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A Community Forged From Iron

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This moulded wall plaque (number 2012.47) is a depiction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' and was donated to Erewash Museum in 2011.

Last Supper by da Vicini replica cast in metal

The plaque was produced at Stanton Ironworks and is believed to have been made as part of an apprenticeship. It recently featured on an episode of ITV's 'Dickenson's Real Deal' when Museum Manager Nicola Wood took an assortment of Stanton Ironworks related objects along to the show and spoke about the importance of the role the Ironworks has in the heritage of the local area.

It is known that a number of similar wall plaques depicting 'The Last Supper' were made at Stanton Ironworks during the first half of the 20th century. One can be found at St Mary's Church in Ilkeston after it was relocated there from St Bartholomew's Church in Hallam Fields. Another is at the Church of All Saints in Kirk Hallam (pictured below). It is thought that these castings were made by a Samuel Hendy. The Hendy family had moved to the area in 1878 and Samuel's father, Edward and uncle, John, immediately began working at Stanton. Samuel, born in 1867, soon followed and began work as a pipe moulder aged 13. By 1911 Samuel, aged 43, was still at Stanton and was by then an 'engineering and jobbing moulder'. An article in a 1948 edition of the Stantonian regards Samuel as one of the finest moulders ever to be employed at Stanton and his skill is certainly evident in his work.Casting of the da Vinci Last Supper from Kirk Hallam Church

Stanton Ironworks grew in size from the mid 19th century onwards and played a key role in both the First and Second World Wars in supplying the military with armaments. At the peak of production  Stanton employed approximately 12,500 people, making it one of the largest single employers in the area. There was a real sense of community and camaraderie amongst the workers. The work was hard and often dangerous but the Ironworks offered young people a chance to gain employment and learn skills that would help them throughout their working lives. Many started out as apprentices in their teens and stayed at Stanton all of their working lives.

Danny Corns, co-author of 'Stanton Gone But Not Forgotten', grew up in Hallam Fields and started as an apprentice in the Training Centre at Stanton Ironworks in 1951 at the age of 15. After being called up for National Service in 1956 he returned to Stanton in 1958. In 1960 he left to work at Rolls Royce but returned to Stanton in 1963, staying there until 1972. Danny has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on his time as an apprentice:

"I started working in the Training Centre at Stanton Ironworks during the first week in January 1951; I was just 15 years of age. The Training Centre was opened in 1947 to give early training to young apprentices prior to going into the main works proper. Although I started as a plumber apprentice after leaving Gladstone Secondary Modern Boys School because of numbers I began in the joinery shop under the instruction of John Tyers. It was soon realised that I would make the worst joiner they had ever trained! So I moved into the fitting shop and trained as a fitter/turner which seemed to be where I was meant to be.

Mr McHugh was our instructor, a chain smoking Scot who I believe came from the Scottish shipyards. There were all types of apprenticeships available including; moulding, fitting, turning and joinery. The brighter lads usually became patternmakers, electricians or entered into the Stanton Drawing Office to become draughtsmen. As an apprentice bench fitter I would make all sorts of shapes and sizes of metal objects fitting one into the other. I also made tools for inter use in our work such as calipers and scribing blocks; I still have them after 63 years. We learnt to use tools such as files, backsaws, chisels and measuring instruments along with all the engineering tools we would need in our later jobs.

After 6 months in the Training Centre I went onto the Old Works fitting shop to start a 6 year apprenticeship ending at 21 years of age. One day per week required us to attend Ilkeston College of Further Education to learn theory along with two evenings. We also learnt engineering drawing, English, maths and workshop technology, all geared towards obtaining our City and Guilds certificate. This was essential to getting engineering jobs in later life. The Stanton Training Centre was considered to be one of the best in the country. Prior to it opening lads started on the Works doing a man's job, some at just 12 years of age in the early 20th century." (Danny Corns, 2014)

Danny's story and that of the Hendy family are just two of hundreds, if not thousands, that illustrate how important Stanton was and still is to the local community and the people that worked there. Although the Ironworks closed in 2007 it remains an indelible part of the history of Erewash. It created an ever lasting community, forged from iron and preserved by the memories of those that worked there.

Did you work at Stanton, or know someone who did? We would love to hear your stories and see any photos you may have. Please feel free to share them to our Facebook page.

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