Life around the Forge in early 1900’s


Geoff Dodd and Ian Briggs take a virtual work around the Forge in the the early 1900’s, Geoff talks about his recollections of lived where  – 31.10.11

Ian And we’re looking at a map that is dated from 1911 and it depicts the High Street which is adjacent to the river Welland and Geoff is going to talk through the various buildings along the High Street and who was actually living there and what the usage of those buildings were and the occupation of the people who lived there. So the first house we come to which is just past Holland House on the map is which one, Geoff?
Geoff It was Elmsford House which stood where the car park is now on the road.
Ian And who lived at Elmsford House?
Geoff I don’t know who lived in it but I certainly can still remember it standing and knew it as the Labour Club and I think it was still used as the Labour Club in my, when I was very young.
Ian I see. So we’re talking about the 1920s – 1930s?
Geoff Oh certainly, yes, I remember the 20s.
Ian Right but 1930s and that was used as the Labour Club and moving back along the High Street so from Elmsford House what do we actually come to?
Geoff Next to Elmsford House there were a pair of quite old houses. The one nearer the town was occupied and had been for a long time, I think and was until it was demolished by staff from the Girls High School.
Ian And would that have been teachers or ..
Geoff Yes, all teachers, yes.
Ian I see and so that was a house, what was the one next to it?
Geoff Next to it was rather run down, occupied by the Chilvers family………. Careful ….
Ian And that was their main residence?
Geoff Oh yes, I think they did …I think they worked almost as a labour, gang labour. Bob Chilvers, the senior member of the family, I think he was not quite a gang master but they undertook casual work as a gang.
Ian And was that something that was prevalent in the locality that you would have people who would work as gang labour on the ..
Geoff Oh yes, yes there would be .. they weren’t strictly gang masters as we think of gang masters now but they would be man who, it would be a man who could gather together a group of workers for an employer farm …
Ian So that was the Chilvers family and the one along from those, still on the High Street, who or what do we find ?
Geoff That was a warehouse, it was used by Birchs in the 30s when I remember but around 1900 that’s where Herbert Leverton set up his business. I think originally in cycles and then in, he got into motorcars. He was roughly contemporary with my grandfather. His two daughters were at school with my father and in those early years Herbert Leverton offered my grandfather partnership for £100 and my grandfather told him there’d never be any money in tractors Herbert.
Ian Ah!
Geoff Ha, yes, ha indeed.
Ian And did Levertons actually, did he go into partnership with anybody else?
Geoff Well, Fred Myers actually took up the partnership and quite soon after they moved to the old Drill Hall which was later the Regent Cinema and then Trustees Savings Bank, now a restaurant in the Sheep Market. When the Regent was demolished there were still motorcar, we saw still motorcar posters stuck on the walls behind the presidium arch and where the screen was. Herbert Leverton emigrated to Tasmania in about 1910 I think and my father was in Melbourne visiting my sister in the 50s and they organised for him to go over to Tasmania to visit the two, the two Leverton girls who were at that time, he told me, still unmarried.
Ian I see.
Geoff So, that was nearly 50 years ..
Ian And they were spinsters all their lives?
Geoff Yes, they seem so.
Ian I see. And moving on from the warehouse or the Leverton’s premises, we’re moving further towards Cley Hall, what buildings do we come to next?
Geoff Well, the warehouse was on the, was on the, that’s right, was on the town side of a warehouse that belonged to Yew Lodge. I think they were all under the same ownership. It was largely empty I think in the early 30s but the Spalding egg packers used the first two floors. Women were cambling, that is they pick up eggs, two in each hand and quickly hold them in front of a lamp to test them for quality. It was all done by hand then. They packed them into wooden boxes being there a gross or half a gross, not sure.
Ian Could you buy direct from them or would you have to ..?
Geoff I don’t, I don’t .. except that on .. certainly on Saturday mornings they sold cracks which was a Saturday morning job for school children to collect cracks for home and friends.
Ian And what are cracks?
Geoff Well, pretty obviously, cracked eggs which couldn’t be retailed and it wouldn’t be allowed now, of course, could it?
Ian No.
Geoff Yew Lodge, then, this was the 30s, was the home to the Tointon family. Sam Tointon was a farmer, whether he was related to Ronald ?? Tointon, another farmer and cattle dealer who lived in The Limes, I don’t know, probably could well have been brothers.
Ian But Tointon is a local name?
Geoff Yes, in farming, certainly in farming. It became the home of George Elsom, seed man, Yew Lodge and he developed the gardens behind for residential, had a big garden right through to Halmergate, as did all these big houses, of course, in High Street. Then Cley Hall was home to the Birch family from 1911 to 1964. Across the yard of Cley Hall were Birch’s offices, still there with a bay window up on the first floor, now it’s an annex to the hotel.
