Life story retold by Yota Dimitriadi
Samuel Jeremiah Collier was one of the sons of Samuel Collier (1838 – 1865), who owned Kategrove and Waterloo Kilns, famous for its terracotta and ‘Reading Red’ bricks. He was born on 29th October 1838. He married Eliza Sarah Rice.
He and his brother Edward Philip (E.P. Collier) joined the family business, now called S& E Collier (after Samuel Jeremiah and Edward) and operated several different kilns in the Coley area (from Adam Sowan’s book: Bricks and Brickwork in Reading: Patterns and Polychromy, 2020, Two Rivers Press).
In centre of the photograph is Eliza Stainer Rice who married Samuel Jeremiah Collier. Following Samuel Jeremiah’s tenure, his son Samuel George, one of 11 children, was admitted into the partnership in 1887 and managed the brickworks after his father. He is on the left of the photograph next to his mother. The photograph was probably taken in the garden of 198 Tilehurst Road, where they lived.
William Edward, Samuel Jeremiah’s second son, was employed in Collier and Cately, a company that went on to become a significant house building company in Reading.
On 11th July 1893 Samuel J’s second daughter, Anne Maria married Rev. William Lansberry Forfeitt, of the Baptist Missionary Society, Bopoto, Upper Congo River, Africa, and the brother of the Rev. W. Lawson Forfeitt, also a Congo Missionary. They left for Africa a month after their wedding. In the archives of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS), in the Angus Library at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK, there is a collection of glass lantern slides, which belonged to Rev William Lansberry Forfeitt. Both photographs below are taken from Amelia King’s PhD thesis (2021):Visual Testaments: Re-Collecting the Photographic Archive of the Upoto Mission, 1890-1915
Samuel George Collier was the father of Samuel Robert (Bob) Collier and Isaline Margaret (Peggy) Collier who are pictured in the collection of images provided by Jo Anderson as part of the, “Revealing Reading’s Hidden Histories” Project.
With the depletion of the available clay deposits in Coley, the business relocated to Grovelands, Tilehurst in 1877. The family had a house called “Westgrove” on Grovelands Road.
In 1905 they also bought out their major rivals Messrs Poulton and Sons Waterloo Kiln, ‘what was most likely, the second biggest brickworks, …cornered the local market and employed 350 workers’ (BIAG, 2022).
By 1920, S & E Collier had been converted into a limited company, and the Grovelands Company was described as such in the Reading Standard (8/11/1902) as:
“five factories, one large clay pit within the works but the bilk of the clay is obtained from a pit in Prospect Park (on lease from Corporation of Reading) and bought to the Works by an overhead wire rope rail-way of about 1/8 mile. Output of the firm is 25 – 30,000 tons of red clay goods per annum, 250 – 300 hands employed”.
Below is a photograph of men packing a brick kiln at Grovelands brickworks around 1945.
The Grovelands brick and tile works (shown below) closed in 1966.
The image below shows the unveiling of the brick and terracotta war memorial to Collier’s employees killed in World War I. It still stands on Water Road on the site of Collier’s Grovelands brick and tile works in West Reading.
Samuel J Collier died after a rather prolonged illness from an internal complaint on Tuesday 23rd June 1890 at ‘Staffs’, Castle Crescent Reading. He was 52 years old, almost the same age as his father Samuel Collier when he died (1807-1865). Reading Mercury reports on Saturday 28 June 1890:
“The deceased, whose demise will be keenly felt by many persons of all grades in the town, took great interest in Sunday School work, and interested himself much among the young in various ways, and was a prominent member of the Sunday School Union. Mr. Collier, in conjunction with his brother, Mr. E. P. Collier, carried out important sanitary works the town, and was a large way of business.”
Reading Observer on the same day (28th June 1890) writes:
“To the long list of our townsmen who have recently been removed by death must this week be added the name of Mr. SAMUEL COLLIER. At the comparatively early age of 51, and till lately in the full possession of powers which enabled him to take an active part in conducting an extensive and important local industry, Mr. Collier has been taken away, leaving a widow and large family to mourn his loss. But it is not from the “narrow circle of his kinsmen” alone that Mr. Collier will be missed. He was to some extent a public man, doing good public work in his day and generation. A Nonconformist by birth and subsequent conviction Mr. COLLIER was a tower of strength in connection with the Baptist body in Reading, his influence not being confined to King’s-Road chapel, where he held the office of deacon, but extending all over the other Baptist churches in the town, which owe their origin to the King’s-Road church. Mr. COLLIER was also a member of the Trustees of the General Charities, which body has now for the third time within a few months lost one of its most useful members. The recent deaths of Mr. COLEBROOK, Mr. EISDELL. and Mr. COLLIER have made an exceptionally large breach in the ranks of the Trustees.”
The funeral took place on Friday 28th June, and was attended by a large number of relatives, friends, and employees. The funeral service took place at King’s Road Baptist Church, where the family were members. The first part of the service was conducted by the Rev. C. A. Davis (assisted by two other ministers), and he concluded the last ceremony at the grave. A number of private carriages followed the funeral procession. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr. C. Weller, of 15 and 16, King-street.
Collier’s bricks can be seen all over Reading. The area of the brickworks and the clay excavations have now been redeveloped for housing. Adam Sowan’s book contains a lot of local examples of the Collier’s brickwork as well as self-guided walks around Reading for people to explore buildings or whole streets with the art of Collier’s brickwork.
Buried in Section 14, Row H, Plot 1