Posts Tagged ‘wheelwright’

Gye’s Yard in 1906

December 31, 2013

These days an interesting development of houses is known as Gye’s Old Yard. But of course, Gye’s Yard was where the family firm of builders, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights etc. actually worked

Gye's Yard, Market Lavington in 1906

Gye’s Yard, Market Lavington in 1906

This charming photo shows some of the workforce, and maybe the odd visitor too, in 1906. The various carts are of course a delight. Maybe an expert out there can tell us more about them.

But now the people. From left to right we have:


John Merritt Senior – the father of the John Merritt who was bandleader in Market Lavington for 60 or more years. The Merritts ran a blacksmithing business just across Broadwell from Gye’s Yard.


John James was a carpenter and may well have been employed by the Gyes.


Walter James was John’s son – he had married Elizabeth Gye in 1904 so was a family member by marriage. He was a baker and had the premises now occupied by the Post Office in Market Lavington.


Charlie Burnett was the Gyes wheelwright. He originally came from Easterton.


Tom Gye. Gyes often confuse by not being known by first names. We think this is the present Tom’s grandfather – boss of the firm.


This one is just recorded as J Gye. We think it is Joseph who later became head of the family firm.


Fred Burgess who worked as a labourer and at some time became a butcher.


Seymour Buckland was a painter who lived on High Street in Market Lavington.

It seems appropriate that members of the Gye family should mark the end of another year. Our museum owes so much to them for their support and generosity.


November 3, 2013

At Market Lavington Museum we have quite a lot of wheelwrighting equipment, much of it on display in our trades room. Below we have a sample.

Wheelwright's display at Market Lavington Museum

Wheelwright’s display at Market Lavington Museum

Here we see equipment that would have been familiar to and used by Charlie Burnett who was a wheelwright who worked for the Gyes. The gear in the photo all came from Gye’s wheelwrighting area. You can see some of the items displayed here, in situ at Gye’s yard by clicking here.

In those days before the motor car, the wheelwright and the wagon making wainwright were crucial people in any rural community. We are lucky that so much has survived from our parish.

Of course, our museum is now basically closed for the winter, but our blog will continue to show items of interest and our team will be working on new displays for next year.

You can expect that we’ll be marking the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, but there will also be a display of shop ephemera – bills, receipts, tickets and even paper bags. These items should bring back memories for many people.

Charles Burnett

July 28, 2013

We looked at Charles (or Charlie) Burnett a couple of years ago. You can click here to see that page.

We add a bit more information about Charles here, together with a wonderful, characterful photograph of him. Let’s start with that.

Charlie Burnett of Easterton - wheelwright for the Gyes of Market Lavington

Charlie Burnett of Easterton – wheelwright for the Gyes of Market Lavington

And now that little bit of extra information.

Charles Burnett, wheelwright, was brought up in Easterton where his parents kept the grocery shop opposite the Royal Oak. He was apprenticed at the age of 14 to Colletts, carpenters and wheelwrights in Poulshot. He started to work for Gyes of Market Lavington in the 1900s and worked for them until his death in the 1950s. His brother, Herbert, was the blacksmith.

A Spoke Shave

February 20, 2013

Some of the tools used in times past strike us, these days, as just a tad dangerous for the user. Such a tool was the spoke shave. These were sometimes known as a draw knife. We have such a tool at Market Lavington Museum.

This spokeshave, dating from about 1850, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

This spokeshave, dating from about 1850, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

This one dates from about 1850 but still feels to have a sharp cutting edge. It was given to the museum by Bert Shore. He and his wife spent much of their married life living in The Market Place in Market Lavington. His wife was Flo Burbidge, born and raised in our museum building.

But back to that spoke shave.

The user sat astride a small clamp device and pulled the knife towards him. It seems to us that a small slip with such a sharp device could prove very awkward. We have used a picture from to show how the device can be used.


This chap was actually making props for a play. The spoke shave or draw knife was used to shape all sorts of smooth, rounded items.

Of course, spoke shaves are still in use today, but they tend to have blades which are protected and could only cause shallow cuts if things go wrong.

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 spoke gauge

September 26, 2011

Wheelwrighting was an amazingly complex job. There were so many pieces in a wheel and all had to be made to fit together accurately and securely. To assist in the task, various gauges were used and today we feature a spoke gauge.

A 19th century spoke gauge at Market Lavington Museum

It doesn’t look much, but if you had to make mortice joints, at the right angle so that spokes made the wheel saucer shaped, you’d have needed one. A helpful sketch explains how it was used.

A sketch showing how to use the spoke gauge - part of the records kept at the museum

The stock is the hub – the central part of a cart wheel and the gauge has been fitted to it temporarily. A piece of whalebone, from an old corset is wedged into place in the gauge so that a suitable angle can be made between the spoke and the hub. The mortice to hold the spoke could be marked and cut.

This gauge is made of oak and dates from the early 19th century. It was used at Gye’s Yard on White Street, amongst others, by Charlie Burnett.

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

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.

Charlie Burnett

March 4, 2011

Charlie Burnett or, correctly, Richard Charles Burnett

Charlie Burnett was an Easterton  man. He was actually born, at Trudoxhill in Somerset in  1890 but by 1891 the family lived in Rowde where Charlie’s father, Henry,  worked as an innkeeper and baker at The Olive Branch Inn. But mother, Beatrice came from Easterton and by 1894, the young family lived there.  In 1901 Charles, aged 11 with three younger brothers And a younger sister lived with Henry and Beatrice on High Street in Easterton. Henry was a self- employed market gardener.

The family were still together in 1911. It’s probably fair to guess that by then Charlie was working, probably an apprentice wheelwright for that was the trade he had later in life. Our picture shows Charlie at work.

Charlie at work as a wheelwright - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

Charlie became the wheelwright for the Gye firm, based on White Street in Market Lavington. One of Charlie’s brothers was the blacksmith for Gye’s.

Charlie (Correctly he was Richard Charles) is on the electoral roll for 1939, living on High Street in Easterton.

Charlie died in 1958.

Apart from still photos, we have film at the museum, taken by Peter Francis, of a wheelwright at work.

Easterton schoolboys in about 1906

March 2, 2011

This photo has recently come to light and been given to Market Lavington Museum. It shows boys at Easterton village school in about 1906

Easterton schoolboys in Market Lavington Museum - a photo at Market Lavington Museum

Not only has the picture come to light, it is well captioned with only one child on it with no name given although some only have a surname.

In the back row, from left to right the boys are Jack Shepperd, George Kyte, Reg Burnett, W Cook, Ben Price, Walter Stephens, Arthur Cooksey and  _ Maynard.

In the middle row the boys are J Kyte, Will Clelford, Will Carter, Fred Burnett, Jim Nules, Fred Cook and Charlie Burnett. The teacher is Ethel Redstone.

The front row has _ Kyle, _ Hussey, _ Coleman, Walt Pinchen, Frank Clelford, Ern Sainsbury unknown and John Davis.

Charlie Burnett became a wheelwright and worked for Gyes in Market Lavington.

Charlie Burnett who went on to be a highly skilled wheelwright

Like many of the lads, Charlie is wearing flowers. Was this a Mayday custom?

The picture was by Edgar A Wharton and Co of Easterton., Wilts

The photographer's signature

It would be delightful to hear from any descendants of these lads who might be able to tell us more about them.