Forncett End Smithy

Forncett End Smithy

The smithy in Forncett End was located on the Long Stratton Road, opposite Chestnut Tree Farm and next door to Chestnut Tree cottage. 

Forncett End Smithy - shown on the 1884 OS map

In White's Trade Directory of 1836, William Lansdale is listed as the blacksmith in Forncett End, and the 1839 Tithe Apportionments show that William was living at the smithy opposite Chestnut Tree Farm. The spelling "Lansdale" was used repeatedly in the trade directories but the correct spelling was "Lansdell".

William Lansdell was born in Hapton in 1794 to parents Isaac (who was a blacksmith by trade) and Esther Lansdell (née Bunn). William married Hannah Walker from Forncett St Mary in Hapton in December 1818 and they had two sons; William, born in Hapton in 1819, and Abraham, born in Forncett in 1825. On both baptism records William snr. is listed as a blacksmith. So, it would appear that he had followed in his father's trade and that he had moved to the smithy in Forncett by 1825.

In the 1841 and 1851 censuses William Lansdell snr. and both his sons were working at the smithy and in 1851 William was also employing two men, so the business was clearly doing good trade. In 1849 William jnr. married Lucy Humphreys, daughter of James Humphreys, the publican at the Trowel and Hammer in Tabernacle Lane, and the couple moved to live at the cottage opposite Corner Farm (now called Rose Cottage).

In 1861 William snr. and William jnr. were still working together at the smithy and employing two men. Abraham had married Maria Humphreys (Lucy's sister) and moved to Norwich to work as an engine smith. William snr. died in 1870 and William jnr. then took over the smithy. His mother, Hannah, continued to live at the smithy, and William and Lucy appear to have moved to live alongside farmer Thomas Palmer at his new home (now called Austhorpe House).

In the 1871 census there was another blacksmith in Forncett End. This was Stephen Buxton who was born Stephen Oakley in Forncett in 1850. His parents, Sarah Oakley (a silk weaver, born in 1817) and Stephen Buxton (a farm labourer, born in 1792) lived in Tabernacle Lane, in the small cottage (now called Willowgates) next to the Trowel and Hammer public house. In 1861 Stephen Buxton jnr. was 20 years old and was a journeyman blacksmith who was almost certainly working for William Lansdell. Willowgates cottage was, at one time, owned by Abraham Lansdell and, as both Abraham and his brother William married daughters of the publican at the Trowel and Hammer, there were strong links between the Lansdell family and Tabernacle Lane.

Sadly, William Lansdell jnr, died in 1879, aged only 58. William and Lucy had only one child, Maria, and so there was no son to inherit the business. Consequently, after over 50 years, the Lansdell's operation of the Fornett End smithy came to an end. From this point onwards many different blacksmiths worked at the smithy.

The new blacksmith in 1879 was George Peacock (age 24) who was born in Bunwell in 1858 and whose father was a blacksmith in Carleton Rode. George was married to Ellen Loveday from Forncett. In 1881 the widowed Lucy Lansdell was still living at the smithy and George and Ellen Peacock were living with Ellen's parents near the Trowel and Hammer in Tabernacle Lane. George was almost certainly employing two journeyman blacksmiths. One was the aforementioned Stephen Buxton and the other was James Bilham, a 24 year old single man from Forncett, who was living in Forncett End with his parents, John (a general labourer) and Maria. James Bilham later became a blacksmith in Ashwellthorpe.

James (right) and Frank Bilham - Ashwelthorpe smithy circa 1920 (photographed by Tom Nokes)

George and Ellen Peacock had five children (all daughters) but then Ellen died, probably in childbirth, in 1887 (aged just 25) leaving George with five children aged under 6. George remarried soon after and moved to London to work as an engineer. So, by 1892 a new blacksmith, Frederick Hales, was listed in the trade directories. Again, this was only for a short term because by 1896 there was another new blacksmith, George Abraham Dixon who was born in Beccles. In the 1901 census George was living at the smithy together with his wife, children and a local Forncett man, George Williams who was his assistant.

However, by 1908 George Dixon and his family had moved to the smithy in Bunwell, and the Forncett End smithy was occupied by Henry Soames from Aylsham. Henry was married to George Peacock's sister and he had previously been a blacksmith in Carleton Rode, the birthplace of his wife, Joanna. By 1911 Henry Soames was again working in Carleton Rode and the smithy was occupied by Arnold Lloyd, from Attleborough, and his son, Percy (age 17) who was also a blacksmith. 

Arnold Lloyd - the last blacksmith at Forncett End smithy (photo - courtesy of Bryan Dye)

Arnold Lloyd was still the blacksmith in Forncett End in 1912 but it seems likely that the smithy was in decline. Although it isn't clear when the smithy closed, by 1921 Arnold Lloyd had left Forncett and was working in Holme Hale, near Swaffham. There was no blacksmith listed in Forncett End in the 1922 trade directory. 

The smithy has long since been demolished and a modern bungalow now stands on the site.

Stephen Buxton

Stephen Buxton continued to work as a blacksmith until at least 1921. Stephen never married and always lived at the same address in Tabernacle Lane. He never described himself as a "master blacksmith" suggesting that he may not have had a formal apprenticeship at any time. It's not clear when Stephen Buxton stopped working as a smith, or when he died, but in the 1921 census he was recorded as working as a blacksmith in Bunwell. So, it may well be that, when the smithy in Forncett End closed down, Stephen moved to work in Bunwell. He was still listed on the electoral roll in Forncett End in 1930, when he was 79.

Remarkably, in the 1939 register his cottage was occupied by another blacksmith! The occupants of the cottage were Arthur Medler and his wife Ethel, and Arthur was working as a "blacksmith general small", though we don't know where he was working.