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Published July 2nd 2019
Try not to get hammered
A visit to Finch Foundry lets you look at Devon's industrial past. We took a trip here to see the last working water-powered forge in the UK,
Founded in the 19th century and operating until the 1960s, with operation ceasing after one of its main walls collapsed due to the vibrations of the large water-powered hammers that were used to flatten the steel.
It was deemed uneconomical to repair the wall due to the business not making a profit for many years as manufacturing had become more mechanised with tools being produced far cheaper elsewhere.
During peak production, a team of around fifteen were able to produce 400 edge tools a day in what was a labour intensive operation.
The unique method used to power production was via a series of three overshot waterwheels. These are fed from the top rather than the traditional way of using water passing by along a stream. This method allowed them to produce around two and a half times the power, with all the water being taken from a nearby stream then fed back into it, making it a sustainable source of energy.
A highlight of a visit here is to watch one of the regular talks with live demonstrations of some of the equipment they used. These take place throughout the day. We all enjoyed watching and listening to the person giving the talk who was both interesting and entertaining, filled with knowledge about the building and the Finch family that built the business.
Upstairs you will find a gallery that displays some of the objects made here and provides more information on the history of the Finch family.