‘Treasure trove’ Derbyshire museum attracts world-wide following

Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.
Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

If you didn’t know it was there you’d drive right past.

But behind an unassuming row of terraced houses in Clay Cross lies a collection of artefacts unique in the UK.

Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Since opening more than a decade ago, the UK Horseshoeing Museum has attracted hundreds of visitors from all over the world.

Its owner, Doug Badbury, is himself a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, and since he retired has devoted himself to teaching others about the history of his fascinating trade.

“I was always collecting stuff,” he says.

“I don’t like to see things chucked away.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and made some great friends.

Doug Bradbury

“It was all in boxes and my wife ended up saying to me she was fed up of it all being in the house!”

The museum as it is today started taking shape after Doug retired 15 years ago.

Since then the museum has expanded from one focusing purely on horseshoeing to one containing a broader picture of the history of the area.

As well the mind-boggling array of ironwork on display, wartime memorabilia sits alongside artefacts from the area’s mining history.

Doug Bradbury's forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Doug Bradbury's forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Doug says he often gives talks about his career at local history groups and Women’s Institutes who then decide to follow this up with a visit.

He has also published two books about the museum, copies of which have been auctioned off for charity.

“It keeps me sharp - I like finding out about things,” says Doug.

“I see it as preserving the past for the future.”

Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Doug Bradbury in his forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

“People are gobsmacked when they see it - they say it is like a treasure trove.”

Doug and his wife Joan, 79 - who celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in December - moved to where they live now 50 years ago.

The Thanet Street house, with its yard and forge buildings at the back, was ideal for both his business and his post-retirement hobby.

The museum - which is just a short journey across the yard from the back of their house - is split into two distinct areas.

There is a ‘clean’ side upstairs and the guts of the ground floor workshop, where we begin.

Downstairs there are two working furnaces and countless anvils on which Doug bashes the red hot metal.

A framed photo of Duke, the last pit pony that Doug shod at Shirland Colliery with some of the miners, which is in Doug's huge collection.

A framed photo of Duke, the last pit pony that Doug shod at Shirland Colliery with some of the miners, which is in Doug's huge collection.

“People found it very difficult to put a horse down,” he says.

“It was a man’s living and he would do all he could to keep it going.”

“It was £1.50 for a new set of shoes and £1 to have them taken off again - it is £70 today.

“You could get through seven a day on your own or 14 if you had an apprentice.”

These apprentices - who lived in the house with the couple and their children - included some ‘great lads’, says Doug, with Joan doing all their washing and cooking for them.

“We worked as a team, even Joan would come out with me.

“There were only three of us working in Derbyshire at that time - me, Harry Fletcher from Loxley and Eddie Bainbridge from Holmesfield.

“I worked seven days a week.

“People would even come to the forge on Christmas Day and Boxing Day for emergencies.”

Inevitably, Doug has lots of tales such as the time he accidentally - but successfully - shod a wild horse.

He also admits to having been kicked, bitten and having his nose broken by horses more times than he cares to remember.

Sadly, Doug was diagnosed with blood cancer last year, and admits the illness has slowed him down somewhat.

But he still likes to keep active by making things whenever he can and - in Joan’s words - ‘potters’ most days in the workshop.

He says working with hot metal is like working with modelling clay and gives him ‘great satisfaction.’

The pair’s son Neal - who lives in Ashover - is also a qualified farrier as is his son Thomas, 24.

Thomas - or ‘Young Doug’ as he is known due to his resemblance to his grandfather - is, according to Doug, a ‘very keen’ farrier and has already made some nice work.

“As long as people are interested that is a tremendous satisfaction to me,” he says.

Doug, who will turn 80 in July, says he will carry on doing the museum for ‘as long as he can’.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and made some great friends - we are a big family us farriers. I think it is quite valuable really and there is a great story there.”

The UK Horseshoeing Museum can be found at 40, Thanet Street in Clay Cross.

To book your visit, call Doug or Joan on 01246 863557.

Doug's museum also includes hundreds of pieces from the World Wars.

Doug's museum also includes hundreds of pieces from the World Wars.

A 17th century keyhole shoe can be seen at the museum.

A 17th century keyhole shoe can be seen at the museum.

Doug Bradbury's working forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.

Doug Bradbury's working forge at his Clay Cross home which forms part of his museum.