Diary of Bewdley Glass Plate Project

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I could have been more imaginative when I  gave my notebook the title, 'Diary of Bewdley Glass Plate  Project.' But I had no idea then what the plates would reveal. Now, with the benefit of hindsight I might change it to, 'The Hidden Treasure at Bewdley Museum', but as this is a record of events as they occurred and hindsight played no part I will stay with my original title.

I must first say how I came to be standing outside Bewdley Museum waiting for the bell to be answered; and where this tale really begins. For some time I have been interested in Water Mills, and in particular those on the River Stour. I live in Stourbridge, and Clent Hills are not far away. From these hills the Stour starts to trickle, and ends up flowing into the Severn at Stourport. There had once been a foundry making water wheels beside the Stour at Kidderminster. I had read about it in a publication, "Wind and water mills". The writer of the article lived locally. The foundry had closed many years ago but their order books and letters had been preserved and it was these that provided the source material for Tim Booth's article.

I thought it a good starting point for an idea I had about gathering information on products made locally using water power. I had written the first few tentative lines.

"Anything made by water needs a water wheel to transfer the flow of stream or river into the rotation and power of a drive shaft. Where better to begin than the place where water wheels were once manufactured; The Caldwall  Iron and Brass Foundry,  Kidderminster, established in 1831 by brothers George and Richard Turton".

I then decided to contact the writer of the article to see if there were any old photos of the foundry in existence. He had none but  suggested I contact Kidderminster Library, where there may be some records, and went on to explain.

"There was a chap called Chambers who lived in Kidderminster, and went round taking photos around 1900. There may be something in the library, or if not try Bewdley. They seemed to end up holding stuff that was once kept at Kidderminster. Something to do with the museum at Kidderminster closing, so lots ended up at Bewdley. Speak to Charles Purcell."

Now I can claim a link with Bewdley. My grandfather Plevey made leather goods in the town; a good excuse to visit the museum. The bell was answered and soon I was talking to Charles, and he was showing me pictures from their collection of Plevey, the Saddlers.

" That's about It," he said; an opportune moment for me to mention the Caldwall Foundry. He shook his head.

"Photos on Glass Plates? You have a collection of these?"

"Oh yes, but we don't know what's on them. One day we'll maybe get a grant and get round to sorting them."

"Is this the Chambers Collection?"

"Chambers? Sorry but don't know that name."

"Can I see the plates?"

My  diary takes up the tale from here.

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