Spade making (forged heads)
The making of spades and shovels, specifically with forged heads and usually with wooden handles.
|Historic area of significance|
|Area currently practised|
|Origin in the UK||Huddersfield and Templepatrick, Co. Antrim|
|Minimum no. of craftspeople required|
|Current no. of trainees||0|
|Current no. of skilled craftspeople||1 business|
|Current total no. of craftspeople||1 business (see ‘Other information’ for further details)|
Spades are a popular gardening and building tool. Due to industrialization, there are very few craftsmen who still handcraft spades. Spades have been made and used for centuries. With the Industrial Revolution, the number of handcrafted spades, however, has been on the decline.
Patterson’s spade mill. Photo: Robin Wood MBE
Issues affecting the viability of the craft
The following sustainability issues were highlighted by Richard Carter Ltd., which manufacture bent steel spades, rather than forged spades.
Training issues/recruitment issues: Always a challenge to recruit new staff for physically difficult and dirty jobs in a predominately male environment. Also very hard to find suitable people with the right work ethic – many school-leavers have no idea what industry is like.
Foreign competition: Competition from cheaper foreign imports is always an issue
Market issues: There has been a change in consumer’s attitudes towards quality – customers don’t necessary see the value in paying for quality and would prefer to buy cheaper alternatives even if they don’t last as long
Market issues: Have to rely on making a high-end/niche product – the market just isn’t there if you rely on volume
Craftspeople currently known
- Patterson’s Spade Mill – based in Templepatrick, County Antrim, Northern Ireland – is the only company to hand forge spade heads. They are also the last surviving water-driven spade mill in the British Isles.
Richard Carter Ltd. – based in Huddersfield – do make spade heads, but these are made from bent mild steel, rather than by forging. They are the only company manufacturing spades and shovels on a commercial basis, primarily for contract/utility work but also a small amount for garden retail. Also manufacture handles, edge and other tools. Twenty people working in the factory.
Until recently, Bulldog Tools manufactured garden spades and forks in the UK. They have since out-sourced the forging of the heads to their factory in India, but still make the handles in Wigan and assemble the finished product in the UK.