Horses and Blacksmiths
Horses and blacksmiths
Among my earliest recollections are horses, cart horses which were the power unit of the village. They pulled the plough; they pulled the cart; they did the lugging. I recall many horses passing our house in North Fen each morning bound for a day's slog on the land. Their handlers were hardy folk-they had to be for the horsemen started at 6am and were expected to be at work on the land by 7 am. On larger farms the horsekeeper would start much earlier to ensure that the horses were ready for work at seven. In 1915 a horsekeeper earned 80p per week and worked seven days a week for it. By the time I came on the scene he probably earned twice that amount-inflation!
The horse provided work for many people, the farrier, the saddler, the cart-maker, the wheelwright and sooner or later the horse dealer who was a man apart. He would find you a horse eminently suitable for your requirements but when it died he would give you about 30 bob back for it. He has been replaced by the car dealer!
I well remember the blacksmiths of the village, both named Saberton, Bill at the church and Arthur at the chapel end. Both were craftsmen but their approach to their job differed. Arthur was a very religious man and was on occasions heard to say "Blam". Opoosite the school was Bill who pulled no punches, indeed we had to have five hymns one morning when he was shoeing a horse to drown the names he was calling the aimal in the course of his duty-the blacksmith's shop was directly opposite the school. I told him this many years later and he identified the young horse concerned. He was however very concerned but somewhat amused that his language had caused such a choral festival!
Further up the street Fred Green the harness maker plied his trade. He made saddles, bridles, breeching in fact all the items necessary to get a horse to pull a plough or a cart. His work appeared effortless as indeed appears the work of any true craftsman. At harvest time he was very busy mending binder canvasses, endlesss belts which carried the corn through the binder. He also sold, bikes boots and working clothes and quite a lot of paraffin. Carts were made in the village but I only remember the later ones which had pneumatic tyres being made by Mr Bysouth who had a business next to the Plough Inn now owned by SS Ambrose who were the last people to let you down-they were the village undertakers.