Monday 18 April 2016

Finch Foundry

As the great Forrest Gump once said, the National Trust is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.

However, if you're heading to a place called Finch Foundry, you can probably safely assume that you're not going to see any antique lace or rhododendrons.

Finch Foundry

BUT there were surprises in store. Here are seven things that I absolutely loved about Finch Foundry:

1. It's actually a forge, not a foundry
I had absolutely no clue what the difference was between a foundry and a forge before my visit to Finch, but now I know: a foundry pours molten metal into moulds to create products. A forge heats metal so the items can be hammered into shape.

2. Finch Foundry was used to dry children
I swear this is in the guide book: in the 19th century, children would get soaked walking the three miles to school, so the headteacher would send them to Finch Foundry with a note saying 'Dear Mr Finch, please dry out these children.' 

3. It's in a village called Sticklepath
What a great name for a village.

4. Finch Foundry kept going from 1814 until 1960
There have been water-powered mills in the area for over 700 years. When the Devon woollen industry collapsed, the mill became a forge in 1814 under the management of the Finch family. It kept going until 1960, when part of the building collapsed. 

5. It produced 400 tools a day at its peak
Finch Foundry produced a huge range of edge-tools - I know what a shovel and an axe are, but I have absolutely no clue what a Cornish furze hook likes like, nor a Devon potato chopper. Anyway, the Finch family also made wheel parts, coffin boards,'s incredible to think that they produced 400 tools a day at their peak.

Finch Foundry tools

6. The Finches were committed salespeople
Of course, all of those tools had to be sold as well as made. In 1822, no cart was available to take Susannah Finch, wife of William, to Tavistock fair, so she walked the 20 miles with a quantity of bill-hooks, despite being heavily pregnant. When she returned, she had sold all of the bill-hooks and given birth to a baby girl. 

7. There's a connection to Uncle Tom Cobley
The Scone Sidekick got very upset today about Uncle Tom Cobley; 

Scone Sidekick: "Who was the woman at reception talking about?"
Me: "Uncle Tom Cobley"
SS: "I've never heard of him"
Me: "You know the saying, 'Uncle Tom Cobley and all'?"
SS: "I've never heard of him"
Me: "It means, you know, everyone, as in 'he invited everyone to his party, Uncle Tom Cobley and all'?"
SS: "I've never heard of him"
Me: "I thought everyone knew that saying"
SS: "I've never heard of him"
Me: "I'm getting the feeling that you're not very interested in Uncle Tom Cobley, possibly on account of the fact that you've never heard of him?"
SS: "I've never heard of him"

We left it there.

But let me share the details of Uncle Tom Cobley with you. He is mentioned in a Devon folk song called Widecombe Fair, which begins:

Tom Pearce, Tom Pearce, lend me your grey mare.
All along, down along, out along lea.
For I want for to go to Widecombe Fair,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan'l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

It all ends very badly, because the grey mare dies - and can you blame her, taking nine men to a fair - and she now haunts the moor.

ANYWAY. The connection with Finch Foundry is that a Tom Pearce (or Pearse) lived in Sticklepath, where his family owned a mill. He is buried in the Quaker graveyard behind the Foundry. Whether he is the Tom Pearce mentioned in the song is another matter, but let's not ruin it.

The Finch Foundry scone
Let's move on to the scones. I got a bit unnecessarily stroppy recently with a fellow scone fan who criticised the scones at Finch Foundry for being 'unadventurous'. I hadn't been to Finch at the time, but I could guess that they didn't have a huge catering operation, and I'm a big champion of small properties that do their best (see also: Cherryburn and the River Wey). Now I've seen it, I can confirm that Finch Foundry has a weeny little tea room that does brilliantly to serve tea and cake at all. But still - it's not really worth getting annoyed about.

Anyway, the scones at Finch Foundry were very unadventurous. I'm joking. They were perfectly nice scones that weren't home-made, but it's kind of hard to bake scones if you don't have a kitchen? So bravo, Finch Foundry:

Finch Foundry scones

I must say that I was expecting Devon to be trouncing the other counties when it came to scones, but of six properties, only A la Ronde and Saltram have scored top marks. But I still have some big Devonian places to visit, so watch this space.

Finch Foundry: 5 out of 5
Scones: 3.5 out of 5
Scone Sidekick's continued bafflement at Uncle Tom Cobley: 5 out of 5


  1. Sorry, this is nothing to do with anything, but I'm giggling at the fact that I've just noticed the 'This site uses cookies' header at the top of this page. How I wish you could get it replaced with 'This site uses scones...'

  2. That is a genius idea, Jane. I am going to work on that.