Putting the cart before the horse

Peter Athey and Alec Oliver with the 80-year-old horse cart. Picture by Margaret Whittaker
Peter Athey and Alec Oliver with the 80-year-old horse cart. Picture by Margaret Whittaker
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AN old farm cart has been given a new lease of life, after months of loving restoration work.

Peter Athey has brought the cart back to its former glory at his workshop in West Thirston.

It was bought by Alec Oliver, of Healey Cote Farm, Longframlington, in the 1940s or early 1950s from a Mr Brown, of West Lane End Farm, near Morpeth, who got it when he took over the tenancy of the farm.

The former tenant had used it only to go to the railway station for coal and to Morpeth on market day.

When not in use, it was parked in the cart shed with its wheels on bits of wood to keep it off the damp earth floor.

Eventually Mr Oliver replaced the wooden wheels with a pair of rubber tyres on an axle from an old Whittle Colliery ambulance.

Mr Athey said: “When I first saw the cart, part hidden in the shed by other farm machinery, I thought it looked very sad and neglected.

“However, on closer inspection I found to my delight, underneath the muck and dust of the last 60 years it wasn’t half as bad as it might have been.”

The first task in the restoration was making two new shafts as the old ones were infested by woodworm and rotten. The axle also had to be changed as it was too long and too high.

By a strange coincidence, the replacement axle had been acquired from the same farm as the cart originated six months before the restoration work started and before Mr Athey had even seen the cart.

The rest of the work consisted of a good clean down, filling and painting in the original blue and red livery.

The cart was known as a Scotch or Northumbrian cart, popular in the Borders and Northumberland, and would have been pulled by a Clydesdale horse. No maker’s name was found on the cart but Mr Athey thinks it would have been made locally.