Monday, 6 July 2009

KIRKBYMOORSIDE FUNERAL BIER . RESTORED BY JOHN NICOLL.


FINDING THE FUNERAL BIER.

The Victorian funeral bier was found in the cellar of Kirkbymoorside Library and as the cellar frequently flooded it's condition was extremely poor. Last used during the 1930's, dated by Robin Butler who has vague memories of following it at a funeral , it lay almost forgotten until salvaged in 2008 by Museum Trustee Tony Clark and brought,with the Town Council's permission to the workshop of the Ryedale Folk Museum

CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION
Constucted by local craftsmen entirely of pitch pine , the bier consists of two parts , the wheeled carriage on which the coffin was transported and a railed frame on to which the coffin was transferred and borne into Church and afterwards to the graveside. The frame has three rounded hand grips on each side for bearers to hold. After the burial the two items would be reunited and returned to the cellar until it was next required.

Recently a visitor offered another possible explanation of it's operation.His suggestion was that the coffin would not have been carried directly on the wheeled cart as the cobbled streets would provide a very bumpy ride , the coffin would have been suspended on leather straps fastened around what we assumed to be carrying handles on the upper frame.We would appreciate any other ideas .

Looking rather like a sleigh , the bier is articulated for steering and has pushing bars at each end. The wheels were made from two pieces of 1" pine laminated together to prevent twisting, interesting to note the pieces were not edge jointed but were cut from a single plank and are 13" diameter , quite a tree ! Sadly the wheels had to be completely replaced as they were badly rotted . Removing the wheels revealed 4" diameter solid brass machined bearings and 1" diameter steel spindles, these originals were badly worn showing regular use over many years and were rebuilt into the new wheels. Tyres for silent running over the cobbled streets were made from 1.5" diameter hemp rope. Original fibres were found in the wood at the bottom of the tyre grooves.
The frame had also to be replaced as all the timber had suffered the same fate as the wheels . I was interested to see that the carrying rails were beautifully made 6' 6" long and very accurately decorated by making the rails 10 sided . This is consistent with high quality decoration throughout the bier's constuction. The whole unit was finished by an ebonising process and had generally lasted well where the timber remained sound. Many photographs were taken during the bier's restoration and are now in the museum archives and the completed item now sits in our undertaker's premisses.

We were pleased to receive sponsorship for the project from Funeral Directors .W.Bumby . of Kikbymoorside.



BIER UNDER RECONSTRUCTION

RESTORED FUNERAL BIER , PRIOR TO FRAME BEING FINISH PAINTED BLACK.
JOHN NICOLL . WORKSHOP VOLUNTEER . RYEDALE FOLK MUSEUM.
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