Spring is in the Air! Sticklepath is springing to life – Projects galore! Plus a personal visit to Finch Foundry for #52Ancestors:Power

The people of Sticklepath may have been in lockdown but they have not been relaxing, there is an energising mood of excitement and regeneration. The Village Hall has been undergoing a re-furb, making good use of the time out of commission by government decree, and now I hear the wonderful heritage project at St Mary’s, our little church, is moving forward apace! Much work has been done to reach agreement on the plans, and a flurry of well organised activity is underway. We just need to raise a little more money, to ‘match’ funding, fulfil the lottery requirements and release not the lottery balls, but a substantial cash grant. Any small (or large) contributions are welcome for this very worthwhile project. On completion of the project the space will be rejuvenated, more useable, and 6 intriguing historical figures will be on hand to speak to you through the mists of time and explain the story of Sticklepath, St Mary’s, the Quakers and the Wesleyan Methodists.

*** https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stmaryssticklepath. ***

Meanwhile of course the Foundry will be preparing for the end of lockdown and all those visitors who have been kept away for so long will be dusting off their National Trust tickets keen to get their money’s worth! My #52ancestors prompt this week is Power. Obviously (Finch is my middle name) Water Power and the Mills of Sticklepath especially the Foundry jumps to mind…

As a small girl, Bob Barron himself showed me around. Another Finch descendant, he was key in achieving its conversion to a museum. I remember him demonstrating the grindstone. Climbing on to a wooden board over the top of the rotating stone wheel. Literally nose to the grindstone as it spun down in front of him, with water spraying to cool it.  Very dangerous and tiring.  It would be so easy for an accident to happen and nasty injury to ensue with even a moment’s inattention.  The apprentices had to learn though, and if they were being troublesome or lazy, half a day on the grindstone soon focussed their mind!

Bob invited me to lift the 50lb drop hammer using a bell rope.  Impossible. That is until the water power was turned on.  We raced up to the top to see the sluice gate opened and water start to pour into the waterwheel from the leat above. Coming back to the main forge, everything was now rotating. Your ears were assaulted by the jangling of pulsating machinery. A thrill to see, hear and feel that power in action, reverberating through your chest. At the drop hammer, the bell rope was suspended from a leather strap which wrapped over a rotating wheel (similar to the photo). That did most of the work. A light tug by me on the bell rope then took the hammer up high momentarily, before crashing back down on the anvil, to shape a shovel in the mould below. Different moulds were used for different tools. Incredible how little strength was needed.

Bob Barron demonstrates Finch Foundry smaller tilt hammer 1970s. Larger one by his right shoulder.

The enormous shears, seen here on the left, cut through red hot iron like a knife through butter. The ‘Foundry’ with the thunderous noise of the tilt hammers, the inevitable smoke and smells and the formidable blackened frontage dominated the roadside in the centre of the village.  Finch tools made were sold from about 1816-1960, not just in Okehampton market but throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.

Finch Foundry on the Right. https://dartmoortrust.org/archive/record/103308 Courtesy of Bert Stead

The Finch Foundry will soon be giving demonstrations of the tilt hammer and shears again – if you are passing that way, it is well worth the minor detour and a cream tea.  Make sure to book when demonstrations are happening. (Also fantastic for icicles in a severe winter!)

#SticklepathOne, #FinchFoundry, #StMarysSticklepath #Finch

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