The Blacksmith and the Wheelwright

In November 1985 a monument was installed near the corner of Main Road and Pitt Street in Eltham, within the gardens at the front of what is now the Eltham Community and Reception Centre. This monument commemorates Victoria’s 150th anniversary and the former location of the Eltham Town Centre, which existed along this section of Main Road, then known as Maria Street. Beneath the site is a time capsule to be opened in the year 2035. A plaque was also erected at this site in October 1987 to commemorate the Shire of Eltham Historical Society’s 20th anniversary.

The main feature of this monument is a ‘tyring disc’, a blacksmith’s implement that was found on this site. This consists of a large iron disc that was used as a platform for fitting iron tyres (like the one shown on top of the platform) to wooden spoked cart wheels. The local blacksmith and wheelwright worked together to assemble the wheel, which was clamped to the platform placed close to the fire. The red hot iron hoop, previously forged to the correct size was lifted with tongs by the blacksmith over the outside of the rim, then hammered down amid flames from the scorching timber. The wheelwright drenched the tyre with cold water as soon as it was in position.

 A clamp placed on the naff (hub) and screwed down tightly kept the spokes at a constant angle as the tyre cooled. An even pressure from the contracting tyre tightened the joints at each end of the spokes and formed a vice-like grip, which would last for the life of the wheel.

 The Shire of Eltham Historical Society was originally established in 1967 to cover what was then the Shire of Eltham and its early activities extended over the whole Shire from Lower Plenty to Kinglake. The establishment of other local historical societies as well as municipal restructuring in 1994 has meant that the Society’s activities are now more confined to the Eltham district, which includes Eltham, Research, Kangaroo Ground, Montmorency, Briar Hill, and Lower Plenty. While this is reflected in the later change of name to the Eltham District Historical Society our collection of local records extends to cover the whole of the former Eltham Shire.

Blacksmith's shop, Main road, opposite Pitt street. Left Bill Baker, Right, Sid Brown.
Blacksmith’s shop, Main road, opposite Pitt street. Left Bill Baker, Right, Sid Brown.

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