James Colthart, Reg Rudhall, Sidney Wing

These three Christchurch makers were important in the late 1960s. Reg Rudhall, a keen wood turner, made a copy of a Scottish upright wheel and went on to produce double table and upright wheels. He persuaded his wife and daughters to take up spinning so that they could bring his wheels to life – the reverse of the usual sequence – and soon received several orders from their fellow-spinners. Then he learned that someone else in the locality was making spinning wheels, and was astonished to find that this was his next-door neighbour James (“Jimmy”) Colthart, a woodwork teacher.

Soon the two men were firm friends, and Mr Rudhall’s son recalls “going over with Dad to have a look at his lathe to discover this home-made contraption – a disk bolted to the faceplate of a washing machine motor, and the end plate consisted of a piece of 4×2 wood nailed to the end of his workbench with a 4 inch nail through it…” – a surprise as they had expected, after seeing Colthart’s wheels, to find sophisticated machinery.

In 1967 Sidney Wing’s daughter bought a wheel from Rudhall, which inspired him to make one as well. Mr Wing was a Cockney, born in Hackney, London in 1904. He originally trained as a cabinet-maker but during the 1940s and 50s he worked for a brush company in Christchurch, modifying the brush-making machines and developing his engineering skills. He also built several houses, caravans and boats.

Soon he too was making both upright and double table wheels, and his son recalls “he loved making his spinning wheels and enjoyed the contact with those who bought them.” As well as making the wheels he made his own lathe, drill press and sander. After a while he learned to spin, and used his fine handspun to knit socks on four needles.

These three makers, while each keeping their individuality, clearly shared many ideas. One is a distinctive axle bearing, oblong in cross-section. Sometimes they are brass, sometimes a rubber-like composition. These two are on a Rudhall and a Wing.

We also see more usual types of bearing, particularly in the upright wheels. Most of Wing’s later wheels have the axle passing through the posts.

They also favoured strongly-shaped 3-piece flyers (here a Colthart and a Wing upright):

 

Their Norwegian-style wheels in particular can be tricky to tell apart. Here are a few pointers to identification:

On Rudhall wheels, brass or copper bindings at the ends of the treadle bar and the horizontal bars that stabilise the upper table of a Norwegian-style wheel are very usual (though not invariable):

You may see them on a Colthart wheel too, even on the tips of the flyer arms:

However, only on a Colthart wheel will you find those little metal knobs on the maidens (and also on the wheel support posts). Wing never used metal bindings.

Colthart and Wing made simple oblong treadles:

Rudhall mostly liked wider, fancy-shaped treadles, but occasionally made a plain one:

Rudhall and Wing added detachable bobbin-holders, Rudhall’s vertical and Wing’s most often horizontal. These have sometimes been lost over the years but the hole where they were fastened to the table remains.

Colthart wheels usually have spikes on the table for bobbins.

Finally, legs. Rudhall and Colthart legs are unremarkable. Only Wing used this bamboo-style turning on the legs:

Many Rudhall, Wing and Colthart wheels are still in use, particularly the little Wing uprights.

We are grateful to Lyndsay Fenwick, Rosemary Sladen, Jerry Wing and Reg Rudhall (Jnr) for help with this section.