This device is a fly-press for punching and stamping metal, made in around 1910 by a company called Hazelwood and Dent in Branston Street, Birmingham. It is standing outside Leigh Dyer’s West Street Incurva studio, waiting to be winched up on the chain to the workshop, to start its new life.
|The fly-press on its way to a new home|
Hazelwood and Dent was my grandparents’ family firm – my grandmother’s maiden name was Florence Hazelwood. My mother was always economical with the truth, and I didn’t learn about our metal-bashing past until recently – she clearly thought metal-bashing not quite the thing. (She always said she came from genteel Solihull, or ‘Soleyhole dear’, but in fact, she was born in far less salubrious Acocks Green). However, Hazelwood and Dent made machine tools for the Brummagen jewellery and medal-making industry, and the fly-press would have spent most of its working life in a little back street workshop in Hockley. As well as small things like this, the company made huge die-stamping presses, used in the Birmingham Mint – quite likely there were some in the Royal Mint also.
The factory closed down in the 50s, and for a long time the building was a seedy nightclub – I went there once, without realising what the place had been. Now, the building has been demolished and the site incorporated into an apartment development – Great Hampton Lofts.
Being crazy, as I am, I bought the fly-press off Ebay, and was astonished to discover how heavy even a small machine like this is. For many years it gathered dust in our house in Birmingham. When we moved to Hastings I nearly gave it to the Birmingham Museum – they didn’t have a Hazelwood and Dent machine in their collection. I am glad I didn’t – the press would have spent the rest of its life unused and unseen in the museum store. Instead, it came with us. I met Leigh, the talented local metal sculptor, at last year’s Coastal Currents Open Studio days and asked if he would like the fly-press – but it has taken practically all year for me and the Philosopher to get round to getting the press down to the Old Town. Still Leigh has it now, and it is great to think of the machine still having a useful life.
Here is Leigh’s new Winkle on Winkle Island…..