The woman in power at Finch Foundry

Rebecca Finch

Rebecca inherited the business and took control of the firm under the title of R Finch Edge Tool Manufacturer in 1895

The death of George Finch

George Finch ran the business as a mining implement maker during the boom of the mining industry in West Devon. Although he did quite well, he spent a lot of money on building a house for his family and was also the victim of a small local financial downturn. Towards the end of his life, he was sued by the local pub after accidentally flooding it. He died in 1885, after an overdose of laudanum for toothache, although according to his death certificate there were underlying health issues.

Rebecca inherits the business

Upon the death of George, there was an assumption that his eldest son would take over the business. However, Rebecca inherited a good amount of money and land, plus the business, as their sons were either too young or involved in other ventures. Although the inheritance wasn’t enough for Rebecca to live a life of luxury, it enabled her to build the business and made it a leader in the British tool industry and also add aspects which would help make it future-proof.

Building a business

During her tenure, Rebecca added around £300 to the estate and it appears expanded the business to include

  •  delivery carts and horses
  •  houses for the family
  •  a coal merchant

and made inroads to purchasing additional assets such as stores and Rawnsley Mine to the north of Sticklepath.

Rebecca utilised the resources available to her, putting her now adult children to work - Thomas with his woodworking ability, James and Albany, all using their talents to help with the business. She also used her own administrative skill to draw and publish the first catalogue of the tools which Finch made and to manage a growing workforce at the foundry.

A typical day for Rebecca

With three sons, Rebecca was used to hard work and also keeping order. This was probably the main part of her job, considering the workforce comprised around 20 male workers, all involved in the various aspects of the business.

The financial side of things was very diverse:

  • Albany would sell tools at over six local markets during the week.
  • The Finch’s owned rental property,
  • Materials were brought in from many different companies, including fuel, metal, wood and other items which were sold in the shop.
  • Calculating and distributing wages.

Other than this, orders were taken for tools, funerals were booked, coal and manure were sold, as well as all the other businesses which the Finch’s dipped in and out of over the years.

After a full day’s work at the foundry, Rebecca then returned home to fulfil the usual tasks of a Victorian housewife, not to mention 10 grandchildren to keep in line.

South West Women and Power