Ian Oh, I see.
Geoff Next to Cley Hall was Chislehurst, I think and fairly sure it was the home of John Grundy, whether it was John Grundy senior or his son who produced the 1732 map of Spalding that’s in the Gentlemen’s Society now.
Ian And is that the long building that we can see …
Geoff No, those are the Birch’s offices and behind it the dairy and outbuildings to the house. Now it’s all annexed to the hotel and that bit will be Chislehurst.
Ian And remind us, what went on at Chislehurst.
Geoff Chislehurst, well I think John Grundy also owned the black granary on the river bank across the road. The black granary was a timber building and tarred. It often got scraped by lorries and tractors because the old mill, was the second mill, was right up to the road which was narrower then than it is now. Buildings often getting damaged and was demolished in the 60s would have been.
Ian And as a building that is actually on the .. still on the High Street but it’s between the High Street and the river ..
Geoff That is the Black Granary.
Ian And that is the Black Granary.
Geoff Yes.
Ian What would have been .. ? What would the width of the road have been?
Geoff I don’t really remember but I say it was .. there were vehicles coming in opposite directions quite often there would be timber boards pulled off the Black Granary. In the mill there was a big oil engine and that drove counter shafts on each of the two floors that ran the whole length of the building, then there were all the individual machines were driven from the countershaft grinders and clippers and winnowers and so on.
Ian And this whole area, just past the Black Granary, that on the map is, it has a label there saying corn mill.
Geoff Corn mill, yes. I think possibly, that was the original mill which was burned down, Margaret Johnson has the date, early, fairly early in the century.
Ian I see.
Geoff And it was replaced by, a bit more compact buildings than the old mill.
Ian So already we’re building up a picture of, in this stretch of High Street, you’ve not just got residential houses but there were quite a few businesses.
Geoff There was quite a lot of businesses, yes.
Ian Which is a contrast to what you see today.
Geoff Oh yes, there were a few commercial enterprises. Bolty Neal ? was the engineer of the mill and he had a workshop in the mill yard with a lathe and a drilling machine and he also had a forge in there. He didn’t do the shoeing but he’d got the forge there for his… As boys, we used to sneak into the mill, the doors, the big doors were always open to the pavement, we used to sneak into the mill to try and find locust beans. They were a .. it was the husk, the shell of a large bean which was ground up into animal feed but it was sweet.
Ian I see
Geoff So we would eat it.
Ian And the mill actually produced animal feed?
Geoff Oh yes, it was all animal feed but they .. and seed for farmers, wheat seed and some barley as well.
Ian And on from the mill, what do we come to? We’re getting closer to actual forge itself now.
Geoff ….. we used to pinch the locust beans but tramps used to go into the mill and beg flaked oats. Then would perhaps come to my own home and ask my mother for water, take it across to the workshop and boil it up on the forge to make a sort of a porridge.
Ian And was vagrancy a big problem then, I mean were there lots of people living rough?
Geoff …… certainly there were, I mean, out at Weston there is now a Beggars Lane, Beggars Bush Lane. There was a long length of shrubbery between the gate hub and on the right-hand side and Beggars Bush Lane , a long shrubbery along the edge of the fields and tramps kipped in there for the night regularly because they could spend a night at the Spalding ….? they called it, or possibly two nights, but not more and the next likely place they could find a bed was Holbeach. So rather than spend a night in a bed in Spalding and then the next night at Holbeach they would rough it for one night to extend the hospitality, I suppose a bit.
Ian And would they be very itinerant, so would they be going from town to town making use of the facilities?
Geoff I suppose they found a bed wherever they could, course if they’d been on a road a long while they knew exactly how and would tell each other where they were likely to find a comfortable night. The .. quite often, tramps spent the night in the shoeing shed at the workshop which was open, there was no door on the shoeing shed and quite often my grandfather never disturbed them, probably often cooked them up some breakfast in morning in the forge if they’d got anything to heat up.
Ian So it was an accepted part of local life at the time.
Geoff Oh absolutely
Ian I see. So moving on from the corn mill which again is on the Halmergate side of the River Welland, what do we come to?
