Back from Down Under – vintage shearing machine finds a new home in Corwen

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A remarkable agricultural antique – a mechanical sheep-shearing machine over 100 years old – has completed a 30,000-mile round the world trip to Australia and back to an honoured place in Corwen.

The 1909 machine which needed two men to operate it was developed by the Gloucestershire firm of R A Lister and Co but discovered Down Under by Corwen man Trefor Jones who has loaned it to the town’s museum on London Road.

The museum plans to re-open when lockdown ends but in the meantime visitors can get a flavour of its attractions thanks to a set of illustrated information boards paid for by their neighbours, social enterprise group South Denbighshire Community Partnership (SDCP), at Canolfan Ni.

They chart the rich history of the town and its surrounds from the days when Roman legions marched up Watling Street past the site of the museum through local man Owain Glyndwr’s rebellion in the 15th century to the arrival of the stagecoach and the railway.

Corwen Museum Chairman Jim Ritchie said: “The boards give a taste of some of the attractions we have at the museum and are for local people and visitors who we hope will call in when we re-open.

“We hope that will be in May or June when people will be able to see this wonderful shearing machine which turned up in Australia in good condition apart from the wooden handle which had rotted.

“Mr Jones contacted Listers and amazingly they found one remaining wooden handle in their stores and sent it to us and it still turns just as it would have done when it was an essential tool of sheep shearers everywhere.”

Before the Lister machine was invented all shearing would have had to be done using hand clippers and Listers are still going and still making shearing equipment.”

Leah Edwards, Community Engagement Co-ordinator at SDCP, said: “We contributed £1600 from the National Lottery Community Fund, but to us it wasn’t about the money, it was about working with Corwen Museum.

“It strengthens our relationship with the museum and by collaborating on a project that shows the important historical facts of the area it helps us learn about our shared past.

“The display boards are very informative and useful and they brighten up Canolfan Ni as well.”

Roger Hayward, Chairman of the Trustees of SDCP, added: “This is aimed at visitors to the town and also for local people many of whom don’t know about our rich history.

“This is a way of giving them a taste of it in little bite-sized snippets and hopefully it will encourage more visitors to the museum.”

The museum, housed in a former chapel, opened in 2015 and is run by the Edeyrnion Heritage and Cultural Society, and since opening has attracted over 20,000 visitors and benefited the local economy by over £400,000.

Jim added: “We are currently working on boards for the Museum wall opposite Canolfan Ni and they will give information about the buildings and sites that can be seen from this part of Corwen.

“We have 35 volunteers and we have themed exhibitions – we are continuing last year’s theme of Authors, Artists and Evacuees because it ran for only ten days before lockdown came in.

“It features the painter Augustus John and the novelist John Cowper Powys who lived in the town for many years.”

Other exhibits include the Chairs from Corwen Eisteddfodau

SDCP, a registered charity, was last year awarded a four-year £500,000 grant by the Big Lottery Fund to fight poverty in South Denbighshire and extend its reach beyond the Edeyrnion area of Corwen to Llangollen.

It was the second major lottery grant to SDCP following the award of £350,000 in 2018 ago to work with older and vulnerable people in the Edeyrnion area.

The charity also receives funding from Cadwyn Clwyd and works closely with Denbighshire County Council and with Denbighshire Citizens Advice Bureau.

For more information on SDCP go to https://www.facebook.com/sdcpartnership and for those in need of support contact SDCP on 01490 266004.