1885 UTILIS range for Gressenhall museum

I was contacted earlier in the year by Gressenhall farm and workhouse museum regarding the restoration of their cooking range that they use to show visitors and school children how the Victorians cooked. It was in a poor state or repair with many parts having suffered from heat fatigue and many other damaged or lost by a previous 'restoration'. The later is one of the biggest offenders when ranges are concerned. More damage can be done by a poor restoration than would have been casued if it has been left well alone and used as is. I will do a full write up of this restoration when it is complete but in the mean time here are some pictures showing some new fabricated replacement parts and some patterns being made to replace missing or badly damaged parts.

Pattern making for a Bodley range

The first patent for a 'closed' range was taken out by an Exeter ironfounder named George Bodley. His appliance was named the 'Bodley range' or 'Bodley stove' and became very popular. Previous to this cooking ranges had an open fire and but Bodley enclosed the fire with an iron plate and made internal flue ways that heated the oven and boiler thus making effective use of the heat provided and thus economising on fuel. I was asked to restore one of the only remaining Bodley ranges still in existence. It is made rarer still as it is still in its original situation in a large property in Bristol built around 1800. The top plate had suffered years of abuse and so required renewal. I instructed for the original to be well labelled and kept within the property for historical reference and I set out making patterns for a new one to be cast. Here are some photos of the the old and new.

1940s Caravan (Unknown maker)

Here's a caravan that we beleive dates from the 1940s built by an unknown maker. Rach and I worked on this a few summers back doing a large amount of work replacing all the window frames reglazing the windows, building the beds, restoring the oven and converting the gas lamps to electric so that it could be used as a holiday let. The owner has just finished painting it inside and out and its looking great in my opinion. If you are interested in staying the in the caravan do get in touch, it is situated at an ancient farm down a forgotten track right in the hills of Somerset.
If anyone has any information on this caravan we'd also love to hear it.

Belle Portable restoration

When this Belle Portable came in I was pretty shocked. There was barely a bit on it that wasn't broken and many of the parts like the top plate and front panel had bits missing and had been broken in several places. The front plate for example had seven separate repairs! One of the cast iron side panels was also missing so a new one had to be cast. The deeper I dug the more problems I came across, it certainly proved to be a real challenge.
The range is now back at home with its owner and being prepared to install. Here's a 'before' and 'after' of the range as it arrived to me and moments before it left the workshop.

Well it's been a really busy few weeks here. We've been up and down the country working, buying and selling and I'm now back at the workshop to catch up with the on going work here.
I went to take a look at two Shepherds huts yesterday with a mind to restoring them for the owner of the estate where they still are. One is in reasonable nick but the other is a real project.
The Ideal Domestic boiler is off up to London for its new life on a boat on the Thames. I've been busy making a log store/ base for it to stand on which should look very smart and raise boiler to a more convenient height for cooking etc.
I've got three new acquisitions this week alone. Firstly a very nice Coalbrookdale open range that I just couldn't pass up. Sadly I can't make out the digits on the RD mark but I suspect it is circa 1860 and certainly no later than 1868.
Next is a Larbert portable range, this is probably the most desirable of the portable ranges and they don't come up very often. It's in reasonable nick but will certainly take more than a bit of work to get it up to scratch again!
Lastly is a very nice early open range. This type of range predate any dating marks so it is hard to know when they were cast. The earliest example that I have restored was in Bristol and dated from 1813. This one is likely to be a bit later but is almost certainly pre 1840s.

Tyring the market cart wheels

We got stuck into the final round of tyring last weekend. So far Colin and his brother has restored two Oxfordshire bow rave wagons, one timber wagon, a seed drill and a market cart. That means over the last year or so we have tyred sixteen wheels and made a felloes for all of them along with many spokes although all the original naves have been retained.
The last one was Stephan's market cart built in 1900. He discovered that beneath the blue paintwork it had in fact originally been black with scarlet pin stripping almost everywhere. That certainly tried his patience!
We got started on an already blistering hot Sunday and then proceeded to light a fire. You can't tell from the photo but the heat coming off that fire is insufferable and means you have to be quick sharp with the tyre irons if you want to lift the tyre away with loosing your hair!
The tyres were a tight fit and wouldn't have gone on if I hadn't have forged up some tyre dogs the week before.
All that is left now is to finish painting it and to find some brass lamps to go with it. If anyone out there has any that will suit please get in touch!

Interesting goings on in Minehead

We were down in Minehad last weekend to catch the end of the steam fayre and watch a Currach being launched. The first few photo's show the turntable recently installed at the station. It is manually operated by just two men!
The photo's below are of the Currach built largely by a team volunteers over the course of five days. It is 28ft long and carries seven men. The ribs are of hazel whilst much of the rest is constructed of spruce that was felled from North hill above the town the week previous. Traditonally the hull would have been formed from animal hide but Keval was used here. There has been a lot of support for the project and a lrge crowd gathered at the harbour to see if she sank or swam!

Belle portable range in parts

I just dismantled another Belle portable range ready for restoration and thought some people may be interested to see its various parts. This photo shows everthying minus the oven, trays, oven runners, a couple of hotplates and the hotplate tool. Now to remember how it all goes back together again...

Lime kiln in Somerset

I came across this lime kiln sometime ago but was in the area again today so decided to pop by for another visit. There was originally a bank of three but the two on the flanks of the one pictured have collapsed. This one however is in great condition and looks like it could be fired again with some work. What a great project that would be! Hopefully the land owner will one day acknowledge the value of it sure it up before it goes the way of its brothers.

More signwriting at Underfall yard

Rach has been down at Underfall yard again of late finishing the pilot gigs. The most recent gig to be finished is 'Young Bristol' named after its sponsers a youth charity based in Bristol, see here for more details on the organisation; http://www.youngbristol.com/ The photo's here show the level of craftmanship required for the construction of these gigs. To see them up close is something really special and they were built in Bristol by the guys at Underfall yard.