Monday, 19 November 2012

The Blacksmith

It’s time I related a tale about another ancestor from one of the families I have researched.
 …This is the story of Walter. 

Walter was born in 1834 into a peasant family in rural Norfolk. He was just two years of age when his father was transported for a second stealing offence.  As the youngest of five children, it must have been difficult times for him and his older siblings having no father figure in the family, and his mother Henrietta was probably at her wits end as to how to take care of her growing family on her own….Sadly Henrietta had to resort to stealing food for her children and was inevitably caught.  She was sentenced to serve one month in Norwich prison.
I can only surmise what happened to her children while she was incarcerated…possibly a family member looked after them, or maybe a kindly friend took pity on the family, as I can find no record of the children spending time in the poor house while their mother was absent.
After Henrietta’s release she and her children went to live with her unmarried brother in law and subsequently three years later gave birth to another son.

After a few years of family life two of Walter’s older brothers left home and worked their passage over to Australia to begin new lives there….When he’d reached his own teen years Walter also left home to try and make a better life for himself..He decided to journey across the Country calling at all the farms en route to ask for work….It was at this early age that Walter learned the techniques required to become a Blacksmith.

Eventually he’d worked his way into Derbyshire where he met and married Martha Ann in 1858. and during the years 1859-1883 they produced eleven children. With a growing family Martha Ann made a home for them close to her parents, while Walter followed the Horse Fairs all over the Midland Counties to work at his trade of shoeing the horses…
It must have been an unusual lifestyle for the family and one which perhaps wouldn’t suit many… The children had to adapt to seeing their father for just a few days at a time in between his travels,  so were more or less brought up solely by their mother and grandparents.
…I suspect it would be the job of the older children to care for the younger ones, which was usually the case in these large families – even so, there must have been days when Martha Ann felt totally exhausted.
            As the children grew older Walter moved the family into a small market town in Staffordshire where he decided to put down roots for the next few years plying his Blacksmith trade.  As a bonus, this market town sported a huge Horse Fair three times each year which gave Walter extra and more settled work.

A blacksmith was indispensable in rural areas in the 19th century as no horse could work without being shod and  Walter’s  forge would have become a meeting place for farmers from the outlying areas to catch up with the local news. There were many other mundane jobs which would require his expertise too, such as repairing farmyard implements, and he would be the first person the local community would turn to if any large domestic item needed mending.

For whatever reason, in 1890 Walter decided to give up his blacksmithing – perhaps  trade was beginning to diminish for his line of work and he could no longer earn enough money to support his family, but he decided to move them to Yorkshire where he tried his hand as a bricklayer in one of the larger towns.  This doesn’t appear to have been a very lucrative occupation at that time, and  after a few years  he found other employment in 1901 as an Iron Turner Mechanic which suited his talents better -  He continued to do this work until his death in 1907 at the age of seventy three.

He was survived by Martha Ann for a further eight years until her death in 1915.

Because they'd had such a large family it was inevitable that their children dispersed far and wide to pursue their own aspirations.

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