Posts Tagged ‘craft’

Whither now the Thatcher?

September 29, 2012

Albert Hiscock was a long term Market Lavington thatcher. We have read about him a couple of times on this blog. (Click here and here). Albert and his wife lived at Hillside at the bottom of Lavington Hill.  One of the nicest photos we have of their house was taken in 1936 – a quickly snapped photo taken when military tanks came off Salisbury Plain and into Market Lavington.

Hillside Cottage, Market Lavington, looks to be well thatched and well protected by a tank – a great photo snapped with a box camera in 1936.

Harriet, Albert’s wife, died in 1954 and Albert joined her in St Mary’s graveyard in January 1955.

Soon after, scaffolding appeared on Hillside cottage.

Hillside Cottage on White Street, Market Lavington in 1955. Now you see the thatch!

And now you don’t. Later in 1955 Hillside Cottage is under a new roof.

By the end of the year, the thatch was gone and Hillside Cottage sported a new, tiled roof.

Once upon a time many houses in Market Lavington were thatched and there was plenty of work for the thatcher. Someone will correct us if we are wrong, but we can place just three thatched houses now.

So, whither now the thatcher? For a while his future looked bleak, but now he’s in his van and maybe operating over a wider area, but the trade is certainly still very much alive and kicking.

An old Malthouse

September 25, 2012

Beer is made, in part, from malt. Malt is barley which has been allowed to germinate and sprout for just the right amount of time.

Traditionally barley was first steeped in water, maybe for a couple of days. This barley was then placed in large boxes to a depth of about 30cm where it started to germinate and generate heat. In this labour-intensive process the barley was then spread on the malthouse floor to a depth of perhaps 15 cm (it depended on temperature). The sprouting barley was turned regularly and gradually spread more thinly over the floor.

When the maltster considered the time right, the barley, complete with developing root and shoot, were transferred to the kiln and another carefully controlled process began which killed off the living plant and aimed to produce the right colour and flavour for the beer.

Market Lavington once had many of these malthouses. Barley grew on Salisbury Plain and its conversion to beer began in the local malt houses.

All have now gone, but one building survived into the mid 1970s. It was behind number 38 High Street.

Former malthouse behind 38, High Street, Market Lavington. The little bit of car the photographer included shows the substantial nature of these buildings.

The malt trade had long since departed from this area but the building proved useful. The malt house needed a large, flat, sturdy floor. It proved highly suitable as a makeshift dance hall. But before the 1970s better transport had carried dancers away to the towns. The building fell into disrepair and was demolished.

Mary Greening Embroidery

June 26, 2012

Mary Greening lived in Market Lavington for almost fifty years. She arrived in 1962, when her husband, Harry, became the first headmaster of the new Lavington School – which is celebrating its Golden Jubilee this year.

Mary was always active in village life – particularly where anything crafty was involved. She represented the village as a part of many organisations, including the Women’s Institute.

An example of her embroidery has recently been given to Market Lavington Museum.

Mary Greening of Market Lavington was well known for her craft skills.

This has been mounted and arranged to hang this way up. Maybe it represents a comet. We do not have a year of making but perhaps it was done for the year Halley’s Comet was visible – 1986.

Whatever the embroidery represents, it is a dramatic and colourful piece of work.

Gye’s Yard in 1950

January 2, 2012

Today we feature a photograph which is redolent with olde worlde charm. Yet it was taken within the living memory of many people alive and kicking today. It shows a part of Gye’s Yard and it was taken in 1950.

Wainwright and Wheelwright section of Gye's Yard, Market Lavington

It seems hard to imagine, now, that in 1950 wooden wheels were being made with only hand tools. We can also see other parts for carts under construction, or stored awaiting use.

The Gye family had operated this business since 1879 – and it wasn’t just carpentry and wheelwrighting. The firm also undertook general building and blacksmithing. They also, like many carpenters, served the community as undertakers.

