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A Little Bit of History

Every now and then a job comes along that stands out from the routine. It can be for all sorts of reasons. Technically challenging, innovative, stuff that pushes the boundaries. Sometimes though, the ones that stick in the memory are nothing to do with those sorts of things but are remembered due to where we are and our history. One such job occurred a little while ago and to understand why it’s special you need to know a little about where we are.

Sheffield stands next to the Peak District National Park in England, an area I’ve known all my life. It’s rolling countryside, pleasant walks, rocky crags, stone built villages, scattered farms and country pubs, the country pubs being of particular importance. I’ve strolled through it with my mum and dad for as long as I can remember and given that it looks like this, why wouldn’t you.


One of the landmarks is something called the Stannage Pole. It’s basically a large wooden pole set in stones above one of the rocky crags, Stannage Edge. No one really knows how old it is but its an ancient boundary marker that certainly goes back into the sixteenth century, maybe older. There’s a brief history here


Being wood, the pole rots so over the years there have been a number of Stannage Poles. The latest one had to be removed for safety reasons a year or so ago which meant coming up with a way to replace it that would hopefully last a bit longer. This is where Durham Foundry came in. We were approached by a designer, Chris Wells, to see if we’d be interested in making an iron base for the new pole which, coupled with a steel frame and a solid foundation, would give a new pole that would last a long time. We were more than happy to help, the project involving a number of local engineering companies, the whole exercise being overseen by Rebekah Newman at the Peak District National Park Authority. A few meetings later and a bit of time for the wheels of bureaucracy to slowly turn and we had our base. Here it is in situ.


The wording cast onto the top gives distances to local villages and points of interest. We even had a pole raising ceremony where the wooden pole was carried by hand from the nearest car park and erected with the aid of several ropes and lot of muscle power. There’s a video here that shows the preparation and another one here that shows the raising ceremony. I’m somewhere in the audience along with my foreman and one of my moulders which brings me back to the title of this post – A Little Bit of History. I like the idea of one of my castings being up on the moors above Sheffield that people will see and comment on for years to come. 

One final thing. If anyone ever takes the casting up and has a look underneath, they’ll see a couple of names that were scratched into the sand mould. Joshua Sutton and Simon Parr. Josh is my moulder apprentice and Simon is one of my long serving moulders. Between them, they were the ones who made it so that just adds a little bit more history.

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Mike Naylor