In the 19th and early 20th centuries a blacksmith and a wheelwright were essential to the everyday life of many folk. The blacksmith produced anything from tools to toys and the wheelwright kept the carts and wagons in good repair. In the 1800s Goudhurst was a predominantly rural community and there were a number of blacksmiths and wheelwrights serving it.
In the centre of the village stands Forge House. Attached to the side is a single story building that used to be the smithy. Today there are items associated with a forge decoratively arranged in The Old Smithy garden that remind us of its former use. The 1851 census shows that James Bearsby was the blacksmith here. He had come to Goudhurst village from Stone Crouch where his father was a blacksmith. James lived and worked at the Forge until he retired in the late 1800s. Around 1889 David Southon, one of the village butchers, purchased Forge House and the attached workshop from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The census for 1901 shows Stephen Crouch living and working here. Following the deaths of David Southon and his son John, Sir Charles Jessel purchased the property in 1907 for Mr Crouch on condition that it remained practically unaltered. Stephen died in 1931 but his wife, Mary, lived on at Forge House until she too died in 1937.
On the opposite side of the Plain in North Road is a house called Rose Villa. In 1841 this was the home of William Usherwood, his wife, Mary, and four of their children. William was a wheelwright and he ran his business from a workshop next to the house. By 1851 only two of their children were still living at Rose Villa, 23 year old Edwin and 20 year old Alfred. Both sons were working as wheelwrights with their father. Ten years later William and Mary were still at Rose Villa. William is shown on the 1861 census as a master wheelwright employing two men. He was 73 years old. By now Edwin had married and was living at Mill Cottages in what was then known as East Road, nowadays called Church Road. He is shown as a wheelwright. His brother Alfred had also married and is shown on the 1861 census living in Stoney Lane with his wife and children. He too is shown as a wheelwright.
However, by 1871 William had died and his son, Alfred, had moved back to Rose Villa and taken over the business. Edwin was still living at Mill Cottages. Then, by the 1881 census Alfred had moved to Sandling in Maidstone and was running his own business as a wheelwright and blacksmith employing three men and one boy. Edwin had now moved back to Rose Villa and was running the business there. Between then and 1891 Edwin’s wife Jane had died and he had married Kate, a widow. He stayed at Rose Villa for a while but by 1901 he had moved to Eastbourne where he died. Ernest Cobb, son of Joseph Cobb the wheelwright at Kilndown, took on the business at Rose Villa for a few years.
In 1908 Stephen Crouch, who already held the workshop at Forge House on the Plain, also took a lease on Rose Villa. He used the workshop there for a few years but continued to live at Forge House where he died in 1931. Rose Villa itself was occupied by a succession of tenants. The workshop was later used as a garage but was eventually demolished when the site was redeveloped in 2004.
In the 1800s there was a forge at East House on the Cranbrook Road. The deeds, dating back to 1705, show that the plot then was just land and, had no buildings on it. Some years later Isaac Bates owned the land and, in 1813, he made it over to John Waghorn, a blacksmith, and George Hayward, a wheelwright. We do not know whether it was John and George who built the forge and workshop but we do know that Edward Austin acquired the property in 1849 and it is believed that he built the house for himself and his wife, Frances. At the time Edward was a blacksmith and by the time of the 1851 census he was employing one apprentice. However, by the 1861 census Edward and his family had moved out of East House and he was landlord at the Star and Crown in the village. William Hunt is listed in Kelly’s Directories of 1861, 1862 and 1867 as a blacksmith. The 1861 census shows a William Hunt, blacksmith, living in Chequers Road. There is also reference in the Goudhurst Coronation Book, in the reminiscences section, to Horace Blunt working for a Mr Hunt at East House so it is probable that William was running the forge at East House.
In 1869 Dearing Durrant, a butcher from Greenwich, purchased the property for £300. In 1840 he had married Jane Russell, who had been born in Goudhurst, so he had a connection with the village. However, Dearing and Jane continued to live in Greenwich and let East House and the forge. The 1871 census shows Edward Down and his wife Jane living here. Edward is shown as a blacksmith employing one man and one boy. By the time of the1881 census Thomas Burren was living and working at East House forge. He is also listed in the 1874 Kelly’s Directory as a blacksmith in Goudhurst so he was probably working at East House forge then. Thomas bought some land in Beresford Road where he built his own house and forge. He is listed in the 1891 Kelly’s directory as a blacksmith at Swiss Cottage, Beresford Road, so he had moved to his new house and forge by then. In 1888 Dearing Durrant died and two of his daughters inherited East House. They continued to let the property, firstly to Thomas Burren and then, in 1898, to James Thomas Dobell, a carpenter. In 1902 Mr Durrant’s daughters sold East House to Mr Henry Broad, a retired builder, for £225. Mr Broad died in 1915 and Mr Jesse Martin bought the property. Thomas Burren was the last blacksmith to work at the forge. In about 1933, after many years standing derelict, the roof of the workshop finally collapsed.
