The era of founder Bernhard Heinrich Feldhaus (*1821 † 1900)
In 1857, the farm owner Bernhard Heinrich Feldhaus (*1821) from the Laer district of Westerwiede produced bricks in open field firing for the first time. He used the farm's own clay reserves to generate additional income for agriculture by producing bricks. This clay pit, located in the ground moraine landscape west of the Remseder Strasse to Bad Laer, supplied rich clay deposits. It was a thousand-year-old craft that Bernhard Heinrich Feldhaus took up in the middle of the 19th century and which was to become the basis of a globally operating company.
But initially, the focus was not on brick production, but rather on agriculture for a long time. For Bernhard Heinrich Feldhaus was first and foremost a farmer with numerous estates and livestock. The full inheritance farm of the Feldhaus family could look back on a long history. It was first mentioned around 1200. Understandably, there was no risk of abandoning the traditional farm business too quickly in favour of the new project. With the combination of agriculture and brickworks, Feldhaus created a constellation that was common at the time. Many farmers used the clay reserves available on their own land for an additional sideline.
Yard construction and new brick kiln
In 1862 Bernhard Heinrich Feldhaus built a new farmhouse from the stones fired in his brickyard which he had plastered however. From now on the building activities haven’t stopped until today. Bernhard Feldhaus wrote down his building projects but also the numerous purchases of land or a sawmill in 1873 on the first pages of a notebook, which constitutes a kind of chronicle. Here, for example, you can read about the year 1866: "“In 1866 I built another brick works. 70 f long and 48 f wide costs 200 Taler".
The Feldhaus brick products found many buyers at that time. This probably also was the reason why Bernhard Feldhaus had a new brick kiln built in 1868. On 29 July 1868 the Iburg office authorised him to put into operation a newly built brick kiln in order to enlarge the brickworks. In his chronicle you can read: "In 1868 a new brick kiln was built and a house was built on the brickyard both brick kilns new outlet". This underlines that Feldhaus wanted to enlarge his brickyard significantly and had already planned to build an accommodation for his brickyard workers.
Agriculture and brickworks
1870s until 1900
In the 1870s until 1900 the agricultural business and the brickworks coexisted. Brick production was gradually increased due to the high demand.
In addition to registering the sales of agricultural products and livestock, the accounting records of the Feldhaus brickworks from 1869 to the mid-1880s bears witness to the increasing production of bricks, roof tiles, pipes and ridge tiles. Lime was also produced in larger quantities in the Feldhausschen kiln, as the records show. These records contain which brick products hundreds of customers received. They also show in which area Feldhaus now had his customers namely in the places Remsede, Laer, Westerwiede, Müschen, Glane, Natrup, Versmold, Winkelsetten, Dissen, Aschendorf, Iburg, Greven and Ostbevern are the main ones to appear.
At that time the products of the brickworks were predominantly used for private houses. Except from the interior of the St. Marien church in Bad Laer which was built in 1874, after the dilapidated predecessor building had to be demolished. While the outer walls were built of “Laerer Piepstein” (a local sandstone) the inner columns, window cornices and wall supports were made of fired shaped bricks from Feldhaus. Long hidden by overpainting, the bricks came to light again during the renovation in 1966.
The era of the second generation Heinrich Feldhaus (*1861 †1938)
The firing process was now increasingly automated to meet the growing demand for bricks. After the consequences of the 1st World War and the following inflation had been overcome, the Feldhaus family again did their best to further expand their brickyard. In 1929 Heinrich Feldhaus had an automatic stoking system installed above the ring kiln. CCompared to the manual charging, it had the advantage of the coal now being fed into the kiln more economically and more regularly. Although already developed in the late 19th century, pokers were only increasingly installed in Germany after the First World War. They promised a fuel saving of 20-30 percent compared to hand dumping.
The Second World War
As late as 1939, a 60-metre-long sewer drying plant was built on the company premises, and it remained the last investment for many years. The Second World War and the post-war period interrupted the steady expansion of the Feldhaus brickworks for several years. "Of course, the people here in the countryside never really suffered," Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus remembers today. "Those who did their own farming at least always had enough to eat. Illicit slaughter was common. People from the city used to pilgrimage to the country in order to get food."
