Made to last and made in Honiton: Mickelburgh's legacy
- Credit: Honiton Museum
There is a rare Mickelburgh fire back and grate and some examples of their decorative cast iron mouldings on display in the museum in Honiton.
Many people will be familiar with iron drain covers and water wheels stamped with the name Mickelburgh. There are several examples of Mickleburgh’s products to be seen around Honiton, including the water channel along the south side of the High Street.
The Honiton Foundry manufactured a huge range of products relating to agriculture, including apple mills, corn mills, public seats, cider screws and milk separators. They serviced lawn mowers, oil, gas, and petrol engines, and repaired dairies and waggons. Eventually the business became known as W. Mickelburgh, Iron & Brass Founder, Wheelwright, Agricultural Machinist, Hot Water Engineer, &c., The Foundry & Wagon Works.
Walter Mickelburgh was born in Ottery St Mary, the son of a solicitor’s clerk. He started his working life as an apprentice for Messrs Matthews Bros in Honiton. He went to work in London and the north of England before returning to Devon. He managed William Huxtable’s Honiton Foundry for around seven years. One Saturday night he was demonstrating a chaff cutter to a customer and caught his right hand in the machine, losing the tops of three fingers.
In 1883 Walter married the boss’s daughter Elizabeth Emma at Escot Church. William Huxtable died in 1887 and a year later James Hussey held an auction in the Dolphin Hotel to sell all of his properties. The Honiton Iron Foundry was simply described as a dwelling house with garden, yard, and workshops. Bidding was started at £900 and finally reached £1,200. Walter was the successful bidder and became the owner.
Every year on the Saturday evening of Honiton Fair week Walter and his wife provided a supper for his workmen and Emma entertained their guests by playing the piano.
In 1907 Walter was summoned to attend court accused of assaulting his brother in law William Huxtable. William had gone to his ninety year old mother’s house to remove some furniture and when asked to leave, he refused, so Walter ejected him. After hearing accounts from several witnesses, the Bench dismissed the case.
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Walter served on Honiton Town Council and was a staunch and active Conservative. For many years he held the roles of Chairman of the Honiton Conservative Association, Vice-Chairman of the Honiton Conservative Club and Vice Chairman of the Honiton Agricultural Association.