Restored “Made in Shaftesbury” Cheese Press Gift to Museum

A substantial piece of Shaftesbury’s industrial past has been restored and very kindly donated to Gold Hill Museum by a descendant of the Farris family at whose Belle Vue Iron Works it was first manufactured. John Farris and Sons were agricultural engineers renowned for their production of steam traction engines, road rollers, shepherds’ and road menders’ huts, ploughs, chaff-cutters and other agricultural machinery. Donor Dan Wood’s grandmother was the daughter of Stanley Farris, grandson of John, who was running the firm at the time of its closure in 1975. Dan acquired the redundant cheese press more than a decade ago after it had been neglected and left outside in the elements. It was unusual in that the Farris name and Shaftesbury were clearly visible in the casting, and (from our point of view) it was small enough to put on display.

Detail of Farris cheese press kindly donated by Dan Wood

Dan writes: There was a broken casting which I repaired; the wooden base (which I believe might be elm) was soft and had suffered worm damage so I treated this and painted many coats of yacht varnish to soak in and protect the wood. I found multiple different paint colours on the metal parts: green, turquoise, a gold colour and a blue. The blue was clearly the most recent and I couldn’t tell or find out what colour it should have been so went with BS220 Olive Green which I know was used in the early 1900’s for various machinery. Once I restored and assembled it I realised it took a lot of room and wasn’t much use being only me who could appreciate it. Also, I have seen others made by Farris but it seems rare to have the Farris name and Shaftesbury in the casting so I realised it would look good in the museum. We have to agree with Dan; the restored cheese press can be seen In Room 2 Farming Life when we open to the public from 10 to 18 February inclusive for Shaftesbury Snowdrops, and for the main season every day from Saturday 23 March.

Since we couldn’t possibly accommodate a full-size steam traction engine, we have long been pleased to have on loan from the Farris family a model engine “Kitty” built over three years by the second son of John, William. Dated 1897, “Kitty” has a sovereign mounted in the smoke-box door, and is superbly displayed in Room 4 Life in the Town. Until 1975 “Kitty” was on show in the engineers’ office in Victoria Street. Dan recalls seeing the model in a glass case in Stanley’s living room.

“Kitty” model steam traction engine built over three years by William Farris, dated 1897. Kindly loaned by the Farris family. Photographed in 2023 by Alan Booth

The theme of Gold Hill Museum’s main temporary exhibition for 2024 is “Made in Shaftesbury”. We would welcome examples of items made in Shaftesbury & District for temporary loan, or simply information about them for our archives. If you can contribute, please contact us via