The era of the third generation Helena (*1904 †1970) and Johann Heinrich Feldhaus (*1900 †1955)
After the stressful and difficult war and post-war periods, peace and quiet returned at the beginning of the 1950s and the Feldhaus family was able to concentrate on the expansion of the brickworks. On the second Easter day of the year 1950 the Feldhaus family was hit by a fire destroying their house and the farm building entirely.
Company heiress Helena Feldhaus and her husband Johann Heinrich FeldhausFeldhaus ran the business together in the third generation since the death of their father Heinrich Feldhaus in 1938. In the following years they both did their best to expand the brickworks. Incidentally, for the first time in the history of the brickworks, Johann Heinrich Feldhaus, a trained master brick maker, was now in charge of the company's fortunes.One cycle in the ring kiln was able to produce 96,000 bricks per week. The energy required for this was generated by their own steam engine. A new press house was also built, which is now the oldest building on the location.
The era of the third and fourth generation Helena (*1904 †1970) and Bernhard Feldhaus (*1938)
By 1955 a press house, a transformer station and a clay pit had been built. Additionally, the drying plant was enlarged. In 1955 Johann Heinrich Feldhaus died far too early at the age of 55. A large funeral procession of almost 1000 people, including the young bricklayers in their working clothes, accompanied him to his final resting place in the in the Bad Laer cemetery. Obituaries and newspaper reports testify to how popular the deceased brickworks entrepreneur was. Among other things, the following can be read there: "They say among others: “Hard and undemanding towards himself, he was characterised by an unusual working energy and a confident and clear vision. We will not forget his human kindness and helpfulness."
In the following years his wife Helena assumed the full responsibility for the brickworks and the farm business. She benefited from being familiar with the work processes in the brickyard since she was young. She was also able to count on the support of her sons Bernhard and Heinrich, who were actively involved in agriculture and in the brickworks. Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus, for example, still remembers that he and his brother Heinz used to help in the brickworks during the school holidays. The large ring kiln was constantly operating. One cycle per week included 96,000 bricks fired in 16 chambers in total. In summer the raw material was stocked up in order to then be fired in winter.
New tunnel kiln
In 1967 Feldhaus invested in technology: The almost one-hundred-year-old ring kiln had fallen into a state of disrepair and was no longer profitable due to its high energy costs. The two sons Bernhard and Heinz had long since devoted themselves more and more to the brickworks business. Bernhard Feldhaus recognised the possibilities offered by a brickyard with modern equipment. After a joint visit to the company Karl Walter & Co., Hanover, the two brothers were able to convince their mother to build a new, modern, 78-meter-long tunnel kiln. It was built within half a year and could be charged with 20 kiln cars as well as 9 kiln cars in reserve. Just as the ring kiln, the tunnel kiln is continuously operated. In contrast to the ring kiln, the burnt goods are put on wagons going through a fixed firing zone.
The old ring kiln was torn down and a feeder installed instead. Followed by the pan grinder and two rolling mills. Now 3.0 t of clay could be processed per hour. “On 9 September 1967”, Bernhard Feldhaus recalls, “the first fired bricks exited the new kiln.” In 1968 Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus took over the company and ensured its continuous development. Brother Heinz also remained active in the company and is still an important support for his brother today.
In the meantime, Feldhaus had 30 employees, and for the first time the company now also had a plant manager, Mr. Hildebrand, who ensured that production ran smoothly. And the investments continued: A new clay storage and preparation hall was built. A processing plant consisting of a box feeder, a used edge mill from the company Händle, two rolling mills and a new press plant from the company Breitenbach in Siegen were added. With the new technology it was now possible to produce approximately 8,000 bricks per hour. At that time, Feldhaus mainly supplied the company Zierenberg in Gütersloh accounting for 80 per cent of the turnover.
In the following years, Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus constantly pushed the expansion of the company: “Since 1970 there hasn’t been a year in which we didn’t make an investments or established new buildings,” he emphasises in retrospect. Switching from heavy to light oil was essential for smooth production and decided in 1970 after a fire in the kiln. The investments were not only related to technical equipment. While the private house had been responsible for the organisation up to then, new office space was created on the company premises in 1972. And an extremely modern and family-friendly children's playground was built right next door.
