Brick wall
Wilkes’ Gobs oversize bricks in the wall of former Ashby Canal warehouse, alongside modern bricks of bridge parapet, High Street, Measham.
Wikimedia Commons

A tax on bricks was introduced in Great Britain in 1784 during the reign of King George III, to help pay for the American War of Independence. Bricks were initially taxed at 2s 6d per thousand.[1] To mitigate the effects of the tax, manufacturers began to increase the size of their bricks. Many buildings built by the English industrialist Joseph Wilkes in Measham, Leicestershire used bricks known as Wilkes’ Gobs, which were 9¼ in × 4¼ in × 4¼ in (230 mm × 110 mm × 110 mm).[2]

The government responded in 1801 by limiting the dimensions of a brick to 10 in × 5 in × 3 in (254 mm × 127 mm × 76 mm) and doubling the tax on bricks that were larger. The level of taxation was raised regularly, until its peak of 5s 10d per thousand bricks in 1805.[3] The tax was abolished in 1850, by which time it had come to be seen as a hindrance to industrial development.[4]

The brick tax affected construction in many areas, where builders returned to the use of timber and weatherboarding in house construction.[5][6]



Brunskill, R. W., and Alec Clifton-Taylor. English Brickwork. Ward Lock, 1977.
Cranston, Mark. Brick Tax 1784–1850.
Lucas, Robin. “The Tax on Bricks and Tiles, 1784–1850: Its Application to the Country at Large and,in Particular to the County of Norfolk.” Construction History, vol. 13, 1997,
Stenhouse, David. Understanding Towns. Wayland, 1977.
Warren, John. Conservation of Brick. Architectural Press, 1998.