In the museum, we have a film, taken by Peter Francis, of a local wheelwright at work, explaining what he is doing. Here we can just enjoy a reminder of rural craft as it once was.

A Handkerchief Case

December 21, 2011

This delightful piece of needlework is rather like an envelope in style. The decorated front flap lifts to reveal a pouch behind.

A 1920a handkerchief case at Market Lavington Museum

The item is just under 20cm square and is made of cotton with the blue and purple embroidery we can see.

Museum records tell us that this piece of needlework  dates from the late 1920s and was used by the Welch family. This was another item that was in Peggy Gye’s personal collection, given to the museum when it opened in 1985.

We now speculate as to whether Peggy was economical with the full truth. Peggy, of course, was born as Miss Welch and it is, at the least, possible, that it was her young hand who made this item.

Or maybe you can tell us something different?

Honeychurch Doll’s House

November 9, 2011

We are delighted to have a Honeychurch doll’s house at Market Lavington Museum. These houses were made in Market Lavington, achieving a very high reputation for quality and they sold all over the world.

Our doll’s house is a small, wall-mounted house as befits the space available in a small cottage. Not only is it a museum exhibit, it is also there for children to play with when they visit the museum. We also have a toy trunk with other toys our younger visitors can use.

1960s Honeychurch doll's house at Market Lavington Museum

The house dates from the 1960s. Some twenty years later, local school children produced this company ‘profile’ for the Domesday project, which the BBC has now reloaded at

Honeychurch Toys is a small company making wooden houses and Jack in the boxes. Mrs Honeychurch went to Bath Academy where she learnt to be an art and craft teacher. Her partner went to college and trained in furniture design and worked with wood. They employ 5 people and 1 part time for 3 hours. They make 5 varieties of Jack in the box, the Golly, Mr Punch, Strong Man, Harlequin and Joey. It takes 3 days to make 108. The houses are made with birch ply wood from Russia and include Town house, Cotswold house, French house, Cupboard house, Edwardian house, Victorian shop, L-shaped house and Regency house. The biggest doll’s house they have made is 6 ft square. It was made specially for a 21st birthday present. The houses go to Germany and France.

The Wheelwright at work – fitting a tyre.

September 24, 2011

We have seen Charlie Burnett before on these pages. He was born in Easterton and we know that in 1911 he was a young carpenter in the village. Later, he started to work for the Gye business in market Lavington as a highly skilled carpenter and wheelwright. Let’s look at some photos of the last stage in wheel making, fitting the metal tyre. Without the tyre, the wheel would have a very short life. All pictures were taken in Gye’s Yard, but not necessarily on the same occasion.

Charlie Burnett ready to fit a metal tyre to a wooden cart wheel – a photo at Market Lavington Museum

Here is Charlie, displaying a cart wheel he has made, together with a tyre about to be fitted. The tyre has deliberately been made too small by the blacksmith (Charlie’s brother Bert in this case). This was done so that when it is, eventually, in place it holds all the wooden parts of the wheel together.

To get ready, the wooden wheel is clamped onto a base and nearby, in the yard, a fire is built from scrap wood. The tyre is built into the fire so that the metal gets red hot and expands.

The fire to heat and expand the tyre

As quickly as possible the tyre is transferred onto the wheel and is hammered into place. Of course, the wood begins to burn on contact with the red hot metal.

Hammering the tyre on must be done fast for the wheel starts burning. That’s Tom Gye at work with the hammer.

But the lads are there, ready to pour water on the wheel to stop the burning and to cool the tyre. The cooling metal contracts and shrinks onto the wheel, making it a solidly fixed together whole.

An ideal job for the lads – pouring on water

There is still time for some final finishing off.

The job is almost done but adjustments can still be made with the heavy hammer

Charlie Burnett is a hard man to please, but he looks happy with this tyred wheel.

