TWO hundred years ago a boy was born in Frome who would put this small Somerset town on the world map, with iconic sculptures including Justice on top of the Old Bailey, Boadicea on the Embankment and six lions in Cape Town.
The youngest of five children, John Webb Singer was only three when his father died, leaving his mother a widow and he and his four siblings orphans. John had a charitable education at the Blue House School and founded his own company, making watches and jewellery while still in his teens.
He would go on to run a foundry that at its height employed 700 people, served its country making munitions in both world wars, and still exists in Frome, despite successive takeovers and mergers, now making water sprinklers.
The bicentenary and the remarkable story of the foundry that produced everything from candlesticks to camels, is being told at Frome throughout the year in a series of events under the umbrella name of Casting The World, with exhibitions, talks, workshops, demonstrations, and a community promenade play as part of the Frome Festival.
The play was performed by students of Selwood Academy who worked with the writer-director Petra Schofield of Magic Penny Productions, to tell the story of JW Singer, his family and some of the men and women who worked at the foundry.
The framing device was a group of youngsters looking for a subject for a school history project – plenty of opportunity for the talented youngsters to show their sense of humour, but also to illustrate how social history can engage the imagination of young people for whom history can be a dry and boring subject.
The play moved between the open space outside Frome Library, and the steps of the housing built on the site of the old foundry at Waterloo, across the bridge named after another famous son of Frome, racing driver Jenson Button.
There was so much interest that the play was performed twice, with large and enthusiastic crowds following the young performers on their 200-year journey through the Singers history.
For more information on Casting The World, visit www.rooklanearts.org.uk
Pictured: Frome women worry as their sons and husbands, all employed by JW Singers, leave for the First World War; members of the Singer family set out their plans for the future.