We were delighted when Laura invited us to visit the Kirkpatrick foundry. We have been using Kirkpatrick ironmongery for all our doors and window since building our very first shepherd’s hut. We appreciate and share their values of quality, traditional craftsmanship, durability and heritage.
So, we made our way to Walsall. A proud and historic industrial area in the West Midlands. Kirkpatrick were founded in 1855, in fact, had we been travelling back then, we would have seen many original shepherd’s huts in the fields along the way. They would then, of course, have been used for their original purpose, helping the shepherd look after his flock. However, they would have been a very familiar sight.
We arrived at the foundry and met with Steve, the Managing Director, and Laura, Digital Communications Affiliate.
Our tour began in the pouring room where the process starts. Although all their products, when completed are beautifully made and finished, at some point you must get your hands dirty. This is where that happens, it’s good honest dirt though. Here the melting and the pouring of the molten metal takes place. You could see the craftsmanship, tradition, heritage and history being literally poured into each mould.
Next, we saw the area where the annealing is done, I know! Don’t worry, we didn’t know either. However, it is a very important process, one that most imported ironmongery just doesn’t do. When annealing, the product is reheated and left to cool slowly, for up to four days. This allows the item to become malleable and not brittle, important if you don’t want your door handle or window latch to break.
We then saw the grinding and filing, this tidy’s up all the rough edges, making things nice and smooth, all done by hand. Drilling and assembling then takes place, again all done by hand. The attention to detail is reassuring and is what sets Kirkpatrick apart.
From there the items are dipped, coated or painted, depending on what finish is required.
Then finally to the all-important store room and packing area, where literally hundreds of items are stored and packed to go all over the country and round the world.
One room we were taken into, off the main area, was round some bends, and down some corridors and yes there were spider’s webs and yes it was dark and dusty, but it was worth it - think Indiana Jones and the lost pattern room, an archive of hundreds of patterns and samples, stored in long high racks, going back ions. Hinges, handles, brackets, old signs, all sorts. I could have spent hours in there, just looking through all the fascinating items. It was like discovering a treasure trove of ironmongery, it would not have been out of place in a museum.
Thank you to all the team at Kirkpatrick, it was a fascinating visit and so inspiring to see these skills and traditions still being used in Britain. We should all be so proud of our industrial heritage.