Saturday, January 26, 2008

Bishop's Cleeve, Gloucestershire

This tiny structure – almost too small to be a building – is in a courtyard car park in the centre of Bishop’s Cleeve, a village that has expanded since the 1970s to become a dormitory settlement for Cheltenham. It’s surprising amongst the shops and houses to find an industrial building, for this is a wheelwright’s furnace, where iron rims were heated before being attached to wooden cart wheels and dunked in a trough of water so that they shrunk to fit. But every place of any size once had its wheelwright, a craftsman who had to be skilled in both wood- and metalwork, and who would mend buckets or do joinery when no wheels were needed.

Curiously, this furnace is dated to around 1910, which seems rather late for iron wheel rims. John Boyd Dunlop patented his pneumatic rubber tyre in 1888 and it caught on quickly. But old wooden-wheeled carts were used for decades afterwards, even though the iron rim and its furnace were already old technology in 1910. How fortunate that this relic of industrial technology has been preserved – appropriately bound with iron bars, presumably by the wheelwright himself.


thud said...

A great find!..keep them coming.

Neil said...

The Wheelwright's Shop by George Sturt (who also wrote as George Bourne) is the classic account of this trade, so crucial to the English village. It was first published in 1923, reprinted a number of times since. It prompted a number of similar books, such as The Village Carpenter by Walter Rose of Haddenham, Bucks.

Peter Ashley said...

In Roy Strong's The English Arcadia (his history of Country Life magazine)there is an unpublished photograph of what looks like the back yard of a wheelwright's in West Wycombe, carts and wagons all waiting to be repaired. And who can get forget that beautiful sunny morning scene in Powell & Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale, with farmers and waggoners gossiping down at the wheelwright's.

Sandy said...

That is hugely cute! Very nice find :-)

Came across your blog doing a search for Bishops Cleeve churchyard... i found a grave in Linwood Cemetery, New Zealand of a woman named Mary Ann STANTON whose husband Henry is buried there.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks, Sandy. Always good to receive a comment on a post done a while ago.

How interesting that this couple should be buried so far apart. I wonder what their story was.