Geoff Got a few bits here .. yes, I mentioned Bolty Neal ?, that he didn’t shoe the horses, they came to the forge but my father talked of Birchs having 40 horses, I wonder if he wasn’t exaggerating but there was the farm down at Locks Mill and there were horses there as well so they probably could well have had nearly 40 horses. The .. yes, Locks Mill, the milk from the farm came up every day to Cley hall to the diary that was behind the offices and Percy Proud was their gardener/handyman and he put it through a separator and Lizzy Smith who was the cook/housekeeper at Cley Hall, she made butter and cottage cheese which she sold at the kitchen door and the separated milk we fetched nearly every day I should think for 1d a pint in a tin can. Lizzy always was very careful how she measured out the pint but if we happened to have Percy Proud to serve us then we got a can full for a 1d.
Ian And this was all unpasturised?
Geoff Oh yes, er, I don’t remember anyone actually living in Chislehurst, though we’re going back a bit aren’t we, But it was requisitioned during the war by the army for billets. There were cobblers there at one time I know, and one winter holiday all the children around the area, we had a running snowball fight with the soldiers who obviously couldn’t do anything else anyway in those conditions. Running snowball fight that lasted for two whole days. The first of the stick of bombs that dropped on that Sunday afternoon in 42, was it? Landed just a few yards behind Chislehurst, it didn’t seem to do a lot of structural damage but it blew out all the windows. Later Chislehurst was pulled down to make a car park and the mill became a pet food shop and a gymnasium in the garages at the bottom of the yard which had been replacing the stables over the years. Holywood, or was it Hollywood, I’m not ever so sure, was demolished to make, to build the Services Club. It was the home of Mrs. Bulmer and her son Jack, I think he farmed at Saracens Head, and Mrs. Bulmer had a companion, that’s something we don’t see nowadays, an elderly lady, a Miss Crust, and they always were together out shopping, walking.
Ian And she was her constant companion?
Geoff Oh ye, she would employ her as a companion. She probably did some work in the house as well. I’m sure she would have done.
Ian Yes ..
Geoff Miss Crust was the sister of Walter Crust who was a drover and a butcher in the 30s.
Ian And what does a drover do?
Geoff He drives cattle or sheep and cattle and sheep still in the 30s, not an awful lot, but were still moved from field or field to market, from field to the cattle market or the railway station along the roads.
Ian And so the buildings we see on the 1911 map from corn mill, I’m just indicating on the map here, what would they have represented?
Geoff Well, that was Holywood, Bulmer’s home. The small building there, was a small warehouse and it was demolished when Holywood went.
Ian I see. And the buildings adjacent to the, next to the small warehouse, were they private dwellings?
Geoff Er .. yes, yes, no, the Montague buildings, a terrace of five houses were converted from a warehouse in 1882 by one of the Mutual Benefit Societies, …….. perhaps, I’m not sure and I think that the tenants largely were members of the Oddfellows even into the 30s.
Ian And what strikes me from looking at the map, is just the size of the land that they had or the plots are really quite large.
Geoff Aren’t they, yes? The .. well, of course it was a row of large houses there which would have started with a large plot. Whether the businesses originally, the corn mill I imagine, would not have been as big when Cley Hall and Welland House and others were built in 1600s, late 1700s. I mean, the businesses were obviously later but there would probably have been a small corn mill there or a warehouse originally. Most, I think most of the people in the big houses had business connected with the river and the port so that would explain the warehouses.
Ian And just adjacent or across the road, rather, from the Montague buildings is another building that is between the High Street and the river.
Geoff Welland House …. this is a little bit of history of Welland House .. here we are … Welland House, the warehouse you’re talking about belonged to Welland House.
Ian I see
Geoff David Smith, whose father bought it in the 50s, tells us it was one of the oldest houses in Spalding and built in 1663 by Maurice Johnson who was the founder of the Spalding branch of the Johnson family of Ayscoughfee, related to Ben Johnson, the well known poet ad Martin Johnson who built the house was head master of the Grammar School before becoming the Anglican minister in Spalding. It seems to have changed hands a number of times and in 1872 was in the possession of Mr. H.T.R. Buckworth. Buckworths were the lord of the manor of Spalding. … like all the big houses along High Street had a long vista and so the main entrance to the house was from Halmergate rather than .. and the rather plain side of the houses is actually now the front facing the High Street, was originally the garden ..
Ian .. tradesmen’s entrance
Geoff Was the back of the .. Sir John Gleed or Mr. Gleed, bought it in 1912 and David tells us that within 24 hrs. the granary fell into the river. It no longer exists. The Gleeds were wine merchants in Red Lion Street.
Ian So the map that we’re looking at, dating from 1911, the warehouse that we see here is soon to be gone.
Geoff Yes, yes.
Ian Soon to fall down after being bought by John Gleed.
Geoff John Gleed was, he was chairman of the Holland County Council for many years and also chairman of the Education Authority for a long, long time. He was knighted in, I think, 1937 and the Gleed School was built in 1939 -40. The girls and the boy’s schools were named after him.
