Thursday, 11 February 2016

Nostalgia.

As I get older nostalgia kicks in.   I think it probably happens to us all, and of course we do tend to miss out the unpleasant bits and perhaps embroider the good bits.  That is unless something really unpleasant happened to us during childhood, when it is a different matter.

I was reading about the death of an old man in Suffolk yesterday.  He was well into his nineties and he had been a Wheelwright.   Now that is a trade which was once so important in the farming world and has now more or less died out except for the one or two who still remain working in farming museums etc.

I suppose the advent of the tractor sounded the beginning of its death knell.   The farmer has an old Fergie (in fact he has got two or three but only one which is complete and actually working - he pushes the muck out into the midden with it every morning.)   But his 'best' tractor is only three years old.   It has two seats (so the little boy next door can have rides in it quite happily), a radio, a heater - in fact luxury.

But as for wheelwrights - no need for them at all.

I remember one particulary with affection.  I may have got the facts wrong, because I am speaking of seventy odd years ago, but I dearly loved his yard.

He had his workshop in the village of East Markham in The Dukeries of Nottinghamshire, where my Aunt Kate lived.   I used to go along with my Dad to visit him when we were at my Aunt's - I suspect my Dad dearly loved that yard too.   It was littered with old wheels, shafts, piles of wood and the odd carthorse wandering about in what was really a sort of paddock.

There was always a smell of wood and of paint.   The wheelwright I read about lived in Suffolk, where traditionally carts had blue bodies and Venetian and Chinese red wheels.    I don't know whether these colours were nationwide or whether each county had its own colour scheme - I suspect the latter.

And it was on top of a load of hay in one of his carts that I saw the Flying Scotsman go hurtling past on the London to Scotland line.

The Flying Scotsman is in the News again this week' having been restored it is about to make a historic journey from London again to the railway museum in York.  Some things never change.

23 comments:

Derek Faulkner said...

I have the box set of all the "Out of Town" programmes made by Jack Hargreaves. They are the perfect thing for remembering and seeing old country crafts and I often have a wallow on nostalgia watching them.

Esther Montgomery said...

The importance of a wheelwright in the 'old days' - it's something that's obvious when pointed out but I hadn't really thought of it till I read this post.

(re. Derek's comment above. I too used to enjoy the 'Out of Town' programmes. I was a London child and they gave me a little glimpse into a quieter life.)

Esther Mongtomery
http://estherandthetimemachine.blogspot.co.uk/

Tom Stephenson said...

I spoke to Jack Hargreaves's daughter a couple of years ago, because she bought something from me through eBay. She said her dad really did have a shed like the one in the studio, where he spent most of his time on country crafts, etc.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Great memories to hold Mrs Weaver. Memories from a changing world. It's funny the way we remember. I don't think we can choose what to remember. Memory just happens and a lot of stuff fades away even when we try our best to hang on to it.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

While the trade has largely died out there are still a few around. Many Romani gypsies still keep their vardoes or caravans in working order, even if they don't use them as their prime means of transport any more, and need to call on the services of a wheelwright to repair or replace the traditional wheels. Also there are many heavy horse enthusiasts who still have the old waggons.

donna baker said...

We have tons of all the old wagonry (a word?) and a doctor's buggy and a covered wagon. The Amish rebuild the wheels and wagons here. All that old rusty stuff forms a fence around our farm. My husband collected it and trucked it in. Our family that still farms wheat have giant combines that drives themselves, have satellite signals, AC and heat and all the farmer has to do is turn the machine at the end of the row. Luxurious compared to olden times - only a generation ago.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I had a friend who lived at East Markham...he began dressing in Civil War boots and hats in 6th Form - not in school might I add - and also smoked a long clay pipe.

Mac n' Janet said...

I hate the idea of the old crafts dying out.

Frances said...

