Friday 31 March 1989

The Wiltshire Foundry Remembered


Warminster historian Danny Howell travelled to Bradford On Avon on Wednesday 15 March 1989, to talk to members of the West Wiltshire Industrial Archaeology Society.

At their request, Mr. Howell, with the help of slides from his own personal collection, spoke about the rise and fall of the Wiltshire Foundry, which was situated at Carson's Yard, off East Street, Warminster.

The foundry was owned by William Ewens in the 1790's but was acquired by Hugh Carson and Henry Miller in 1816. Trading as Carson and Miller they produced agricultural implements for export to New Zealand, France and Germany.

Another part of their output was the manufacture in the 1840's of cast iron mileposts, and several of these still survive in the Warminster area. Good examples can be seen at Parsonage Farm, Lord's Hill and on Sutton Veny Common.

Something else made by Carson and Miller are the gates and railings at the Nonconformist Cemetery, Boreham Road (1828), and they were also responsible for the supply of bedsteads, cooking equipment and fire grates for the Warminster Union Workhouse at Sambourne (1836).

Hugh Carson's son and son-in-law, William Hugh Carson and John Vidler Toone, took the foundry to new heights in the 1860's and 1870's. Ten different sizes of cheese presses featured in their range of farm machinery, which also included chaff cutters, horse hoes and troughs. These items carried the name of Warminster all over the globe.

Mr. Howell showed slides of several Carson and Toone implements that had come to light in the past year. Among these was a sheep trough found on a market stall at Devizes; a chaff cutter found in an old bakery at Silver Street, Warminster; and a one-row, horse hoe discovered at Starr's Farm, Crockerton.

The Toones sold the foundry in 1903 and emigrated to Maryfield, Saskatchewan, Canada, where they took up a new and equally successful career as wheat farmers.

Mr. Howell was contacted by the Toones' descendants last year; they have since sent him from Canada several photographs and extra information.

One item that Mr. Howell was delighted to receive was a copy of the sale catalogue of the Toones' house, Inglebury, which was situated in East Street, behind the post office. Dated 1903, it lists the entire contents of the house and shows how the Toones furnished their home. Inglebury, which was later used as a shop by George Bush and Co., was demolished in 1968 but the site is still awaiting redevelopment today.

A vote of thanks was given by John Sawtell, and Mr. Howell then answered questions from the audience. Some were pleased to say that they had Carson and Toone artefacts, including a lamb creep and a pig trough, in their own private collections.

Next month the Society will visit the Tithe Barn in Bradford On Avon, to see the Croker Collection, which includes a Carson and Toone cheese press!