Ian So he was really a public servant and ..
Geoff Yes, yes, not a man I knew very well. Oh, he died in 1946 but I had very little contact with Sir John Gleed. Lady Gleed was, well, not so busy perhaps, she was more approachable and sociable. Their daughter, Kathleen, who her husband, Harvey, was killed in the First World War had been a solicitor in Spalding, and there was a daughter Joy, who was never seen by her father and they lived in Welland House. Welland House I think, John Gleed changed it to West Elloe, I think, but when Arnold Smith bought the property in ’52 he changed the name back to Welland House which it had always been. Mrs. Harvey, after Lady Gleed died, Mrs. Harvey sold the house and built herself a house in the bottom half of the garden and spread the garden and sold the property which then became part residential of the Smith family and part offices of Smith & Co., accountants.
Ian I see. And moving on from the warehouse, we come to a relatively large building which is really very close to the forge.
Geoff That is, Wes …. that‘s Welland House.
Ian And just remind us who lived at Welland House.
Geoff Sir John Gleed. Got it right, haven’t we?
Ian Yep
Geoff Yes, that’s right.
Ian And we then come to a cluster of buildings
Geoff Well, these buildings are the out buildings of Welland House. Those were domestic out buildings and this was the coach house and stables.
Ian And the time you knew it, there weren’t any horse-drawn coaches, it was for cars?
Geoff They had a car. Ray??, who was the gardener/chauffeur, they had a 1930-31 Austin, quite a big Austin car, a superior version to the one which my father owned in 1939. Father’s car had artillery wheels and Smith’s car had wide spoke wheels and superior finish.
Ian I see.
Geoff But as neighbours we had a super car, I think ours was a couple of years older, 1929 model, I think,
Ian I see. And the forge is clearly identifiable, adjacent to the Albert Bridge. Talk us through the cluster of houses that are opposite.
Geoff From ‘31?? to ’39. No.31 was .. no those are the out buildings .. this narrow strip of land .. originally that was no.27 so it’s a bit confusing, they’ve all changed but I’m referring to them under their present numbers. 31’s the cottage my grandfather bought with the blacksmith’s shop, that’s right, he rented it for a little while, the shop and the house and then bought it in 1895. In the early 1800s 31, 32 and 33 were all owned by Joseph Rose, also owned the forge at that time and possibly he, although .. this chap is telling us the forge goes back quite a bit further than we’d thought.
Ian To the mid 18th century ..
Geoff Archaeological that we’ve got… But the present shop was probably built by Joseph Rose and that’s an assumption, and nos, 31 and 33. He probably possibly built .. he was a blacksmith and himself, he worked in another forge on London Road but now we think the forge perhaps goes further back, he may have started here and then moved on to London Road but that we’ve got to determine, we hope we will. And he also owned other property in London Road. He died in 1814, got a copy of his will. His daughter, Rachel Christian, lived in no.32 at that time. 31 was rented from the 1800s with the forge by Francis South and then it was bought by Edward Fisher from the Joseph Rose’s estate, eventually came into my grandfather’s hands in 1892. 32 is originally, we discovered when we demolished it, had consisted in originally of one square room. No, I’m mixed up here. That’s right, I’m talking about no.32 now.
Ian I see, yes.
Geoff Yes, 32 had originally been one room with two rooms above and the small chamber behind, according to some of the deeds, it was at one time a retail shop and had glass fronts. There is a photograph which you can just make out no.32 in the background and having a shop window to it. 31 was simply front and rear walls built between the walls of an out building of Welland House and no.32, that’s the front and back walls and a middle wall were very substantial. They were 14 ins walls .. er, wonder why when it had no side walls of its own. There was a square front room and originally there’d been only a very shallow room behind that, probably 6 or 7 ft. deep so that’s all that … and two bedrooms above of similar size. The back small bedroom that the roof had originally come down to within 3ft of the floor and the window, the back window to the back bedroom was down at floor level. Must have been. But 31 and 32 later had been extended at the back in several stages, both of them into much bigger houses.
Ian I see
Geoff 33 I don’t know very much about except that it belonged to Joseph Rose. 34 is a double-fronted shop. In around 1900 it was owned by someone called Nichols, was a hay and straw merchant. My ?? remembrance of it is as a branch of the Spalding Co-op, later Lincolnshire Co-op, the windows were blown out by the blast from the 1942 bomb. Then from the 50s it’s variously been an antique shop, plumber’s show room, and at present it’s a orthopaedic clinic,
Ian Let’s just leave it there for the moment, Geoff, thank you.
Geoff Right o.

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