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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley » 17 Oct 2017, 14:05


How many of you remember the panel game 'Animal Vegetable or Mineral' and the famous fall from grace of Gilbert Harding as presenter in 1960? I was reminded of it when confronted with yet another story about the world being swamped in a tide of discarded plastic because it struck me that this is one of the major changes in my lifetime, the addition of a fourth classification, Plastics.
Our stone age ancestors were smart cookies and there is no doubt that by and large, they could classify the materials they encountered in everyday life without necessarily ascribing a name to them. They could see the difference between a rock, a plant and a rabbit and understood the connection. Apart from those who saw the original plastics, Bakelite and Perspex in the 1930s we were all in the same position as our ancestors as late as the 1960s but then everything changed.
The new material was versatile, modern and easy to keep clean. It rapidly replaced many of the old technologies and in the course of doing that killed many of the most important old local trades off. Chief amongst these was the tinsmiths. Young people today might be surprised to know that until the advent of the Second World war, if you wanted a bucket, jug, lading tin, bowl and many more domestic items, if it wasn't available in pottery form you went to 'Harry Tinners' on Church Street. His Sunday name was Harry Hargreaves, in 1887 his shop was at 5 Church Street but in 1896 he had moved to number 2.
In the 1920s my old friend Arthur Entwistle was apprenticed to a new firm of tinsmiths, William and Sam Yates who came from Blackburn and had premises in the Seven Stars Yard. They concentrated more on the work for the mills where a lot of tinsmith's work was needed from maintenance of the tape machines to machinery guards and small items like oil cans. They failed before the outbreak of war, Arthur said it was bad management. At that time there was an old tinsmith living in The Nook at the end of King Street and Arthur's dad said he'd buy his 'tinman's jenny', an essential piece of equipment, off him and set Arthur up as a tinsmith but this never happened. There were also itinerant 'tinkers' who travelled round knocking on doors and offering to do repairs.
Some of the old tinsmiths survived and became 'sheet metal workers', there was one working in John Ingoe's shop when I was there in the 1980s but apart from repair work, they didn't have any contact with the domestic market. If your pan sprang a leak it was cheaper to buy a new one. It was a very skilled trade and I am sorry it died, there is beauty in a well-made tin box! Look at my case for my Primus stove. But plastic killed the trade and good examples of the craft are now expensive antiques. A bit like me......


A good example of the tinsmith's art.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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