Industrial beauty

The forge

The forge

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.

leather drive belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

Leather drive-belts of all sizes waiting for new homes

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.

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

One of the waterwheels can be seen through the opening in the wall on the left

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!

Some of the workers and owners of the forge

Some of the workers and the owner of the forge

One of the water powered hammers

The water-powered hammers on the right and large shears on the left

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A La Ronde CMP

It’s about time we said something about Devon.

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It’s full of wonderful things including a 16 sided house called A La Ronde just outside Exmouth. It sits on a hillside overlooking the sea and was built in the late 18th century for two cousins called Jane and Mary Parminter.

A La Ronde this Spring.

A La Ronde this Spring.

They came back from a grand tour of Europe and brought back a collection of items. They decorated the inside with feathers and shells. The rooms are arranged in a circle to catch the light of the sun as it moves around the house. They were contemporaries of Jane Austen and the Napoleonic War (the house looks a bit like a Martello Tower) and wanted the house to be passed down only through the female line. They were also Christians and built a chapel and manse in a similar style to the house. These buildings have very distinctive diamond and triangular windows.

A close up showing one of the unusual diamond windows. This photo shows the conservatory that was inserted between the barn and the house. This was taken down before the National Trust acquired A La Ronde.

A close up showing one of the unusual diamond windows. This photo shows the conservatory that was inserted between the barn and the house. This was taken down before the National Trust acquired A La Ronde.

A La Ronde also had a garden originally designed to complement the house. In 1995, the ha-ha wall was rebuilt in the garden and lots of pottery and glass were found from the time of the Parminter cousins which is now on display in the tea room.

It once had a thatched roof but it was altered in the Victorian period…by a man.. and it now looks even more quirky with a tiled roof and dormer windows. A bit like Caractacus Potts’ windmill house in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Rebuilding the ha-ha within the garden of A La Ronde tea cups, jars and other pottery contemporary with the  original house were recovered during the work.

Rebuilding the ha-ha within the garden of A La Ronde tea cups, jars and other pottery contemporary with the original house were recovered during the work.

The house is very popular and it would be easy for this unique place to be damaged by too much love so the National Trust commissioned a Conservation Management Plan and the building historians Bob and James worked with the property team, the archaeologist and the curator and wrote one for us.

The NT is gradually creating CMPs for each of its properties and this is how you make one.

First you need an introduction which sets out why and what the CMP is and how to use it.

Second is the Understanding the Asset section. How can you conserve a place if you don’t know what it is, who lived there. What was the place about? What is its context and how did it change and develop over time?

Third is what does all this tell us about how significant it is. Are there lots of buildings like this or is there nothing like A La Ronde anywhere. What parts of the building and grounds are particularly important.

Fourth what is the vulnerability of the place. What are the factors likely to damage the special nature of the building and grounds..access, parking, lack of or inappropriate repair, the town creeping up from the valley and altering the views?… What are the opportunities to improve people’s enjoyment of A La Ronde how can it be linked to its wider landscape and other buildings like the chapel and manse built for the Parminters just up the road.

The Chapel built for the Parminters just up the road.

The Chapel built for the Parminters just up the road.


Fifth is to create a set of policies which will enable people to use the plan like a bible and make sure that the spirit of A La Ronde is conserved long into the future.

Sixth is an action plan with short, medium and long term tasks needed to conserve the place set out as a timetable and

Seventh go through the whole plan and draw out the essential key to the document the Executive Summary set out in a couple of pages for busy managers to understand the essentials of the place at a glance.

With all this in place A La Ronde should be just as wonderful in another couple of hundred years.