Dear Weaver, I'm glad that you've posted this remembrance of visiting the wheelwright, and allowed me to have a view that would not otherwise have been available to me. I've also enjoyed the prior comments. I'm now old enough to realize how much that was commonplace in my childhood no longer exists. Change can bring progress, but memories can still be very sweet.

xo

Bovey Belle said...

We occasionally come across Wheelwright's tools, which we sell when we do our Fleamarket stall. I love to handle them and think of the history they hold. I've always been like that about things from the past, and always been fascinated by trades and crafts from the past.

Tom - I was given some more Jack Hargreaves DVDs for Christmas - they are a delight and take me back in time to when at 6.45 every Friday, I sat down to watch his programmes, spellbound. I only met him once, at a tack sale at Dorchester market, and we had a brief chat. He was looking out for a browband for his driving harness (when he had a mule). Not the whole bridle, just the browband - a canny man and charming with it.

Terry and Linda said...

I'm always sad at the progress of progress. So when something from the past is found, or made useful again, it is an occasion for joy, in my book! Thank you for this informative post,

Linda

Librarian said...

Thank you for this glimpse into your childhood.
My Dad worked as a printer all his working life, and he learned his trade the old way: typesetting with each letter done in lead and wood, mixing the paint, using the press... Not many men can still handle the old printing presses, but he can!

Joanne Noragon said...

My grandfather, at the turn of the last century, was a watch and clock repairer. I wonder if we repair those items any more.

angryparsnip said...

Lovely post today.

cheers, parsnip

Derek Faulkner said...

Last year, I bought the book "Jack Hargreaves - A Portrait" by Paul Peacock. It was a real eye opener and much of his life was far different to that of the old countryman sitting in the wood shed.

Rachel said...

I have never heard of Jack Hargreaves but I have now.

Heather said...

What lovely memories. One of my uncles was a carpenter and the smell of linseed oil always reminds me of a lovely pencil box he made for me one Christmas. He had treated it with linseed oil and I would slide open the lid and take a good sniff.
I vaguely remember seeing carts with their wheels painted in similar bright colours at the agricultural shows during my childhood. I hope someone, somewhere, is keeping alive those wonderful crafts.

Cro Magnon said...

The village of Lingfield in Surrey (where I was born) had a wonderful old wheelwright's yard. They seemed to specialise in Gypsy caravans, and there were always a few old Reading Wagons up on bricks being repaired. I used to lean on a gate watching them for hours.

thelma said...

When I was a child I used to take my pony to be shod at the dairy in Wolverhampton, here they kept the most beautiful cob/hunter horses to pull the milk floats round in the town. They had a blacksmith on site and the smell of burnt hoof will always remind me sharply of the steam that arose around the pony's leg as he fitted shoe to animal.

Gwil W said...

I can remember the milkman's, or maybe it was the coalman's horse kicking the bucket coming up a steep hill with a full load.

Several breweries might still have stables, a dray horse or two and a wagon about the place. Maybe you'll see them at shows or delivering barrels to town centre pubs. Probably they paint the wheels in the brewery colours.

thelma said...

Hi Gwil, they still do at Devizes in Wiltshire, the two beautiful shire horses Monty and Max deliver the beer in the town and hold up the traffic....http://www.wadworthvisitorcentre.co.uk/our-shires.html

The Cranky said...

One grandfather was a farmer, the other a carpenter... lifelong friends who lived near one another. Together they devised rather unique and useful implements, gate-openers, etc... The one grandfather got the benefit of using them, the other had the benefit of showing the value of his innovations on a working farm.

They both did well out of it and it's given me a lifelong appreciation for the 'country arts'.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Gwil - you reminded me of the coalman's horse dying in the shafts on a steep hill in our village when I was small. We also had a greengrocer who came round every saturday morning with fruit and veg on his cart pulled by a gentle brown horse I adored. And the milkman with his pony and trap = he slipped one morning coming down our steep drive with his milk churn on the ice and the milk went right down the garden in a river. Happymemories. Thanks everyone.