Do you remember this Smithy?

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The former Smithy in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood. Image kindly supplied by Emma Smith.

Here’s a great enquiry from Emma Smith about bit of still-existing history in Walsall Wood that she’d like to know more about – can anyone help please?

This is a wonderful enquiry. Emma wrote:

Hello Bob

My 92 year old grandmother Ruth Hewitt has lived in a cottage in Coppice Road,Walsall Wood for over 50 years.

In her garden is an old barn that used to be a Smithy. On old maps it is marked as a Smithy but I have never been able to find any information on it, or who the Smithy or Smithys may have been.

I would love to find any history and have enclosed a pic of the old barn today along with the odd chain link still attached to the beams. The barn as you will see was extended to incorporate the air aid shelter during the war.

I have many memories of playing in the barn and fear one day it will be knocked down so all help will be much appreciated.

Thanks Emma

Can anyone help, please? If you can, please do comment here or mail me: Brownhillsbob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Thanks to Emma for a really great question!

Untitled 9

1884 1:10,000 Ordnance Survey mapping with the Smithy highlighted. Click for a larger version – imagery from the National Library of Scotland Archive.

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18 Responses to Do you remember this Smithy?

  1. Hilary Little says:

    Hi Emma.
    The inclosure award map for Walsall Wood has this land listed as belonging to Abraham Harrison who enclosed the parcel of land in front of the house (inclosure no 167). It doesn’t say what his occupation was but earlier in the document, it talks about “Abraham Harrison’, a nailer, who owned the land on the junction with the Turnpike Road. This land was annexed (with consent) to enable Coppice Road to be widened. Could be the same man, I believe he is quite well documented.
    Regards
    Hilary

  2. Pedro says:

    In White’s directory of 1834 it has a John Harrison as nail maker, and Henry Whitehouse as blacksmith in Shelfield. Non listed for Walsall Wood.

  3. Chris says:

    Abraham Harrison, housenail maker, aged 65 and born in Pelsall, is on the 1891 census in Coppice Road. Housenumbers not given but four households away from Blackcock Road. I think the building’s size and location is good for nailmaking, as opposed to large ironwork or anything to do with horses.
    So I’m sure Hilary is right and this is the man who built int for his own cottage industry.

  4. Brian Ansell says:

    There is mention here of a Smithy in Shelfield. There was a Smithy connected at the end of the Bar room where the fireplace stood in The Four Crosses pub. My brother Robert (Sailor) Edwards and everyone else who frequented The Crosses used to friend an older lady back in the 60’s, early 70’s by the name of Mary whom I believe came from Walsall Wood. Mary said that as a child she would sit on a small wooden cask with a cushion upon it and watch the Smithy at work whilst her Pop would partake of his pint or two.

  5. david oakley says:

    Hi Bob,
    Intrigued to see the ‘old barn’ as described by Emma, labelled as a ‘smithy’ on the map. A good, substantial chimney is one of the main essentials for a blackmith’s ‘hearth’ or even a more modest nailers ‘hearth’ and I see no trace of one in the picture. Look at the old pictures of ‘Street’s corner’ cottage for example. I remember the old houses in Coppice Road from many years ago in this vicinity, and most had very long gardens, nothing behind them, you see, only ‘the cut’. One cottage used to sell plants of all descriptions in the spring. A cottager who tilled a bit of land would need somewhere to store his substance for the winter, and a simple little building like Emma’s ‘barn’, would be just the thing. As well as a storehouse for other things such as a mangle and other bulky hardware. Little independent buildings, away from the house, like this were quite common, but not quite as grand as the ‘barn’. We used to call them ‘the brewhus’’. ….. Just a thought.

    • Hi David

      Well done old chap. Was wondering when someone would notice the lack of a chimney.There seems to be a lot of confirmation bias here.

      Folks, look a allt the evidence, and see if it fits. Don’t just look for stuff that confirms what you think.

      Cheers
      bob

    • Emma Smith says:

      There was a chimney originally removed because of stability over the years.

      • Which end out of interest?
        cheers
        Bob

        • Emma Smith says:

          Other end at the front actually. My grandad removed it because of stability I will send you some other pictures via email as could only put one on when originally posting. It would have been in the front corner near to where the original double barn doors were.

