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  • Writer's pictureJodie Robson

Ford Forge opens!

After much planning, preparation and plain hard work, Sunday, the 26th May, saw the first official open day at the newly refurbished and revamped TillVAS Ford Forge Museum. One must say "official” as it cannot be claimed that the visitors who came that day to find out what intriguing objects and artefacts were hiding in the rooms above the stone stair, were the first……in fact, each time the door was left ajar in the run up to opening day, it seems that someone managed to find their way in and take a sneak peak! Even during the Thursday afternoon induction session for museum volunteers, there were a couple of unfamiliar faces amongst the group, who actually turned out to be visitors! But, no matter…a warm welcome was given and the opportunity taken for a practice run!

Sunday wasn’t the brightest Bank Holiday weekend day but, even so, it wasn’t long after the door was opened and the shutters pinned back that the first group appeared, a family, which included our first child and first canine visitor too! Thereafter, a fairly steady trickle of people arrived. Some familiar faces and other members of TillVAS called in to take a look but also several people who were holidaying in the area and followed the yellow arrows from the Station Yard.

It isn’t really possible to say whether any particular area was more popular than another. Many people were fascinated by the breadth of history covered by the objects displayed in the cases containing the metal detector finds but, equally, others spent a lot of time inspecting the various farm implements and tools on display and reminiscing about similar items they had seen in use in their younger days. In the craft corner, there was much discussion of the various terms used for proggy rugs in different parts of the country and the sources of the beautiful colours in the hanks of hand-dyed wools on display.

It is fair to say that there really is something for everyone and the feedback from visitors was overwhelmingly positive. Gail and Jim Evans, from Ilfracombe in North Devon, said the museum was an unexpected treat and having very much enjoyed their visit, left a donation. There was also a lot of interest in the history of the Ford Forge site, the Black family and the Baptist Chapel. It must be said that the idea of baptising someone in the Till, which was running extremely high and very brown on Sunday, seemed a rather hazardous one!

Although the Museum is looking wonderful and the layout seems to work very well, it will undoubtedly continue to develop and evolve in response to how visitors interact with the various areas and displays, as well as input from the volunteers. There are already plans afoot to add a child-sized table to Woolly the Sheep’s corner and to include audiovisual content in the displays.

It would not have been possible to open the museum without the help and support of a large number of people but special mentions must go to Alan Urwin, Rob McCreath and Ray Clarke, as well as Tim Smith, Jodie Robson and Pete Slater. TillVAS must also thank the Community Fund for approving the funding grant to the project and Jenny Cant for helping to put the successful bid together. Of course, without the inspiration, ideas, continued enthusiasm and huge effort of project leader, Jane Beacham, the museum would not exist in the form it is now and she should be very proud of the results!

Lara Holman

Some comments from the visitors' book:

“Excellent display and so much in these objects of lives lived here and a much-needed additional reason to celebrate Ford’s history” – R. Miket

“Fascinating & interesting – a lovely find!” – J. Cleminson, Preston

“Fascinating & beautifully presented!” – A. Rogers, Newcastle

“A treasure trove of objects with lots to think of…” – K. Elliott, Galashiels

“We’re so grateful to have visited here and met you. A highlight of our trip! – The Nesbit family, San Francisco. The Nesbit family visited on the 8 May and are direct descendants of John Black of Swinton, through his daughter, Ann (1790-1842).


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