Alas Smith

With my ongoing fascination with the blacksmiths of Lichfield, I was interested to find a short article in an old newspaper about William Goodwin. At the time of the article, August 1950, Mr Goodwin was the oldest trading smith in the city, working with his son in the business his father had started before him.

The article says that at the turn of the century there had been around ten blacksmiths in Lichfield, with demand from stables at local inns and estates. Mr Goodwin remembered shoeing more than fifty horses a week, but in 1950 was doing less than ten. As a result of this reduced demand for the trade, Mr Goodwin’s forge was one of only three remaining in the city. Another of the three was Mr W Ball of St John St, who started his business after the First World War. He explained that his survival was down to the priority attached to agriculture, adding that his main work was now with agricultural implements and fixing wheels, most of the dealings with horses being confined to riding stables.

Of course, now there are none remaining.  Whilst Lichfield is clearly no Birmingham or Black Country, it did of course have its trades and sites of industry. I think that this is sometimes forgotten and so I’m always pleased to be reminded of where Mr Goodwin’s forge (the one where apparently a man from France had his dancing bear shod of course!) stood on Beacon Street and of the other blacksmiths of Lichfield, when I see the street names ‘Smithy Lane’ and ‘Forge Lane’. Place names can tell stories, and should always be chosen with care.

 

Advertisements

Forge and Ford

As the afternoon’s weather in Longdon was not quite warm enough for basking in the beer garden of the Swan with Two Necks, I took myself off for a little wander. The pub has a late 19th century map mounted on the wall, and it shows that the building next door was once a smithy. I’ve always had a soft spot for these simple buildings, softened even further by the discovery that one of my ancestors was an innkeeper with a sideline in blacksmithing. One of these days I’ll stop romanticising about it and actually get around to visiting Cirencester to see whether the forge is still there.  For now though, back to Longdon, where in May 1918, the then blacksmith, a Mr T Broadhurst had decided to give up the business and was selling the tools of his trade. On offer was a grindstone on a iron frame, two circular double blast bellows (nearly new), a treadle drilling machine, two black staple vices and other useful tools. The building remained a forge until 1938 and now is home to the WI.

Something else that appears on the pub’s map is a ford, which as the name suggests, is at the end of this lane. I had a walk down and within minutes found myself alongside the Shropshire Brook. I stood for a while on the little footbridge watching tiny yellow birds flit between the trees and the water’s edge. Interestingly, on earlier maps this seems to be called the How Brook.

Fords “shine in the memory” according to the writers of England in Particular

I don’t know much about fords, other than they are a way of crossing streams and rivers, presumably at their shallowest points. Whilst reading up on them at home, I came across a surprising account of an event that seems to have taken place here or very nearby (1).

Sir William Wolseley … lost his life about the beginning of the last century* in a very singular manner. He went to Lichfield one morning about nine miles from his house in his coach and four and on his way passed a little brook which runs across the road at Longdon and which is so shallow that a foot passenger can easily step over it the water being kept up by a mill dam at some distance from the road. When Sir William Wolseley reached this brook on his return home in the evening the mill dam just at that instant suddenly gave way the water rushed across the road overturned the carriage and drowned Sir William with his horses. The coachman was thrown off the box into a tree and escaped.

*July 8th 1728 according to the inscription on the monument to Sir William in Colwich church

Could this these gently flowing waters really have caused such devastation? It’s hard to imagine. A reminder, I suppose, that whether it’s the fire of the blacksmith, or the water turning the mill wheel, we can manipulate the elements of nature, but we are never fully in control.

Sources

(1) – A topographical and historical description of the Parish of Tixall in the County of Stafford, Sir Thomas Clifford and Arthur Clifford Esq, 1817.