  6. Pedro says:

    Looking at Kelly’s Directory for 1872 and Blacksmiths it seems they were attached to Inns!

    John Critch, Black Cock and Blacksmith

    Henry Whitehouse, Four Crosses and Blacksmith

    William Whitehouse, Spring Cottage and Blacksmith, Shelfield.

  7. Brian Ansell says:

    Thanks for that Pedro as your investigation confirms the story Mary told about when she was a child and watching the Smithy work whilst sitting in The Four Crosses. Not living in Britain any longer and not returning for many years it would be good to investigate the rear of The Spring Cottage in Shelfield for the smithy. As I remember there used to be a gate entrance at the rear of The Spring Cottage from Mill road. Just to the right of the gate behind a wall was an outer building that quite resembled what a smithy would be like. Maybe it is still there. On another note, it is quite obvious that The Four Crosses was also a Smithy by the painting above the front door. This painting was commissioned after the original canvas had been discovered rolled up within the attic of the pub. The canvas that you see today was copied from the original and painted at Stafford Art College. The lecturer of the fine arts department decided to allow his students as well as himself to do the work. My brother Michael was the fellow who painted the horse. I have been concerned about this painting, what with the changing of hands and general unease as to what was going to happen to this pub and I believe that this painting should be classed as a treasured landmark that is worthy of the Walsall Art Gallery should anything ever happen where The Four Crosses pub is set for demolition one day.

  8. Pedro says:

    If you look. In the 1912 Kelly’s Directory for Walsall Wood and Shelfield there does not seem to be a blacksmith mentioned!

    For the record Spring Cottage is run by Edward Cope Clarke, and the Four Crosses by Arthur H Hill.

    • Pedro says:

      The above may tie in with the fact that the “smithy” has been omitted on the 1901 OS Map..

      • Pedro says:

        Do we know which number in Coppice Road?

        In the 1911 census there isn’t any mention of a blacksmith in Coppice Road. The occupations were mainly coal and bricklaying.

  9. Hilary Little says:

    Hi Pedro
    In David’s work Walsall Wood 1881: A melting pot, using information from the 1881 census, he says
    “Also in Coppice Road there was a land and house agent from Woodchester, Gloucester; a grocer, an engine driver from Pontypool whilst Abraham Harrison, the village’s last horse nail maker, was busy at work and his neighbours Mr Belgrave and son were blacksmiths.”.
    The info, I took from the inclosure act relates to a time frame around 1871 to 1876, if you look at the main picture on the Inclosure page here on the blog and the last picture on the 8th row…you’ll see what I mean.
    I don’t think the house shown was a single home, the current building is divided into 2 separate homes but obviously could have been quite different in the past. This is always assuming that I have got the right buildings, of course

    • Pedro says:

      I don’t doubt that there was a smithy in Coppice Road; so was this the building used and when was it cease as a smithy?

      The 1881 census does show Abraham Harrison as a nailmaker, but I think that the neighbour was a Mr Colgrave who was an engineer and whose son was a blacksmith of age 17. Could the building be the place that Abraham made his nails?

      Had the smithy ceased before 1881? So on to 1871…

  10. Emma Smith says:

    Hi all thank you for your comments. My nan and grandad Ruth and Denis Hewit purchased the house – 71 Coppice Road just over 50 years ago. They originally lived across the road in the terraced houses and prior to that in Brownhills West. The house as they recall was a family concern many years before and my nans house, the house on the corner of Coppice Road/Wyre Close was the original cottage. My nan still has a pantry in her house which is very strange as the outside of the pantry is in next doors back garden. The people who owned it apparently built a further cottage onto the original property and had an open yard hence why the pantry is in next doors garden. When a fence did go up my nan always had right of way onto the property next door even though she has never really needed it other than to gain access to the outside of the pantry. I am assuming that the barn was built by the same family. I have more photos of the barn and will forward to Bob so he can put them on.

    The garden was also very large at one point although it is by no means small now. Prior to Wyre Close being built my grandparents owned the land up to the canal and unfortunately had a compulsory purchase placed on then so there was the land if it was used for horses. I can remember walking up to the canal and my grandad had pigeons, Geese and Cows on the land.

    Thanks
    Emma

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