Smithy Museum and Heritage Centre

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Things to do


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October, 2017

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A hundred years ago every village would have had a working blacksmith. As well as shoeing horses they made and repaired farm equipment.

The Smithy in Owston Ferry was owned by five generations of the Laming Family, who lived next door. Although shoeing horses had all but ceased by the 1950s with the advent of tractors, the Smithy struggled on until 1958. The last owner, George Laming, never married and when he retired he just locked the door, leaving everything in situ. Fortunately the building was listed and has survived untouched. When George died, the building was acquired by the Owston Ferry Society. The ground floor with its two forges is just as it he left it and the upper two floors now house a collection of old photographs and artefacts from the area.

The oldest part of the building is the forge which was built in 1859. This was unusual in that it had two working forges at either end of the building, indicating that in its heyday it was a thriving business. One still has a set of leather bellows.

Horse shoes and equipment hang from the walls and the workbench is piled with different tools. The filing system was a big pile of invoices hanging on a wire from the wall.

Originally horses would have been shod in the street, but around 1900, a shoeing shop with a stone flagged floor was added next to the forge. Two horses at a time could be shod. This is now the reception area and on the wall is an exhibition of tools used in the construction of drainage ditches and dykes.

Later, the building was extended upwards with a first floor storage space.

The Smithy originally had a carpenter’s shop at the back where carts, wheelbarrows and other wooden equipment was made. The remains of the wheel pit can still be seen in the yard.

The open storage sheds in the yard now contain a variety of agricultural equipment donated by local families. This includes a potato sorter, a fiddle drill for sowing seeds, as well as the bells from the old school.

The two upstairs rooms above the Smithy have been set up as a Heritage Centre for the local area. The ledgers from the Smithy are kept here as well as invoices.

There are files containing hundreds of pictures of village scenes, village life and people as well as artefacts given by the community. This is a real Aladdin’e Cave with corn dollies, crockery, a milk separator and butter churns as well as coins, children’s toys and clothes.

The centre is popular with people researching local or family history. It is open Sunday afternoons and Bank Holiday Mondays from May to September, or by special arrangement. In December, the Smithy is turned into Santa’s grotto.

There is a small charge for entrance. The museum struggles for visitors and was in the Daily Telegraph list of the top ten least visited museums in Britain. This is a shame as staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. It makes a fascinating visit, especially upstairs.

The Smithy Museum and Heritage centre is on High Street, opposite the junction with Bagsby Road. There is on road parking outside the Old Smithy. The post code is DN9 1RE and the grid reference is SE 810003.


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