Pewsey Heritage Centre - Museum History
Our collection is housed in the former foundry building of Whatley and Hosier, a water and agricultural engineering firm who moved from Wootton Rivers to Pewsey in about 1870. The firm was well located to access coal, steel stock and cast iron brought along the canal to Pewsey Wharf; latterly raw materials would have come in by rail.
After patenting several pump and valve designs, the company flourished and expanded into agricultural engineering with the advent of mechanisation on the farms of the fertile Pewsey Vale in the nineteenth century. The firm, now known as Whatley and Co, built and repaired this equipment as well as manufacturing replacement components.
Whatley's built a new foundry in 1873 to accommodate their casting and machining work; this is the building in which the Heritage Centre is located. The managing director, Uriah Whatley, made use of cheaply available limestone blocks left over from works associated with the canal and the railway.
The building is a veritable Victorian temple of industry: there are stone semi-circular arches over all doors and windows and a fan shaping of the top glazing panes in the windows. Originally there were huge doors in the west and south walls, capable of allowing a traction engine inside. Despite a fire destroying the original roof in 1919, the remainder of the building is as constructed. The floor of the foundry was originally of sand, to facilitate the casting process. This was concreted over as the use of the building changed. The building was also fitted with a hand operated overhead 5 ton travelling crane, which is still in place.
By the 1970s the business had become unsustainable in the face of competition from firms with more up-to-date technology. Whatley's focussed on motor repair work in new buildings to the rear of the foundry. With no institution forthcoming to take on the historic equipment in the foundry, it seems this might be scrapped. Pewsey Local History Society reached agreement with Whatley's that in exchange for part of the building being used as a museum, the machinery would be preserved in situ.
The Centre aims to gather together artefacts relating to the social, economic, agricultural and of course industrial aspects of life in the Vale of Pewsey from the last 150 years. The Centre is a place where senior citizens can scoff 'I don't know why this is in here - we use ours every day', and the youngsters can say 'What did they use these old things for?'. Archive material is also available to researchers
The Centre now holds more material than it can display at one time. Many exhibits are rotated though some stay on permanent exhibition, either because of general interest, for example wartime memorabilia, or because they are too heavy to move. The Centre has a large collection of local photographs with originals, stored. Copies are available for exhibition.
Our long term aims are the retention and expansion of the collection, with more space being made available for display, more work being done on archiving, conservation and preservation of the items, and the need to build up the band of volunteers who help both with the stewarding of the Centre and the back room activities.