Sunday 15 September 2019

Wexford business forged on strong heritage

Oliver Parle, Mairead Parle, Kitty Geoghegan Parle, Padraic Parle, Joan Gallagher Parle and children Abbie and Oisin Parle at the Forge relaunch.
Oliver Parle, Mairead Parle, Kitty Geoghegan Parle, Padraic Parle, Joan Gallagher Parle and children Abbie and Oisin Parle at the Forge relaunch.

David Tucker

what do when there's a downturn in business due to factors outside your control?

You either shut up shop and change careers or diversify, using your skills in a new way.

For Padraic Parle diversification was his salvation, turning what had been a village forge and later a kitchen design shop into a thriving craft and design hub, drawing on his strong heritage as a craftsman.

The Forge in Baldwinstown, owned and operated - you might say created - by Padraic, was the recent winner in the Design and Crafts category of the 2015 Wexford Business Awards.

Padraic said it was great to get recognition.

'I've been doing this for a while and it's great to be recognised.

'For me it's more than than just a business, it's something that runs deep in my veins and I'm honoured to be running it and keeping the place going,' he said.

'I'm a cabinet maker of bespoke furniture and kitchens, but I've jumped a good bit now and 98 per cent of all the timber products here are all my own creations, from a candlestick to a dresser.'

The Forge, in Baldwinstown, owned and operated by Padraic is thought to have been in the Parle family since the late 1700s. Rumour has it that the Parle family fled for England, before ending up in Wexford, bringing with them a refined skill for blacksmithing.

At one time, every town and village in Ireland had at the very least, one forge and a blacksmith.

Bassett's Directory 1885 lists James Parle operating from the forge in Baldwinstown at this time.

The forge was an important hub of activity in the village, well frequented by those who came to get work done, and by those who were idle.

The blacksmith not only shod horses as a farrier, but also repaired agricultural implements, shod wheels and often made gates and railings. The Forge was a great place for local gossip and the occasional card game.

James' son Patrick was born in 1881 and ran the forge in Balwinstown during the 1920s following on from his father.

Patrick's son James took over as blacksmith after Patrick's death in 1932.

Soon cars, larger tractors and agricultural machinery undermined the reliance on horses and more traditional farm machinery and led to the demise of the blacksmith. James Parle worked the forge until the late 1950s when it closed as a working forge. James found alternative employment with the County Council.

Today, James' grandson, Padraic, works his craft and furniture business from what use to be the old blacksmiths' forge.

To begin with, Padraic set up Bramble Crafts, fitting bespoke handcrafted kitchens and furniture, but with the decline in demand due to the downturn, Padraic diversified by adding unique craft pieces and bespoke furniture to his portfolio.

'It didn't just happen overnight,' he said, 'in the bust it was a case of getting off my backside and doing something. If you are not trying to do something for yourself, no-one else will.'

Padraic renovated the old forge premises somewhat in 2007 to showcase the products of Bramble Crafts and it underwent a major facelift last year with the support of Wexford Local Development (WLD) to bring the building to the standard it stands at today.

'To begin with I partly shared the premises with a furniture restorer buit I have moved on since then and carried out a big build and redevelopment last year and have just relaunched the business,' he said.

The redesigned forge is both a modern facility welcoming visitors and at the same time respectful of its old tradition as a workplace for generations of skilled artisans.

The Forge showcases a wide range of traditional and contemporary works produced by talented craft-makers from all over the South East.

Wexford People

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