How, Ron (b.1912)

This recording is part of a series about the Brompton Regis Carriage Works on Exmoor. Brothers Ron and Ern How spent their working lives in the business, continuing after their father and grandfather. Local historian Ann Heeley talked to Ron about the tools he used in the wheelwrights shop.


The business began to decline after the Second World War. Ron demonstrated the functions of each tool, before assembling a wheel and describing the various parts. The mechanisation of agriculture in the twentieth century reduced the need for rural craftsmen like wheelwrights and blacksmiths.

Mr Ron How of Brompton Regis Carriage Works in the doorway of the wheelwrights shop, 1986. Mr Ron How of Brompton Regis Carriage Works in the doorway of the wheelwrights shop, 1986.
Sound File
Listen to Ron How - 1.96MB Duration 4:16 min.

AH: They were big wheels you were making if you were using these?


RH: Not so big as with they, not so big, not so big as the ones that used to go away, you know, the cattle, cattle wagons and things like that.  They were, they were great things, oh they used to come right across, you know, not morticed in a wood bond.  They used to come right across, you know, the ones what we had and Dunlops, Dunlops tyres then, you know, we had for wagons.  They used to have Dunlops tyres, you know, that’s in later years when we used to send them away.


AH: When you say ‘the cattle wagons’ do you, were they horse-drawn cattle wagons or motorised?


RH: No, horse-drawn, horse-drawn back then.


AH: Were they totally enclosed then?


RH: Totally enclosed, yes.  Oh you know the, the horse boxes there is now, come down over and come down that side, yeah.  They used to, as much as they could do to go in under there, you know.  They was just, just passing under, they used…


AH: And you made those again for your agents?


RH: Yeah, for our agents.  We didn’t make any, not for to sell ourselves, you know, direct; just for agents we used to make those, oh yeah.


AH: And nobody locally would have had that kind of cattle wagon?


RH: No, I don’t see of them about here.


AH: Well, people used to hunt their cattle, didn’t they?


RH: Yes, yes, they did, yes, fair to fair they used to.  We used to have a fair up here always, you know, a proper day out it was for the fair, the fair.


AH: And did you do an apprenticeship?


RH: Well, so so.  I had to do everything once that what it was, you know, I used to have to do the lot, you know, they made me do the lot so anybody so well …they used to say so that you should know, you know, but it wasn’t because we were, you know, we were one of the sons or anything like that.  We were never let out of it.  You had to do everything just the same as anybody else.


AH: So whereabouts did you start, you know, when you started working here?


RH: Well I, I think what I did some, what I can remember of it, I started here down in the, down in with me father, in the workshop here.


AH: Your father worked in here, did he?


RH: Yeah, yeah.  They said he’s the only man that they know of that have made a wheel and bond it in a day, yeah.  That’s true, turn the, that’s turning the stocks and all down there. He done it for someone buying a wagon.  They broke down and they had all corn on it but then you can’t, you can’t say it was a day really, you know what I mean, it was daylight until dark, you know.


AH: Normally how long would a wheel take?  How long would a wheel be in here?


RH: Oh, we would be in here for two or three days, something like that, ordinary working, you know.


AH: And how many wheels would you have being made at once?


RH: Well, we always used to have two, one there and one there, so we need to have two.  Then perhaps somebody else would be doing something, perhaps cleaning off.  If, you know, they was pushed for anything, there’d be perhaps another two cleaning off the spokes and the felloes and all that there, you know, champering out the hubs and felloes.


AH: So you’d make, you’d make always a pair of wheels together, would you?


RH: Yeah, oh yeah. Then you, then you used to have to go out and help to cut out all these things down there, you see.  Everything was all right cutting out until you come to the shaft, and they take some cutting out but, you know, blooming great …well, you can see there, there’s.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in June 1986. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.