As mentioned above, Thomas Burren built his own house and forge on a plot of land that he had purchased in Beresford Road. We know, from the entry in Kelly’s Directory of 1891, that he was living there and working as a blacksmith. He was also listed on the 1891 census at this address with his wife and family. By 1899 he had moved out and Alfred Tebbs had moved in. Thomas is said to have retired to Yew Tree Farm with his wife and son, John, a former teacher at Goudhurst. By the 1911 census Thomas, aged 72, and his wife, Selina, were living in the High Street, Cranbrook. Alfred Tebbs was not a blacksmith so the forge was no longer in use. Swiss Cottage and the forge were eventually purchased by the Goudhurst Ladies’ College and became a part of the school. There was a forge near to Yew Tree Farm, but Thomas Burren never used it. It was pulled down in 1904.
In the 1800s there was also a forge in Station Road, Goudhurst. The 1871 census lists Henry Penfold as a blacksmith in ‘Lamberhurst Road near Hope Mill’. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that Henry was working at Station Road Forge until he returned to his father’s forge in Kilndown. Henry’s son, Richard, was also living nearby in Blue Coats Lane and was working as a blacksmith. He too could have been working at Station Road forge until he returned to the Forge in Kilndown following the death of his father in 1902. The 1881 census also lists William Young as a blacksmith and labourer living in Blue Coats Lane. Maybe he too worked at Station Road forge?
In 1891 Charles Styles is listed on the census as a blacksmith at ‘Hope Mill Forge’. On the census in 1901 and 1911 Charles is listed as a blacksmith and farmer living at Zion Farm with his wife Elizabeth and his daughter Louisa. He is also listed as a blacksmith in Goudhurst in directories printed between 1891 and 1922. In 1911 his son, also Charles, is listed on the census at Forge Cottage as a Prudential Insurance Collector. In the1922 Kelly’s Directory Charles’ daughter Louisa is listed as a shopkeeper at Forge Cottage. Charles’ wife died in 1928 and he moved to Horsmonden in about 1930. He died there just a few years later in 1932. Between 1930 and 1948 Kelly’s Directory shows Arthur Jeffery and Jn. Dartnell as blacksmiths at The Forge, Station Road.
There was another forge in North Road at the corner of Gore Lane. Horace Blunt worked there for a time around 1899. Horace had moved from Horsmonden to Morebreddis Cottages, Goudhurst at some time between 1861 and 1871 and he stayed there for the greater part of his life. Horace had two sons, Horace and Herbert, who both became blacksmiths like their father. Horace is said to have worked for Mr Hunt at East House forge and from there he went to Colliers Green forge. His sons probably worked with him at Colliers Green and they are said to have been the last smiths to work that forge before it was demolished. When Horace left Colliers Green he took over the forge at Glassenbury and Herbert worked there with him. In 1889 Horace Jnr. married and by 1891 he had moved to Cranbrook. In 1916 Horace Snr. died. Herbert went to work for Stephen Crouch at his forge on The Plain. When Mr Crouch died Herbert continued to work at the forge for G & F Penn Ltd. They were principally builders and undertakers who had moved to the village from Curtisden Green when they took over Mr Crouch’s business premises. They had clearly decided to keep the forge operating too.
In Kilndown the forge had been worked by the Penfold family in the early 1800s. In 1841 the census shows us that Richard Penfold, aged 44 years, was head of the household with his wife, Susan, and their family. Their young sons Henry and George were both working with their father. By 1851 only Richard, his wife and two daughters were at the forge but Richard Russell, a journeyman and smith, was listed there. Richard is described as a servant so was probably helping Richard in the forge. In 1861 Richard is still working at the forge together with George Waghorn, a young man aged 23. Richard Penfold died in 1869.
On the next census, in 1871, George Waghorn was listed as a blacksmith living at the forge in Kilndown with his wife and six children. George was also listed in the 1874 Kelly’s Directory as a blacksmith in Kilndown but by the 1881 census he had moved to Providence Place, North Road, Goudhurst with his nine children and was running the forge there.
