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).

Sadly, William 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 and in 1881 he and Ellen were living with her family near the Trowel and Hammer in Tabernacle Lane. The widowed Lucy Lansdell was still living at the smithy.

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, 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.

A second smithy in Forncett End?

Whilst there is no other smithy recorded on any maps of Forncett End and no mention of another blacksmith in any of the trade directories, there was a second blacksmith in Forncett End who was listed in the census from at least 1871 to 1911. Stephen Buxton 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 the census of 1871 Stephen jnr., who was now 20 years old, was working as a journeyman blacksmith and he continued in that trade until at least 1911. 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 is possible that he worked on his own account, but he could also have worked for the various blacksmiths at the smithy on the Long Stratton road. His 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. It's not clear when Stephen Buxton stopped working as a smith, or when he died, but he was still listed on the electoral roll in Forncett End in 1930 when he was 79.