Artist and business woman Sheila was a woman before her time

Sheila Carter. (s)
Sheila Carter. (s)

Tributes have been paid to a Ribble Valley artist and businesswoman who took the phrase “working mum” to a whole new level.

Born in Bolton on March 22nd, 1928, Sheila Carter (nee Hankinson) loved art from a young age and used to sketch anything that moved throughout her childhood.

Educated at Bolton School through the war years, Sheila went on to complete a Foundation Course at Bolton Art School before winning a scholarship to The Royal College of Art in London where girls were outnumbered by the boys two to 100.

Studying textile design and fine art, some of the biggest names in the art world were her tutors and mentors.

The course included a year in industry meaning that Sheila worked at the most advanced technological weaving company in Manchester on Ordsall lane. It was there that she met Sgt Ron Carter, ex-Royal Marine PTI, who was a manager in the then booming cotton trade.

They were married in January 1953 and Ron subsequently took on a small mill in Padiham.

The couple moved to Simonstone and Sheila worked at both Burnley as well as Blackburn technical colleges where she taught design. With the cotton industry coming to an end at about this time, Ron brought home, from Spa Mill in Padiham, the anvil saying “I am going to be a blacksmith”.

Sheila’s beautiful, to scale drawings and Ron’s industrious nature proved the perfect combination and quickly moved them into the world of decorative ironwork. And all with three children in tow and two more to follow.

Ron and Sheila built Trapp Forge at Simonstone in 1963 to be the family home as well as the workshop and showrooms for the business.

Works commissioned included cathedral ironwork restoration, gates, fire grates, light fittings and work for the Royal family – all drawn by Sheila.

Ron received a gold medal for his craft in 1997 and took Sheila along to Sheila collect it with him.

With five children it proved a very busy business and showroom.

In the late 1980s, Sheila undertook the complete restoration of all the shields in Lancaster Castle.

This commission resulted in the family’s dining table covered in shields throughout their various states of repair.

Some, dating back to 1206 up until the present day, required completely repainting. Sheila researched the paint, gold leaf and Heraldry of the shields and famously asked Padiham paints if they could guarantee their paint for a thousand years.

Ron died in 1999 and Sheila moved to Parson Lane in Clitheroe. A familiar face working at The Oxfam Shop, she continued designing for her son Bill, who now runs the family business at Trapp Forge.

Passing on her worker ethos to all her children, Sheila, who has eight grandchildren, also has a daughter Vicky who runs Carter Leisure in Clitheroe, a son Robert who is a designer for Seimens, John, a structural engineer whose company makes electric gates, and Nick, who heads a cancer research team at Warwick University.