According to the 1871 census Richard Penfold’s son Henry had been living in the Lamberhurst Road near Hope Mill and working as a blacksmith together with his sons Joseph, Richard and George. By the 1881 census Henry had returned to Kilndown forge with his wife and son, Joseph. In 1891 Henry and his wife were still at the forge in Kilndown with their son Joseph, and then Henry’s health declined. On the 1901 census he is shown as ‘infirm’ but now only himself and his wife Jane are shown as living at the forge. Joseph had married and was still living in Kilndown but was now a farm labourer. Henry died in 1902 and Jane moved back to Burwash, where she had been born, to live with her brother. She died in 1936 at the age of 96. Richard Penfold, Henry’s son, moved back to Kilndown to run the forge. Richard had been living in Bluecoats Lane with his wife, his daughter and his parents-in-law. By the 1911 census Richard was a 60 years old widower living at the forge with his daughter Agnes. He was listed in the 1914 to 1918 Kelly’s directories as a blacksmith in Kilndown.
Joseph Cobb is listed as a wheelwright in Kilndown on the 1891 census. He had moved to Kilndown from Ashford with his wife and two sons, Charles and Ernest. His sons are shown as coachbuilders. On the 1901 census Joseph is still listed as a wheelwright and his two sons are listed as coachbuilders and wheelwrights. Joseph also has a 19 year old apprentice coachbuilder, Paris Fowler and a housekeeper, Rosa Browning. Joseph’s wife Jane had died in 1900. At around that time Joseph’s son Ernest took over the wheelwright’s workshop at Rose Villa in Goudhurst when Edwin Usherwood moved to Eastbourne. He worked there for a few years until he died in 1908. Joseph, his son Charles and Rosa, who was now Charles’ wife, moved to Ashford where Charles worked as a coachbuilder. One final entry in a trade directory lists Albert Padgham in Kilndown in the Blacksmith and Wheelwrights section.
The Pilbeam family were blacksmiths working first at Flimwell and then at Stonecrouch. The smithy at Stonecrouch was close by the Post Boys Inn and so business would probably have been busy in the days of horse drawn coaches travelling along the road to and from London. Henry Pilbeam was the blacksmith at Flimwell at the time of the 1851 census. Then the 1861 census shows him at Stonecrouch as a master blacksmith and his sons Harry and Levi as smiths working with him. By 1871 Harry had left home and Henry’s sons Levi, George and Thomas were working with him. (There is an entry in the 1867 Kelly’s trade directory showing a blacksmith by the name of Henry Pilbeam working at Winchet Hill. Maybe this was Harry). Next the 1881 census shows Henry and his son George as blacksmiths living in adjacent cottages. Henry died in 1887 and George carried on as a blacksmith at Stonecrouch. The last entry for George as a blacksmith was in a trade directory in 1918. He died in Cranbrook workhouse in 1929.
At Winchet Hill the Manktelow family were blacksmiths and wheelwrights for many years. By the time of the 1861 census James Manktelow was the wheelwright. He was living at Winchet Hill Cottages with his wife Esther, their young son William and baby daughter Sarah. Ten years later the family had grown and they now had two more sons, John and Francis (Frank). Kelly’s directory of 1867 lists Henry Pilbeam as a blacksmith at Winchet Hill. Dive Bearsby, son of the Goudhurst village blacksmith James Bearsby, worked at Winchet Hill for a while in the 1870s before moving to Smarden in around 1876. By 1881 John Manktelow was working with his father as a blacksmith and Frank was an apprentice wheelwright. Sarah was working as a dressmaker. William was no longer at home. Moving on to the 1891 census, only John and Frank were left at home with their parents. Sarah had sadly died at the young age of 26 years, John was still a blacksmith and Frank was a wheelwright. By 1901 John had left home so James and his son Frank were running the business together. In 1903 Esther died and then in 1908 James died. Frank carried on the business and was listed in the trade directories from 1913 until 1948 by which time his business name was ‘F Manktelow and Sons, Wheelwright, Winchet Hill’.
There were many more blacksmiths and wheelwrights in the Goudhurst area. Some we only have the details given on the census records. Others are listed in the trade directories. For example: John Thorn of Trowswell Cottages – 1841, 1851 & 1861 – a wheelwright and farmer. Regrettably we know no more than that. The only evidence left of their trades is in the house names: Forge Cottage, Forge House, The Old Smithy and such like.