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Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2014

Smiths & Wrights

The Wheelwrights Shop

The classic book The Wheelwright's Shop written by George Sturt in 1923 (he also wrote as 'George Bourne') is a special feature at the Rural Life Centre.

This is the countryside associated with the well-known craftsman and writer who was born in Farnham in 1863 and died at his home in the Bourne in 1927. Here you can see some of the tools from his wheelwright's shop set out in what is now one of the most complete such workshops left in the country.

The majority of items come from the Hawkins family workshop, in business at Hillgrove in Sussex from 1767 to 1961. Everything from their business was fortunately saved, including the ledgers covering their entire history which are now part of the museum's archives available to serious researchers.

Other tools and equipment came from the Horder family of Loxwood. Sussex; D. Coleman of Chobham, Surrey and George Instone of Cove, Hampshire. Among the most prized artefacts are tools which once belonged to Sidney Wheeler, an apprentice of George Sturt's, which were actually used in the shop which was the setting for the well known book, The Wheelwright's Shop.

George Sturt wrote many books on country matters and life in the nearby village of The Bourne, some written under his pen-name 'George Bourne'. Also here you can see brass hub-caps from other wheelwrights' shops in the town of Farnham - George Elliott; Keen; Keen and Heath; Mason; Sturt and Goacher.

If you are interested in wheelwrighting, why not visit the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights' website at www.wheelwrights.org

The Wealden Iron Furnace

The Weald around the Surrey and Sussex border area was once the heart of the country's iron production industry due to the abundance of timber to be turned into charcoal.
Wealdon Iron Furnace

Charcoal was the only fuel that produced sufficient heat to smelt iron until Abraham Darby perfected the use of coke for iron smelting and steel making, and the industry moved north to the coalfields. The last furnace in the south closed down in 1813.

Museum volunteer Gerald Baker has been the driving force behind the iron furnace project, which has taken about five years to complete.

His interest gave him the idea to build a half-scale furnace complete with bellows and hammer at the Rural Life Centre. Now, aided by financial support from the Surrey Hills Sustainable Development Fund, the project has come to the attention of history buffs and film-makers and was featured in BBC2's Tudor Monastery Farm in November 2013.

There have been several 'burns' in the furnace, proving the efficiency of the bellows, but currently there isn't a big enough supply of charcoal to enable iron to be made - despite being only half-size, this furnace will still need four tonnes of charcoal when in action!

Actual smelting of ore is still being considered (due to potential dangers involved) but a charcoal burning programme has already been initiated at the museum and this could become another regular feature for visitors.

The Forge

It seems hardly any time since nearly every village had a blacksmith with his forge. Originally they shod and helped maintain the paraphernalia that went with horses, as well as producing and repairing household items.

A fully working reconstruction of a village blacksmith's workshop complete with all tools for farriery and general ironwork can be demonstrated to schools and other groups when pre-booked. Many of the items came from George Instone's shop at Cove.

Ours is a working shop and is currently used by three blacksmiths who undertake commissioned work and also run forge-work craft courses. To find out more about them and their work please visit their website.