Blacksmith rescues cottage


The recent serious flooding in Forncett brought to mind a record in the Forncett Archive of an even worse flood that occurred over a century ago. It was August 1912 when an intense depression tracked into the Norwich area and dumped over eight inches of rain on the locality. 

Such intense rainfall overburdened the watercourses like the River Tas, which rose well beyond its flood level especially along Low Road, Forncett St Mary. So, it would appear that the power of the raging flow scoured all in its path including the habitations, one of the most affected being what is now known as Riverside Cottage

The footings of the building were washed away and the structure was in danger of collapse. However, the local blacksmith, William 'Billy' Mickleburgh, saw a way of saving the cottage. He gathered a team of heavy draught horses and roped them into position around the sagging timbers of the cottage, so that they could drag the whole framework back to its rightful position.

When the flood had subsided, good solid cement footings were poured to support the timber structure, which as a result can be seen to this day. Without the initiative of the village blacksmith and his 'gentle giants', namely the horses, the cottage might have been consigned to the memory of Forncett folk instead of being an attractive, historic part of the landscape. 

With thanks to Marilyn Tolhurst and Mary Yule for their valuable contributions.

John Webster and Mike Merrick