I started my digging life on an industrial site near Barnsley in Yorkshire, and my relatives worked in the mills and mines of West Yorkshire, so I have a soft spot for industrial sites from the past.
A while ago I visited one of our small industrial gems in Devon. I had some leather drive-belts to drop off for them to use from a large collection we acquired in order to get the right sizes for some for our grist (corn and grain) mills.
The property was Finch Foundry near Okehampton, the last working water-powered forge in England. There are three water wheels powering hammers, shears and blade sharpening stones. This set up lead to the foundry becoming one of the South West’s most successful edge tool factories which, at its peak, produced around 400 edge tools a day, of many designs and types.
When you visit you are met by the smells and the noises of the machines, a taste of what it may have been like to work in this forge. But it is only part of the noise that would have been made, as not all the hammers, shears and grinders are in use during your visit!
There is also a carpenters’ shed at the forge. As the business grew Finch Bros expanded into providing carts, gates and even coffins. At the property you can see the large variety of edge tools made at the foundry, along with a display of tools used by the wheelwrights and carpenters and learn about the Finch family. I recommend calling in if you have a spare hour, its not far from the A30, and there is a lovely garden and of course there is tea and cake 🙂
I hope this short video will give a flavour of the site, with all its squeaks, quacks, whooshes and clacks.