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Barling & Wakering Villages Plus
Blacksmiths in Wakering - An Email Debate

Kicked off by a query from Yvonne (Hubbard) Flower

Edited by Richard Kirton - 26 July 2015

Comment by Peter Griffiths 11 July 2015

Yvonne would like to know if anyone remembers (and can tell her anything about) a blacksmith near to Great Wakering School and on the same side of the road as the school. She thinks that his name was Muggeridge and nicknamed ‘Muggy’. Does anyone recall him and anything about his forge? If so, please press ‘Reply to All’ and let us all know.

Reply from Robert Mount 13 July 2015
The only forge I remember was the one run by Stan? Alps, which I believe is currently used as a repair shop by Chris Gates. Whether the other person Yvonne remembers was the previous owner of the forge before Stan Alp, I don't know, but I had a word with my Mother and she said there was another Forge in the High Street, but it stood on the plot of Land between the British Legion (which was then the old Vicarage apparently) and the Evangelical Church, and now has 4 houses on it.

Reply from Laurie Street 21 July 2015
I remember 2 in Wakering, Wilf Alp at the forge in the High Street now Gates. I understand the forge (the fire) is still there. The other was between the British Legion (formerly St Nicholas Vicarage) and the Peculiars Church (now the Evangelist Chapel.) This is now a terrace of 4 houses. My oldest brother, Michael used to work in the brickfield. On wet days he was rained off and went to work for the blacksmith, I used to go along as well. Mostly he used to help put iron tyres onto carriage and cart wheels. The actual wheels were made from hard wood by the wheelwright, someone like old Mr Beneworth who was the undertaker and could make anything from wood.

The blacksmith made the tyre exactly to size. The wheel was laid down on blocks, the tyre heated in the forge and moved round a bit at a time to heat it evenly. It was held by big tongs. When the blacksmith gave the word the tyre was carried out and the heat having expanded the iron it was slipped over the wheel rim. It was held in place by pouring cold water over it to shrink it to size. The tyre was only held on by the skills of the blacksmith and wheelwright. No bolts or screws just skills.

In hot weather carts and carriages were driven through water to keep the wood swelled up. I remember a 3rd blacksmith in Barling and the old building is still there. The blacksmith was Bob Jennings who lived in Little Wakering. I have a painting of the one near the Legion. As a lad I spent hours just watching. After a while I was allowed in to pump the bellows on the forge. The blacksmith promised me I could be his apprentice but instead closed up and went to work in the Royal Stables shoeing the Queens horses. That's what life was like in Barling and Wakering, clever people. Would I have made a good blacksmith? Answers on a postage stamp please!!!

Reply from Laurie Street 22 July 2015
I never knew his name but I thought Yvonne meant on the same side as the New School not the old school which is now the community centre. Certainly, Alp's were on the South side of High Street, in addition to Wilf there was a brother, don't know his name but he was called BLUEY, Yes I do know why, he used to be a blacksmith as well and did the hardening and tempering of chisels, etc. The process is intriguing, the shaft of a chisel is heated in the forge away from the edge, the spectrum of the rainbow radiates towards the edge of the chisel and when BLUE gets to the edge it is dunked in water to cool rapidly and the edge is hardened and ready for use. A man who got his nickname from what he did best.

The other one might be Muggeridge, I never knew his name and he was just the Blacksmith. He was a youngish man to me. I sat with Yvonne all that Saturday afternoon and she never asked me about this.

Reply from Robin Nicholls 23 July  2015
There was a blacksmith situated between the old Vicarage (now the British legion) and the Peculiar People’s church on the North side opposite Ledicott’s lovely garden (on the south side!). Perhaps David Lee remembers? Behind the blacksmith’s forge would have been Harry Ellis’s pickled onion business “Swiss Savouries”.

Reply from Yvonne (Hubbard) Flower 24 July 2015

I have been trying to make my memory work better and some things have reappeared. Yes it was most definitely on the old school side of high-street I thought around the area of the small parade of shops near today’s post office and I remember you had to step down into it his name was Lionel Muggeridge, and yes Laurie he was quite young and the young girls of today would describe him as "Fit".

This was around 1946/47 and yes it could have been the chappie that Laurie mentioned as sharpening chisels etc. as he used to phone my father (Les Hubbard) at times maybe about tools used in the building industry at a guess. He was Ex-Army and he seemed to just disappear very quickly and I have the odd niggle in my head that there was some connection to Potton Island. Thanks to all for their comments.

Reply from David Lee 26 July 2015
Yes I do remember the old forge building and it’s attached two storey cottage next to the British Legion Club. However, I cannot remember there being much activity at the forge between 1951 and 1961 when the forge was demolished to make way for four terrace houses which now stand on the site. Most of the blacksmiths work in the village seemed to be carried out by Wilf Alp on the South side of the High Street.

However, I do remember our first neighbour who lived in the forge cottage in 1951 was a German farm labourer and his wife (ex. prisoner of war). They did not stay for long before another couple of farm tenants moved in who were Polish and the wife had survived from a Nazi death camp (her arm was tattooed with the camp registration number).

On a lighter note they also had a dog and as kids my brother and I were allowed to play with it. The only trouble was their dog was a bitch and we had a dog and some how they got together and five puppies appeared (nothing to do with us).

Reply from Laurie Street 26 July 2015
Basically I agree with Dave and Robin. My brother served in the Royal Air force during the war. When he was demobbed he worked in the brickfields and on wet days helped the blacksmith just after the war. The Smith was as far as I recall English and had a military physique. He was fairly young and athletic. True he didn't stop long and I was always told he went to shoe royal/cavalry horses. As far as I remember this was later 1940s or early 1950's. There may have been others who lived in the cottage.

I remember of course Leo Ledicott who lived at the Orchard House opposite and Ellis's yard behind the Legion. Just recently York Bungalow has been demolished and now 13 houses stand there.

In 1964 I moved to 203 High Street almost opposite the Legion. The Legion was there then, the name of the Lane changed from Vicarage Lane to Little Wakering Hall Lane. The forge had gone and the site developed with 4 houses. I still live here.

I wonder if the Blacksmith that I and Yvonne remember was an Army farrier because at that time there were hundreds of Army horses at Horseshoe Barracks at Shoebury, they used to come out here for exercise. Did he leave the army whilst here, tried his hand in Civvy Street, found it hard and went back to the army?

Comment by Mike Prior 26 July 2015

Dave Lee’s e-mail lit up an almost forgotten memory of that time. We had one of those puppies from the Polish lady of Forge Cottage. My Mum and sister Jeanne went to see them, chose one and, when they were old enough, collected him. Jeanne remembers stepping down a large step to enter the cottage. The pup was named “ Butch” and lived with us for some years. He was a bit of a wanderer and, over the following years, got injured a few times needing the services of Mr. Sparrow.

Once he disappeared for weeks – we almost gave up hope of seeing him again.

Pam was meeting me for lunch and, luckily, recognised this filthy, scruffy, half starved dog outside Thomas Drapers in Southchurch Road and he recognised her. She shared her lunch with him and we brought him home on the bus.

Comment by Mike Prior 09 September 2015

In amongst my heap of stuff I came across this Great Wakering High Street photo. It’s a bit soot and white-washy but it does show the forge and cottage.

The picture supports previous comments by Robin Nicholls and others of the existence of a blacksmith situated between the old Vicarage (now the British legion) and the Peculiar People’s church on the North side of the High Street.