Bratton was at one time a hive of industry, with several woollen mills along the stream.
Occupying a prominent position in the centre of the village were the factory buildings of R & J Reeves & Son. The site is now the village green, and the only obvious reminder of the firm is the commemorative plaque, unveiled in 1993 by Kathleen Reeves (see photo - click to enlarge).
The works dominated the village, and became the largest employer in the area. Bratton was ideally suited to serve the needs of
farmers on Salisbury Plain (sheep) and the vale to the north (arable), and the firm made a tremendous variety of agricultural
implements and machinery, almost entirely from raw materials.
There was a foundry (adjacent to The Duke) for making iron castings, a smiths shop for wrought iron work, a fitting shop for machine and bench work,
a tinsmiths shop for sheet metal components, and a large timber works - seasoning sheds, saw mill and carpenters shop -
the latter running parallel to the present Carpenters Lane.
A boiler house, with its tall chimney, provided steam power for machinery, and a large office building stood to the left of the main entrance opposite The Butts.
Several large houses in The Butts were built for important members of the Reeves family:- The Wilderness, The Butts, The Elms.
The firm achieved national and international fame, exhibiting at the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park in 1851,
and won many awards all over the country.
Their largest machine was an elevator - for raising straw and hay on to a haystack - and it could be folded for travelling.
It was designed by Henry Reeves in 1896. The iron casting on the plaque is one of a pair which formed part of the trough raising
mechanism - see if you can spot them in the elevator photo! The wooden pattern for this casting is clearly shown in the photo
of the foundry team, and it was one of their largest items to be cast, using a sand mould.
After the Second World War Reeves were not able to compete with the larger international firms, and never really updated their products - elevators were still being built in the early 1950's to the original design! Final receivership was in 1970, and the whole works was demolished in 1973.
Those with sharp eyes can still find Reeves items around - some road drain gratings, cast iron name plates, and a few preserved
implements in gardens.
We also have Reeves to thank for the installation in 1904 of a gas main pipe from Westbury.........!
Marjorie Reeves book 'Sheep Bell and Ploughshare' is worth a read - it contains a chapter on Bratton Ironworks. Ken Rogers book 'Warp and Weft' gives much information on the local woollen industry.
Bratton Iron Works as viewed from the main road through Bratton.
Reeves largest machine, an elevator.
Reeves foundry team.
The commemorative plaque, unveiled in 1993 by Kathleen Reeves.