This ring kiln brickyard was originally built in 1893 by Karl Heinen. In 1904 Wilhelm Gillrath bought it and it has remained in the Gillrath family since then.
At the time Wilhelm purchased the brickyard there were four other brick manufacturers in the area surrounding Erkelenz. Today, Gillrath’s is the only one still in operation.
As well as developing a successful brick business, Wilhelm Gillrath also sold building materials and coal. His business’ reputation spread beyond the immediate district.
On his death in 1939, Wilhelm’s wife, Helene, became the company’s sole owner. She continued the business but difficulties associated with the war meant it struggled to fulfill production orders, and in 1942 it officially closed.
However the devastation caused by the war later provided the need for re-construction, and with it, a growing demand for clinker. In 1945 Helene’s third child, Valentin Adolf Gillrath, bought the brickyard from her. The yard itself had been destroyed and had to be completely rebuilt but in the spring of 1947 Valentin began producing and selling clinker again.
Towards the end of the 1950’s, high production levels allowed Valentin to modernize the plant and he expanded the preparation and extruding press. In 1964/65 an artificial chamber kiln was built to keep up with demand. Although the company switched the firing process from coal to gas in 1970, coal is still being used for the production of particular bricks.
In the mid-70’s Valentin made his son, Heinz, the new managing director. When Valentin died in 1994, Heinz assumed the complete running of the business.
In 1980 Heinz Gillrath purchased a tunnel kiln but tightening environmental guidelines meant it was never commissioned. In hindsight Heinz considers this has been beneficial because the company’s continued use of the ring kiln lead them to devise their innovative range of brick designs which cannot be manufactured in a tunnel kiln.
On July 31st, 2009 a large fire destroyed the kiln hall. Fortunately the fire didn’t affect the surrounding residential housing or the production halls and there was only a small amount of damage to the ring kiln itself. Reconstruction started immediately, and the daily routine was re-established by April 2010.
Heinz was joined in the business by his sons, Bastian and Marcus in 2013. Bastian is responsible for the development of new products, while Marcus handles the firms’ marketing.