I have no information when the brickmaking business ceased. Bill Trew later worked for McColl’s carriage works and his wife Mary is remembered as a stalwart follower of the Warracknabeal Football Club.