Until the first half of the 20th century gorse was a valuable source of food for horses and cattle. It was often mixed with straw, hay or bran and was thought to be very nourishing. Fields of gorse were especially grown and could be sold for a good price.
The gorse was harvested when it had been growing for one year, rather than letting it become the dense, dried up thicket of thorns that gorse bushes become if left unharvested.
Before being used as animal fodder the gorse needed to be chopped or broken down. The simplest method was to place the gorse in a stone trough and pound it with a wooden mallet. Chaff cutters were also used where the gorse, sometimes mixed with hay, was clamped into the wooden box of the chaff cutter, then chopped with a hand operated guillotine blade.
The gorse beater here combines both methods of cutting and pounding. It has two sturdy crossing metal knives inserted at right angles into a wooden head. It was used by smashing down onto the gorse on a wooden floor. From the end of the 18th century water wheels were used to power gorse or ‘furze’ mills – the gorse beaters turned rapidly and cut and bruised the gorse that had been put in a wooden box attached to the mechanism.
This gorse beater is currently on display in the foyer at Storiel.