Charlie Burnett does the final finishing off on a job well done

A knitted bedspread

September 23, 2011

We may be inclined to think that knitting big bedspreads was something done in Victorian days by ladies whose only permitted job was to look after their man. But today we feature a bedspread knitted in the 1950s.

A corner of a bedspread knitted by Mrs Baker of Market Lavington in about 1950

The bedspread – we just show a corner of it here – was made by Mrs Baker of Spin Hill in Market Lavington. It is made of cotton and has a width of about 140 centimetres. It would just fit on a standard double bed.

Sadly, we cannot trace just which Mrs Baker this was – there have been many different Baker families in the village. It may have been Mrs Bertha Baker?  However, we do know that the bedspread was given by Mrs Baker and Mrs Hodgkinson some twenty years ago. Maybe one or other of them could tell us more about this truly marvellous piece of craft.

The Gye’s lathe

August 23, 2011

This is unusual. Normally this blog is about items in the Market Lavington Museum collection. Today we are looking at an item which is at the Museum of English Rural Life at Reading. But the object – an enormous old lathe – came from Market Lavington and we do have photos of it at our museum.

This is the entry on the MERL catalogue. Their website is at

Object number 56/349
Physical description lathe: metal; wood
Archival history This lathe consists of a very long bench with 3 attachments and a large spoked wheel with 2 wooden rings in a frame. Two men turned the large driving wheel while a third operated the lathe. Used by wheelwrights, carpenters and joiners for large turnery (wheel stocks, newel posts, bed posts, pillars, ballusters .

We can add to this, first of all with a couple of photos.

Tom Gye stands by the drive wheel for an old wheelwright's lathe. The lathe is now at the Museum of English Rural Life in Reading, but the photo and information is at Market Lavington Museum

Here we see Tom Gye standing with the power unit for the lathe. The lathe was driven by rope which, according to the speed required was passed around the larger or smaller pulley on this spoked wheel. This was then spun by two men, to actually provide the power.

The lathe set up and ready to spin in Gye's Yard at White Street, Market Lavington in 1956

Here we have the lathe set up. The power wheel is large and the lathe itself is ruggedly big. The timber baulks and legs on which the lathe is mounted suggest that this lathe was built for large turning jobs.

The age is not certain, but it is believed that it existed when Tom Gye’s grandfather, James Gye, was bound apprentice to the Drapers to learn the trades of carpenter and wheelwright. And that was back in the 1850s.

The lathe was last used after World War II because it had the scale to work large pieces of wood. Throughout its career it had been used  for cart wheel hubs (known as stocks) but it probably also turned newel posts, ornamental fence posts, balusters and even bed posts.

It was way back in 1956 that the lathe was given to the MERL at Reading. This was almost 30 years before our museum opened its doors, but in any case we’d not have the space to cope with an object of this size (more is the pity). So if you want to see this fascinating relic from our wheelwright’s shop in Market Lavington, you’ll need to journey up the M4 to Reading.

Our information comes from a cutting taken from the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald for November 1st 1956 – an item we have at Market Lavington Museum.

A Mullings Basket

August 16, 2011

Market Lavington Museum has several baskets made by the Mullings family. There were four generations of Mullings making baskets in the area, starting with  George who was working in Easterton in 1851.

Next came his nephew, William, who set up his basket making business on High Street in Market Lavington, more or less opposite The Green Dragon

William’s son, also William, moved to The Clays in Market Lavington and carried on the business.

His son, Sid, continued the business, finally accepting that baskets weren’t in much demand in the middle of the twentieth century.

We believe that Sidney made the basket we feature today.

Basket believed to have been made by Sid Mullings of Market Lavington

This basket is said to date from the mid 20th century and it was given to Peggy Gye. Maybe Sid was aware that his business was ending and he knew that Peggy had taken on the mantle of ‘village historian’ and thought she might preserve one of his baskets. Well, that has happened, but not before the basket was used by Sid Cooper on his market garden at The Sands, Market Lavington.