Summer Celebration: a breezy day for bunting and iron smeltin’

On Saturday 31st August, SSW celebrated the conclusion of a fantastic summer season with a range of participatory and demonstrative activities for all ages. With colourful bunting strewn across the SSW courtyard, stacks of sand moulds ready to be carved, a caravan café parked out front, one great big pit fire and a towering bloomery furnace at the ready, the SSW team were raring to go.

Caravanserai Cafe

Beginning with a scratch block workshop at 10am, eager groups of Saturday morning risers were shown the basics of scratch block carving as well as the iron pour process. Meanwhile, SSW Ceramic Technician Beth Bidwell installed and prepped the ceramic pit fire and guest Technical Assistant Thomas Stackhouse manned the bloomery furnace – which at this point had been prepared for battle with a coating of red iron oxide and Pictish crescent.


Alongside the day’s technical team, SSW were pleased to welcome back Kelly Anderson with Caravanserai – an inquisitive and delicious mobile café complete with its own parrot and vintage tunes. A tasty array of refreshments, including French onion soup and homemade scones, were served daylong, in exchange for donates to the Yorkhill Children’s Charity. Be sure to check out the Lumphanan Caravanserai facebook page at for more details.

Interior Caravanserai

On the other side of the courtyard, Natural Bennachie artist Henry Coombes was hard at work with the final construction stages of a bug hotel in the SSW GANGHUT. Fashioning an elaborate moss-covered creation, children of all ages were invited to contribute to the cosy bug lodging. As the sculpture workshop progressed, Pictish beasts and legends began immerging from the GANGHUT building, as children completed their animal-like disguises at Henry’s mask making session. The masquerade continued with bright bursts of face painting occurring near the main building – SSW Curator of Facilities and Programmes Emily Gray creating mini-Draculas and fairy-tale folk from an energetic party of children.

Bug HotelFace painting

The Summer Celebration activities didn’t stop there – with clay pinch-pot workshops, the lighting of the ceramic pit fire at noon and the ongoing iron smelt, there was plenty to occupy guests with varying interests. Once everyone had completed their scratch block and been well fed at the Caravanserai café, Senior Technician Eden Jolly, along with Technician Phil Chaplain and Iron expert George Beasley, began prepping iron for the iron pour. Sand moulds were laid out, ready for the molten metal to be poured by the team. The scratch block workshop was a popular success, and it took a total of three pours to cast everyone’s work. By the end of the day we had over 25 iron tiles ready for participants to take home.

Iron pour


By 6pm, both guests and staff were eager for food and the BBQ was lit as a local Ceilidh band began to play in the communities room. Both good food and great folk music went down a treat, and everyone enjoyed a relaxing evening. Concluding our Summer Celebration was the opening of the bloomery furnace, which, under Thomas Stackhouse’s daylong supervision, had been gradually changing iron ore into an iron bloom. After the success of SSW’s furnace at the Rhynie Man celebrations in July, the second furnace built last week was a triumph. Carefully drawing a mixture of debris and bloom from the base of the furnace, the team began to see the fruits of hard labour! However, it took a little brutality to realise the only way to free the iron would be to crack the furnace open entirely. With guiltless glee Eden heaved open the furnace and the foundry courtyard was lit by the molten material brewing inside. By the end of the night, although the team were exhausted, iron had been made!

Iron bloom extraction

Many thanks go to all of those involved in the Summer Celebration event, with particular thanks to Kelly Anderson, Henry Coombes, George & Judy Beasley, Thomas Stackhouse, Phil Chaplain, Daisy Williamson & Ceilidh band performers, Jason Williamson, and Oscar Williamson – who is quickly becoming a regular SSW chef!

A great big thank you also goes to TATA steel for all of the iron ore!


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