Karl-Heinz Thele, who started as a locksmith at Feldhaus in 1972, became Bernhard Feldhaus‘ right-hand man for all following developments and extensions. He quickly proved to be a creative and technically competent employee, always on the lookout for improvements and innovations in brick production. At that time there were no defined areas of responsibility: There was a lack of electricians, and if there were problems with the equipment, they tried to fix them as best they could. But in the meantime business became so complex that expert know-how was indispensable. Karl-Heinz Thele therefore trained as an electrical engineer at a school in Goslar for two years and subsequently became plant manager in 1976.
Karl-Heinz Thele has been responsible for a large number of innovations in technology and developing products up to now and decisively contributed to the success of the plant. In order to achieve a more gentle firing method for the bricks, Feldhaus decided in 1977 to convert the tunnel kiln from top firing to side firing. This made the plant one of the first tunnel kilns with side firing in Germany. The kiln was also fired with natural gas and extended to 113 metres. Now the kiln capacity could be increased to a performance of up to 12 cars. In 1970 20,000 bricks could finally be produced daily leading to the agricultural business being abandoned completely.
Revolutionary technology for thin brick production
An essential development for the future business took place in 1981. Back then the first thin bricks were developed at Feldhaus. The name says it all. They are often used in combination with thermal insulation measures to clad old and new buildings (thermal insulation composite system).
Eager to explore Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus and Karl-Heinz Thele initially tested the production of thin bricks through a peeling process which, however, proved to be too costly. Later, the thin bricks were fired using the adhesive method, whereby several thin bricks were fixed together with a special adhesive. Here, too, there were problems, as traces of the adhesive remained visible in some cases. But plant manager Karl-Heinz Thele didn’t give up until having developed an ideal technology for producing thin bricks. An additional new firing technology enabled the production to be increased by 40 percent while the energy consumption remained the same.
A luxury resort for the Feldhaus´ chickens
1993 - short anecdote
The popular so-called “chicken house” on the Feldhaus factory premises where the chickens share their social life with the visitors in the hunting lodge today would not be called chicken house, if this hadn’t happened: In autumn 1993 Bernhard Feldhaus asked his son Harald to cut town the poplars at the pond. These fast growing trees threatened to overgrow the pond. At first everything went well. But in the end it was the turn of a particularly large and rotten poplar. While sawing, however, Harald Sudhues and his helpers had miscalculated: the tree did not fall to the left as planned, but crashed onto the roof of the chicken house.
It was decided without further ado to completely renovate the chicken house. And since Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus and Harald Sudhues are passionate hunters, they had the front part transformed into a hunting lodge. This was shaped quite generously including a roof, fireplace and large wooden counter. To Mrs. Feldhaus’ delight most of the hunting trophies from the residential house found a new place there. For customers staying the night in Laer, a Feldhaus visit culminates in a convivial evening in the chicken house.
Due to the high demand, the Feldhaus family decided to double the size of the hunting lodge in 2014. Since then a huge rustic counter and even more hunting trophies crest the rooms. Even a large kitchen with its own cold store is now included. If we ask our customers for a feedback on the said celebration, they describe it as funny, boozy and unforgettable in most of the cases.
New tunnel kiln with tunnel kiln dryer
In the meantime, the production of thin bricks was constantly increasing. Bricks were virtually three times over-sold. There were often delivery times of six to eight weeks on many types. Particularly in combination with suitable thermal insulation, they have increasingly become an important building material in the renovation and modernisation of old buildings.
Feldhaus took this development into account and in 1994, under the direction of Karl-Heinz Thele, designed a new tunnel kiln with tunnel kiln dryer, in which the bricks were placed as blanks on the tunnel kiln cars. The previous drying process in the chamber dryer could be replaced by this new technology. "On November 9, 1995," according to Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus, "the first thin bricks came out of the kiln. Since then, the kiln has fired goods without interruption until today (2020)".
Feldhaus didn´t rest on the high standard of production achieved so far. Again and again, the employees did their utmost to get the best out of the basic material clay. Up to now the high waste of raw material occurring during the production of corners had been a major problem. Because these could only be produced as part of a solid brick generating 85 percent of waste.
Thin brick corners are required to cover building corners and window lintels professionally. They cannot be distinguished form conventional brickwork. Therefore, in 2001, the plant manager Karl-Heinz Thele, in cooperation with the company Novoceric, developed a process for producing corners without supporting brick subsidised as a DBU (German federal environmental foundation) project. An elaborate extrusion press specially designed for corners now allows them to be produced in the extrusion process as well. As a result, the consumption of energy and material was reduced significantly.
