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This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the Darlington and Stockton Times

First published on Friday 08 June 2001:

Firm's cast-iron agricultural legacy is recorded in museum

by staff of The Darlington & Stockton Times

MR Malcolm Gill could hardly believe his eyes, or his luck, after he and his wife bought the restored Crakehall watermill just over two years ago.

On a tour of his newly-acquired property, which is in full working order thanks to the far-sighted efforts of a retired Army colonel two decades ago, he discovered that the iron frame of the huge waterwheel was made by a Leeming Bar foundry taken over by his late grandfather in 1937.

F Mattison and Co was once one of the biggest employers in Leeming Bar but is now largely forgotten except for the name which survives on a range of old cast iron products, including a manhole cover in a street in Stokesley.

The legacy of the firm meant much to Mr Gill on a family basis, however, and he always wanted to establish a museum at the watermill, devoted to Mattison's and John H Gill and Sons, the agricultural engineering firm which maintained the tradition for many years at the old iron and brass foundry.

He set about clearing and adapting an outbuilding at the mill and two years on he has achieved his aim, 150 years after Mattison's was established, following the official opening of the museum on Monday by Miss Anne McIntosh, Conservative parliamentary candidate for the Vale of York.

Mattison's was founded by William Mattison of Richmond and made a wide range of horse-drawn farming machinery and garden tools as well as manhole covers, seats, kitchen ranges, road signs, gateposts and planting boxes. The foundry was taken over 64 years ago by Mr Gill's grandfather, John Henry Gill, who came from Danby, near Whitby.

Mr Malcolm Gill worked in the Leeming Bar foundry as a young man and eventually became sales director of John H Gill and Sons until he left the company ten years ago. He ran a caravan park near Thirsk with his wife, Ros, before moving to the watermill.

He took with him as potential museum material several items known or believed to have been made by Mattison's, and others bearing the Gill name, but made an appeal through the D&S Times for more artefacts.

Mr Gill said: "I am surprised at what has been donated. I had a dozen or more telephone calls after the article appeared in the D&S Times.

"I got a Mattison's cheese press, a cattle cake crusher, oven doors from a farmhouse kitchen range and feed troughs, but a unique thing has been a pub table from the Green Tree at Patrick Brompton. The pub was refurbished in the 1950s and someone had kept the table since then.

"Anything with the Mattison name on it is pre-1937, when my grandfather bought Mattison's out."

Mr Gill added: "Creating the museum has been virtually a one-man project, with altering the outbuilding and restoring the artefacts, which is why it has taken two years. A museum in somewhere like York would have had it done in about a month.

"I still have room for a bit of expansion at one end of the building, so I will not turn my back on anything else that is offered for the collection."

Mr Gill said the Crakehall waterwheel must have been one of the biggest projects ever undertaken by Mattison's, founded in Leeming Bar after William Mattison leased land from the North Eastern Railway in 1851.

William also became involved in a gas manufacturing venture, building and equipping a plant which produced enough gas to illuminate his works, plus houses and farms in the village, the railway station, offices and goods warehouse and the Vale of Mowbray brewery run by the Plews family.

No member of the Mattison family now lives in Leeming Bar. William's great granddaughter, Miss Gwen Mattison, died in 1993.