Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Collection highlights: England's weather vanes

A post for a windy day!

For generations England’s Ironmongers was an institution in Pontefract’s Market Place. 

Behind the ornate terracotta façade (that is now WH Smith) was England's “white” or tinsmith, who made ladles, boxes and even weather vanes.

Tin templates for weather vanes from England's, Pontefract. 

These templates were part of a range on offer to clients. The large tree stump used as an anvil is also been kept in the museum’s collections.  We even have a small pair of framed slates on which the tinsmith had chalked out a list of his day’s work not knowing that he would be killed by a heart attack on that very day.

In the liquorice works of the town “Spanish Lasses” (as the workers were known) used metal shovels to mix the different “allsorts” sweets. As the shovel wore away, work became a little easier. But when replacing the blade at England’s tinsmith could no longer be put off, the work became harder again, as the blade was its full heavy thickness once more.

Few ornate weather vanes survive locally. The one on Pontefract Town Hall is a modern replacement that is out of scale with the Georgian building. Pontefract racecourse and Nostell Priory both once had elaborate weather vanes. “Father Time” at Lords cricket pavilion is now a bit of a national icon and if you visit Whitby the gold salmon on the Georgian town hall is beautiful!

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