Tag Archives: Heritage

Insley’s Lane, Shackerstone, Leicestershire

Following my visit to Hull Museum and the recreation of the Wheelwrights workshop there I was reminded of my post about my great-great grandfather.

He was Thomas Insley (on the left) a splendid Victorian gentleman,  whose son Joseph married my great grandmother (Florence) Lilian Hill in or about 1908.  I remember her well.  The Insley family lived in Shackerstone in South West Leicestershire.

Today Shackerstone is a pretty unspoiled rural village and in the mid-nineteenth century the village was a successful self-supporting Victorian community that had four farms, two pubs, two shops, a builder, a carpenter, brick works, a post office, a coal merchant, a dressmaker, a shoemaker and a blacksmith.

Nearby Shackerstone Mill was situated by the River Sence and was operated by my other great-great grandfather the Petcher family who owned Bridge Farm where there was a bake house and a bakery.

It also was the home for a successful coach building business that was first established in the 1770s.  It was run by the Insley family, which provided employment for a coachbuilder, a wheelwright and up to thirty other employees. The coach works were situated in Insley’s Lane in the centre of the village and convenient for the railway station from where it supplied wagons and later on wheelbarrows throughout the country.

The invention of the wheel was arguably the most important ever and the skill of a wheelwright in building a wheel was considerable and this made the Insley’s very important and influential people in the village.

The hub, or nave, of a wheel was made from seasoned wych elm that would not split even with mortises cut in it for spokes.  It was barrel-shaped to accommodate two iron stock hoops that were shrunk to fit direct from the red-hot forge.  The hub was then set in a cradle and the spoke mortises marked, drilled and cut.  The mortises had to allow for a tapered fit and also for the angle of dishing of each spoke.  The hub was augered to receive a cast-iron ‘box’ or ‘metal’, which was driven in and was the bearing for the axle.  Finally, the top of the hub was cut away so that a cotter pin could be later inserted to retain the wheel onto an axle.

The spokes were usually made from oak, which had been seasoned for a minimum of four years.  They had square ‘feet’ that fitted into the hub and circular ‘tongues’ that fitted into the felloes.  Two spokes would fit into each felloe, which was made of ash or hickory.  The felloes would have preferably been grown curved so that when the wood was sawn using a template, less grain of the wood was cut resulting in a stronger component.  Felloes were joined together with an oak dowel.

Carriage Wheel wheelwright

The complete wheel was held together with a tyre made from iron.  The tyre would start life as an iron bar, perhaps four inches wide and three-eighths of an inch thick for a working cart-wheel.  It would be shaped using a tyre-bending machine, which is a set of rollers operated by a handle that bent the bar into a perfect circle and after welding the two ends of the bar to form a ring the tyre was heated in a circular fire.  Meanwhile, the wheel was mounted on a tyring platform – usually a large stone or metal plate – using a clamp to hold the hub of the wheel.

When the tyre was ready it was carried from the fire with tongs, and placed over the rim of the wheel.  After hammering into position, water was poured onto the hot metal to cool it before the wood of the wheel became burnt.  As the metal contracted it crushed the joints of the wheel tight and so completed the job.

Two genuine Insley farm carts…

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the traditional craft of the wheelwright faced increasing competition from the manufacturing industries and factory produced cast iron wheels and they had to diversify and find new business.  One way was to expand into the coach building business and by the 1901 census both Thomas and my great-grandfather Joseph were recorded as ‘coach builders’.

From documentary evidence and first hand accounts we can be sure that the Insley coach-builders manufactured a full range of carts and wagons for local farms and businesses including the nearby water mills.  Their catalogue included the ‘gig’ which was a light two-wheeled sprung cart pulled by one horse or a pony and a ‘dray’, a versatile four-wheeled flat-bed cart usually pulled by two horses but they were also well-known for a specialist cart of East Anglian or Lincolnshire design called the ‘hermaphrodite’

This was a unique type of two-wheeled cart that could be converted to a four-wheel wagon when extra capacity was required in the fields at harvest time.  Although they were all rather similar and were based on the same overall design, each had their own distinct differences in regards to their place of manufacture and according to records the Insley design was quite unlike anything else made locally at the time.

For smaller farms that could not afford a barn full of expensive specialist vehicles the selling feature of the cart was that it was a multi-purpose vehicle that could be used throughout the year.  For most of the time the top frames, raves and fore-carriage could be removed and the rear part was used as a conventional tip cart, whilst at harvest time an ingenious conversion provided a wagon with the large carrying platform and the additional length and the temporary advantage of four wheels converted it into a high-capacity hay wagon.

This multi-purpose design explains the name hermaphrodite which is a term that derives from Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology, who was fused with a nymph, Salmacis, resulting in one individual possessing physical traits of both sexes, i.e. it was interchangeable.  Locally the wagon was referred to as a wagonette, the morphy or the moffrey.

The drawing is of an Insley wagonette that was probably built in the 1920s for the farmer H S Foreman of Stapleton, Leicestershire, about ten miles from Shackerstone.  The maker’s name, Insley, can be clearly seen on the front of the wagon on the front board of the tub. It was in regular use until about 1965 and was eventually transferred to a rural museum in Herefordshire for safe keeping.  The drawing is by the grandson of the owner M A Foreman, himself a Leicestershire farmer.

Coach building was another trade that required enormous skill and to complete a single order could take as long as six months.  They were very successful at this as well but what they probably didn’t need was the motor car, Henry Ford and the assembly line and the business ceased trading in 1935.

