CHEDHAM’S Yard in Wellesbourne is celebrating its 200th anniversary on Saturday (September 9) with the donation of a unique record of its work to the county archives.
The accounts ledger documents the jobs undertaken by the wheelwrights between 1867 and 1880 and gives visitors to the preserved yard a much better idea of the kind of work that was done.
A digital copy has already been made, and volunteers have been working to transcribe the Victorian handwriting, which can be difficult for visitors to read.
John Sheffield, who co-ordinates the project, said: “When I first knew about the ledger I thought it would be easy to transcribe it into readable English, but after actually looking at it I had to rethink. I had some pages copied so that anyone interested could try to decipher the writing. Margaret and Janet took up the challenge and are doing a wonderful job. They tell me it is a great help if you are good at crosswords.”
Volunteers will be welcoming archivist Sharon Forman and Robert Pitt from the conservation and reprographics department of Warwickshire County Records Office to Chedham’s Yard on Saturday (September 9). They will be handing over the original ledger volume to the archive for permanent safekeeping and visitors are welcome.
The yard was run by five generations of the Chedham family from 1823 until 1966 when the last owner, Bill Chedham, closed the doors. Fortunately, Bill made it possible for the yard to be taken over by the parish council, and then managed by trustees.
Success in winning the BBC’s 2006 Restoration Village competition meant that funds were available to restore and preserve the yard as a time capsule which enables visitors today to see what rural working life was like in times past.
Among the documents that Bill handed over was the 374 page ledger. It details every job that the yard’s wheelwrights and blacksmiths worked on for the people of Wellesbourne and surrounding villages.
For the past year, three volunteers – Margaret Taylor, Janet Hall and John Sheffield – have been working on the ledger. Janet and Margaret, who do most of the transcribing, are now very familiar with the handwriting, spelling and terms found in the ledger, for example ‘Straks’, ‘Hobs’, ‘Wedgen en the Box’, ‘ Cutt and Shutt’ and ‘Stoping up the Oles’.
When visitors enter the yard, they see a fascinating jumble of tools and equipment. The transcription now gives everyone a much better idea about the actual work that was carried out. As well as repairs to wheels and carts, agricultural machinery was worked on such as harrows, ploughs, horse rakes, winnowing machines and turnip cutters.
Smaller items too were mended like wheel barrows, barrels, saws, and garden and farm tools. Mending a spade could cost 3d, cleaning and painting a cart could be £1.10. But the biggest bills, such as £34, arose when Chedhams hired out the threshing machines that they invested in when demand for traditional wheelwrighting began to fall away.
Archivist Sharon Forman added: “We are delighted to receive this historic document for permanent preservation. Records like these offer a unique window into the life and work of our ancestors and by placing this now-fragile ledger with the archive, the yard has ensured that it will be available for readers far into the future.”