Ironware has been forged in the rolling hills of Shropshire for centuries, using materials mined and harvested from the local area. In fact, it’s Abraham Darby - creator of the world’s first iron bridge in the 18th century and key player in the Industrial Revolution - that Netherton Foundry claim their inspiration from. Far from the belching smoke and roaring fires of the iron industry, though, is their humble operation, crafting cast and spun iron cookware for home and outdoor cooking alike.
This exquisite craftsmanship is a labour of love for family-run Netherton Foundry, but it needed to be rediscovered. Founder Neil Currie worked for years as a product designer with, in his own words, “things with plugs on the end” - basically, general consumer goods like kettles and toasters. Increasingly, though, he became exasperated with the industry’s constant desire to make products cheaper, more lightweight and easier to make; essentially, abandoning any semblance of craftsmanship or sustainability in favour of cheap, mass production. He couldn’t accept that philosophy any decided to leave, heading in what would turn out to be the completely opposite direction.
The result - of several years of hard work - is a workshop in rural Shropshire producing iron cookware using local materials and traditional methods; cookware that will last a lifetime if looked after. Netherton Foundry produce a variety of black iron and cast iron, making products such as spun iron ‘glamping’ pans and large Chapa grill plates inspired by Argentinian gauchos. All of their ironware is seasoned with organic flax seed, which is baked into the products to create a natural non-stick layer that also prevents rusting. It’s a traditional approach that is just as effective as modern PTFE chemicals and doesn’t break down into carcinogenic compounds, unlike PTFE.
All of Netherton Foundry’s products are made using materials sourced nearby to their workshop; local providence is something that Neil was adamant should be prioritised. A local forester, for instance, provides oak for their pan’s handles, which Netherton Foundry then brand with their logo. Each wooden handle looks different from the next thanks to its individual grain, and it’s that care and attention to detail that brings out the quality in their products.
Another welcome benefit of using local materials is that Netherton Foundry can help to minimise their impact on the environment. After felling trees in a local grove, they work with the foresters to plant oak saplings, helping the forest to regenerate and providing enough wood for future products. The longevity of their ironware further improves their environmental sustainability, since customers will get a lifetime of use from their purchase, whether they’re grilling steaks on a campfire or slow-cooking a stew indoors.
Netherton Foundry is more than just a love letter to a bygone age of ironwork and craftsmanship; it’s a rejection of cheap consumerism in favour of quality and sustainability, and a manifesto for a more sustainable, more human way of manufacturing goods. And besides, beyond ideology, it makes for a damned good campfire stew.
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