 

Travels in Spain – Andalucía and The Rain in Spain

Ronda The Bridge

“Dogs don’t like me. It is a simple law of the universe, like gravity. I am not exaggerating when I say that dogs that have not moved from the sofa in years will, at the sniff of me passing outside, rise in fury and hurl themselves at shut windows. I have seen tiny dogs, no bigger than a fluffy slipper, jerk little old ladies off their feet and drag them over open ground in a quest to get at my blood and sinew. Every dog on the face of the earth wants me dead.”, Bill Bryson – ‘In a Sunburned Country’

The next morning it was raining, raining quite hard, raining very hard and after breakfast and with no immediate prospect of improvement Kim decided to go shopping to buy some shoes she needed which left me free to visit the historical centre.

The weather was thoroughly horrid with gusty winds that turned my cheap umbrella inside out and sharp squally showers which tested even the most boasting of waterproof clothing claims.

I walked for a while and then as though by magic the sky cleared, the clouds blew away in an instant and I didn’t need the umbrella and the waterproof clothing any more. That is what I like about Spain, when it rains in England in the morning it generally rains all day but in Spain it can quickly blow away.

Street Ronda Spain

I walked to the edge of the town, through the old gate of the defensive walls of the old Arab Alcazaba and then spotted a path that I estimated would take me to a viewing spot at ground level below the bridge.  I asked a local man and he confirmed my judgement and so I optimistically set off.  It was a steep downhill path of loose shale and after a quarter of a mile or so I began to have doubts but I had reached that point when I felt committed to carry on even though my confidence was by now beginning to evaporate as quickly as a kettle left to boil dry on a burning hob!

And so I carried on, forever going down into the canyon and increasingly regretting my adventurous resolve to carry on.  Eventually I reached the bottom of the slippery path and my worst fears were confirmed.  This was a dead end and there was no way of returning to the town without either advanced mountaineering skills or alternatively retracing my steps up a very steep slope.

On the positive side I did get some good pictures of the bridge!

The path was quite remote and deserted and on the way back I began to worry about the prospect of running into a dog.  You may remember that it is fair to say that I am terrified of dogs – I suffer from cynophobia.  This was exactly the sort of place that I would not want to be confronted with a loose canine beast.

Anyway, I got most of the way back and came to the edge of town and then was confronted with my worst fear.  Here was a massive dog with the scent of blood in its nostrils staring down at me from the top of a ten foot wall.  I can’t tell you what sort of dog it was because my brain had dissolved into jelly and I wasn’t thinking straight.  It desperately wanted to jump down and rip my throat out but luckily it was more afraid of heights than I am of dogs and it couldn’t bring itself to make the leap.  I rushed past, my heart thumping like a bass drum from the combination of the stiff walk and the dog scare.

A good friend of mine who loves dogs once asked me why I don’t like them.  I tried to explain that I am genuinely afraid of them, I don’t like them anywhere near me, I don’t like the smell of their sweating bodies, I don’t like the feel of their greasy hair, I don’t like their slavering tongues and their slobber anywhere near my hands.  Like all people who like dogs he didn’t understand my explanation.  Some people don’t like cats – I do but if people come to my house and explain that they don’t like them then I put them in a different room and anyway a cat would have more manners than to keep pestering people, they are so much more intelligent  and socially aware.

As Bill said…

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.” 

Unscathed but shaking uncontrollably with fear I negotiated the final few steps and returned to the safety of the town and slipped inside the old Arab gate and into the labyrinth of twisting narrow streets, still damp and dripping with residual rain.  I followed them for a while dropping down again towards the bottom of the canyon but this time on the opposite side of the town.

Arab Baths Ronda Spain

Eventually I came to the two earlier bridges and then to the Baños Árabes, the Arab Baths which are claimed to be the most complete and most important example of its type in all of Spain.  It was impressive I have to say and well worth the €3 admission charge to go inside.

I almost had time to go to the secret gardens which looked well worth a visit but it was starting to rain again and I was due to meet Kim in fifteen minutes, so I turned down the opportunity and returned directly to the hotel.

Kim was already back.  She hadn’t got the shoes she needed because the shop hadn’t got them in the right colour but to make up for this disappointment she had alternatively bought some shoes that she wanted!

This is another of my phobias – Shoe Shops…

Kim Shoe Shop spain

Weekly Photo Challenge:Threes

Moulton Mill Lincolnshire 1

Moulton Windmill Lincolnshire 2

Moulton Windmill Lincolnshire 3

Moulton Mill, Moulton, Lincolnshire

Moulton Windmill in the Lincolnshire village of Moulton, between Spalding and Holbeach is a restored windmill claimed to be the tallest tower mill in the United Kingdom.

The nine-storey mill is 80 ft to the curb and 100 ft to top of the cap. In full working order again with its four patent sails on, Moulton mill is the tallest working windmill in Great Britain.

The mill, built in approximately 1822, was a fully functioning windmill, grinding wheat and other products. However, in December 1894, the sails were damaged in a harsh gale and were removed in 1895. Soon afterwards, a steam system was installed to power the mill.

A local campaign was established to restore the Grade I listed mill to full working condition. In 2003, the mill featured on the first series of BBC2’s Restoration. The project won a large Heritage Lottery Fund grant, which, along with many fundraising events meant that the campaign succeeded in raising enough money to restore and refurbish the mill’s structure and add a new cap.  New sails were fitted on 21 November 2011 to complete the restoration of the mill. The community restoration took fourteen years to complete at a cost of nearly £2m.

http://www.moultonwindmill.co.uk/