The Wirksworth owdman and link to Goodluck mine site
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Jacob Butler's Joinery Workshop

Why "owdman"?

I needed a domain name which was short, easy to remember, distinctive, possibly unique and in some way relevant to my activities.

The limestone of Derbyshire has been quarried for stone and mined for lead for at least two thousand years. The landscape is littered with the workings, old shafts, spoil heaps, tunnels and other indications of old mining activities. Modern quarry workings regularly uncover older tunnels, some of which may have been unseen for hundreds of years These old signs of activity are referred to as the works of "the old man" or t'owdman " as they say in Derbyshire dialect, pronounced: toad man.

Restoration work in old buildings leads to close encounters with another group of "old men" - the original building workers. As well as the building there are more personal signs of their existence; things found and things hidden from view. There might be axe or plane marks where a board has been scribed, with the shavings still there in the floor space where they were dropped 100 or 200 years ago. There may be hand marks: old hand made bricks with four finger prints on one side and a thumb print on the other. I recently found mysterious shell like markings in the lime plaster of an old wall which could only have been the impressions of the corduroy clad knees of a builder where he braced himself , lifting a stone on to the next course. Clay pipe stems are common. I have found clay pipe bowls still filled with tobacco. Antique tobacco and sweet wrappers litter floor spaces. There might be pencil marks on the back of a pulley stile, occasionally written words such as 'top left', but very rarely a name: owd men are almost always anonymous.

Often these ephemera are quite fresh, having been covered over since they were first placed there. You may even notice a faint odour of tobacco smoke. If you are working on your own in an old building on quiet day, you can convince yourself that you can still hear their voices.

The most important thing they have left behind is of course the work itself. Anybody getting involved with old craftsman made products soon becomes aware of the amazing quality of the work and the sheer skill and intelligence with which it is put together

These people are in a way so near yet so far; usually very little is known of them. Their products are all around us - every inch of every building has been handled and worked by them many times. If their movements had been time-lapse filmed then all buildings and most of the land would appear as busy as a beehive, swarming with owd men and owd women.
So my domain name is a little homage to these people and recognition that the little I have learned about traditional joinery is entirely owed to the excellent and durable quality of the work they left behind.

Inside the Hopton Stone works, Middleton by Wirksworth. Date unknown. Probably late 19C
Stone workers in Middleton