The same amount of clay can now be used to produce almost six times the number of corners. This results in saving approximately 500,000 cubic metres of natural gas, 40,000 litres of diesel oil, 8,000 tons of clay and 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
At present, Feldhaus is the market leader in the field of thin bricks, also due to the numerous technical innovations developed here.
In combination with the construction of a new computer-controlled processing plant, computer-controlled recipe management and moisture control, the development and patenting of corner production and the installation of robots for corner production, important milestones were set for a modern future. Even German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel had informed herself about Feldhaus products during her time as Federal Minister for the Environment.
Award of the German Federal Environmental Foundation
In 2002 Feldhaus awarded a price from the German federal environmental foundation for the ecological and cost-saving production technology.
2007 - Feldhaus becomes market leader in the field of "thin bricks".
The era of the fourth and fifth generation Bernhard Joseph (*1938) and Nicola Feldhaus (*1973)
For strategic reasons, the entire production of all bricks was centralized and the Werther plant was closed down. To this end, the entire kiln control system in the brick factory was modernised.
Production techniques were further developed and refined. So it was obvious that the infrastructure on the company premises was constantly changing. By purchasing the connecting road Laerer Straße to Remseder Straße from the municipality the premises continued to grow. A space extension for all brick products was built in 2014 and a new attractive factory entrance with calibrated truck scales was also required. This was followed by the relocation of the rainwater retention basin and deep well drilling for a new operational water supply. The first earth and demolition work already hinted at the creation of the Visitor Centre.
By developing the Feldhaus configurator for planning projects digitally the digital age is also dawning in the sales department.
A new era of customer service begins
The year 2015 marks the beginning of an entirely new era of customer service: the new Visitor Centre opened its doors to architects, planners, building material dealers, building contractors and private builders for detailed customer advice.
The building covering a total of about 1,400 square metres and the outdoor facilities invite visitors to attend trade events and industry conferences. Feldhaus Klinker increasingly participates in trade fairs. In 2015 the company presents itself at the world’s leading trade fair “BAU” in Munich for the first time. For a sustainable energy supply, a new combined heat and power plant is built in cooperation with the local energy supplier.
In the meantime the company has expanded to 17.1 hectares, of which 6 hectares alone are roofed production and storage areas. The lorry access was extended again in order to keep up with the increased arrivals. The installation of a new, worldwide unique, fully automatic thin brick unloading system shows once again that there has never been a technological standstill in any year. Every year pressing lines or other mechanical equipment are modernised or kept up-to-date.
115 million facing bricks, thin bricks and clay pavers per year
Founded in 1857, the family business is now successfully managed by Bernhard Joseph Feldhaus and Nicola Feldhaus in the fourth and fifth generation. Far-sighted decisions and proximity to the market have been the basis for success and at the same time have set the course for the future. In the meantime, more than 115 million facing bricks, thin bricks and clay pavers leave the company's kilns every year. And in the field of thin bricks, Feldhaus is the global market leader with its wide range of products. More and more colours, structures and sizes are produced and offer individual designing possibilities for private houses, commercial buildings and public construction projects.
Apart from the German market and sales partners in Europe and beyond, Feldhaus supplies many emerging markets in currently more than 41 countries worldwide with a workforce of approximately 135 employees. The share of turnover achieved abroad is of about 50 percent. Thus the Feldhaus brand is a guarantee for quality products not only in Germany. Bricks “made in Bad Laer” are successfully processed from the Baltic States to Russia and America.
Building a further tunnel kiln for thin bricks and corners in 2020 sets the course for the next generation.
Facts and figures
- Company premises 17.1 ha, of which 8 ha are roofed production and storage areas
- One site, three kilns
- More than 115 million pieces of thin bricks, facing bricks and clay pavers p.a.
- Production of approx. 360 t of fired material
- 6 pressing lines
- 9 product lines, 2.500 different articles
- About 140 employees
- Exporting to more than 41 countries worldwide
Our employees and you, our customers, have contributed significantly to our success. More and more new requirements have motivated us to develop our own innovations and have combined competence and tradition for decades.
We will be successful, if you are, too. Rely on our experience of more than 160 years!
Your Feldhaus Team