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British Industrial History

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Barnstaple Foundry

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in Barnstaple, Devon

Also known as Rafarel's Iron Foundry

The owners were-

'Barnstaple Foundry was started in 1822 by Mr. Gribble, the author of "Memorials of Barnstaple." The concern soon passed into the hands of Mr. Thomas Lamb Willshire, who greatly developed it, and on his decease his son (the late Mr. Charles Sweet Willshire) became the proprietor. In 1884 Mr. W. C. Rafarel acquired the Foundry, soon trebling its size. Mr. Rafarel himself carried on these important works until about four years ago (1897), when the Company was formed with a capital of £15,000.'[1]

1827 'IRON FOUNDRY FOR SALE. TO BE DISPOSED. A compact and well-arranged IRON FOUNDRY AND SMITHERY with Working Utensils, Stock, &c. The Premises comprise roomy Foundry and capacious Smith's Shop; Drying Stove. Coke Oven, Pattern Maker's Shop, Pattern Room, extensive Walled Yard, Coke Shed, Coal Yard, etc. etc. with nearly Acre of Land adjoining, the whole forming a frontage of 460 feet towards the Turnpike Pike, and distant but quarter of mile from the flourishing Sea Port, and Market Town of Barnstaple, where there are several Lace and Woollen Factories. The Fixtures and Working Materials consist of a complete assortment of Iron Flasks. Two Blast Furnaces, small Air ditto for Brass, a great variety Patterns suited the district and for general Trade; Foundry Crane, powerful Punching Engine. Two Lathes. Foundry, Bellows, valuable stock of Smith's Tools, etc. etc. The Building has been erected, and the whole of Foundry Apparatus made new within the last five years, during which time the concern has been, and still is, in regular work. No other establishment of the kind nearer than miles from Barnstaple. For further particulars apply to the Proprietor, Mr. J. B. Gribble, Barnstaple, Mr. John Bases, Commission Agent, Castle Green, Bristol.'[2]

1859 'BARNSTAPLE FOUNDRY. T. L. WILLSHIRE RESPECTFULLY announces, that having engaged the principal workmen employed by the late Mr. J. C. March, in the Manufacture of the well-known MALT and OAT BRUISING MILLS, known as MARCH'S PATENT MILL, He is prepared to supply the Trade as well as Brewers, Maltsters, &c, with Mills or parts of Mills of precisely the same description and dimensions as those for so many years manufactured by Mr. March. T. L. W. has powerful Machinery adapted to the Manufacture, such as will ensure correctness and precision in all the details and improve and perfect the article. The general business of the IRON AND BRASS FOUNDRY Carried on in all its Departments. Dated Barnstaple, November 24th, 1858.'[3]

1891: 'The funeral of the late Mr. John Edwards, moulder, who was the oldest employe at the Barnstaple Foundry, where he worked for fifty-four years, took place on Tuesday, the remains of the deceased being interred in Holy Trinity Churchyard. There was a large attendance, among those present being Mr. W. C. Rafarel and the workmen in his employ .....'[4]

Information from Strong's Industries of North Devon (1889) with additional notes by B. D. Hughes in 1971 [5]:-

Established by Thomas Lamb Willshire, and carried on by Charles Sweet Willshire until May 1884, when it was taken over by W. C. Rafarel.

In 1889 the managing foreman was a Mr Jarvis. The steam-powered workshop had a boring machine capable of accommodating wheels up to 18 ft diameter. In addition to simple castings such as lamp posts, park benches, stoves and rainwater goods, products included agricultural machinery, lathes, engine fittings, etc. Castings up to 5 tons could be produced at that time.

The foundry closed in 1902, and afterwards the buildings housed the factory of the Barnstaple Cabinet Co and the John Gay Theatre. In 1971 the site was occupied by Cox of Devon.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. North Devon Journal, 4 July 1901
  2. North Devon Journal - Friday 31 August 1827
  3. North Devon Journal, 10 February 1859
  4. North Devon Journal, 10 September 1891
  5. 'Strong's Industries of North Devon (1889)': A reprint with an Introduction and Notes by B D Hughes: David & Charles Reprints