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Graeme Willis

Graeme Willis

Graham Willis
Graeme Willis holding a bottle of salinity corroded brick dust from the Willis Bricks kilns.
Photo: George Main.

As a child in the 1960s, Graeme Willis cleaned ash from the underground, brick-lined tunnels that led from the Willis Brickworks kilns to the smokestack. He remembers the tunnels being dry and dusty. As decades passed, the ground surface of the brick works became damp. Puddles appeared. When the kilns were fired up, steam billowed from the smokestack.

Graeme explained that housing development in postwar decades on the hill above the brickworks induced the urban salinity problem. Over-watering of domestic gardens and the leaking of storm water drains caused salty water to rise to the surface downhill. Bricks were fired every second week. During firing, the brick kilns and tunnels dried out. Salts crystalised, breaking bricks and mortar apart. During the non-firing weeks, the brick structures absorbed salty water. Over decades this repeated process of wetting and drying has caused much damage to the brickworks.

Graeme Willis explained that he has battled the salinity problem for about 20 years and made many repairs.


Related Pass the Salt stories: Willis Bricks