When blacksmiths were the ironmen of life in the villages
Wray historian David Kenyon takes a look at the life and times of village blacksmiths and their workshops, from High Bentham to Bolton-le-Sands. This week he visits the village of Wray
Formerly almost every village had a blacksmith to whom, at one time or another, all the inhabitants turned for shoeing their horses, for repair work and for making all manner of iron work for farm carts including the hooping of cartwheels.
The decline of the village blacksmith probably started during the latter years of the Second World War. The Government set up the Rural Industries Bureau, its purpose to help rural craftsmen modernise their workshops. They provided grants for blacksmiths to buy and use modern welding equipment. This was a great help to blacksmiths for a number of years. Farmers had iron draw bars fitted to their horse drawn hay making machinery and farm carts. Also, for a few years iron work was required for timber trailers made by the local carpenters.
Iron work was also made for wooden cattle trucks often fitted on to ex-army wagon chassis.
By the early 1950s village smithies had started to close, often being converted into domestic dwellings, the only clue to its former use being the name on the house gate, ie: Forge House, The Old Smithy, etc.
Robert Taylor and Sons at Green Smithy moved into tractors and farm machinery, selling their first tractor in 1959. Joshua Winn and Son, who had a smithy at Grove Hill, High Bentham, diversified into the making and erecting of steel framed farm buildings for farmers.
Melling blacksmiths Gibsons started fitting out shippons with pipelines for milking machines, before moving into the sale and repair of tractors and agricultural machinery.
David Travis, who was the last blacksmith in Wray village, was born in 1865.
In the 1881 census David was living with Wray’s master blacksmith Allen Briscoe – he was then 15-years-old. When Allen Briscoe retired David Travis took over the smithy.
A Wray man, Terry Robinson, remembers as a young lad of nine or 10 being given sixpence to pour water on to a wheel that David was hooping. Terry remembers the loud creaking noise that the red hot rim made when he poured cold water on to the wheel rim.
David Travis would start work at 12 or 13-years-of-age and was still working into his late 70s. A long working lifetime. David passed away in 1955 aged 90.
After David retired the blacksmith’s workshop just fell into a ruin as can be seen on the photographs of the smithy taken around 1958. The part of the building used for shoeing horses has collapsed. Today all that remains of the smithy are the four walls.