Back at the end of May, I received an enquiry from reader Emma Smith who was interested in the history of an old smithy in the garden of her Grandmother’s house in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood, which spawned a lot of interest.
As soon as I saw the question, I knew this was one for roving investigator and fully paid up member of the Walsall Wood contingent, the young David Evans, who got in touch with Emma, and checked out the smithy and it’s history, and prepared the following, rather wonderful account.
I’d like to thank David for another amazing piece of work, and for recording yet again a piece of otherwise undocumented local history, but my gratitude is also extended to Emma and the Hewitt family for their generosity and kindness in allowing us to share this wonderful thing online. A true act of local felicity.
Just a note: I have two spellings of Hewitt; apologies if I picked the wrong one. The one I used is that specified by Emma in her first enquiry. Apologies in advance for any error.
As ever, I welcome further contributions, comments and clarifications. Please do comment here of mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
The Old Smithy, Coppice Road Walsall Wood
This simple, single-story building was local horse nail maker, Mr Abraham Harrison’s workshop in the 19th century.
Abraham Harrison, nailer of Walsall Wood… Census records:
1851, in ‘Clanger’ a lodger, aged 25. ‘Nail Maker’
1861 in Walsall Wood, age 35 ‘Nail Maker’ Wife Esther aged 22 and son aged 1 month
1871 in Walsall Wood, age 45 ‘Nailer’ Wife Esther age 32, daughter Ann Marie age 10, daughter Esther age 8, daughter Sarah age7, daughter Alice age2, son Abraham age 1
1881 in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood, age 54 ‘Nail Maker’ wife Esther age 47, daughter Ann Marie age 20, son Charles age 9
1891 in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood, age 65 , ‘Horse Nail Maker’
1901 in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood, age 75, ‘living on own means’, wife Esther age 69, son Charles age 29, bricklayer, daughter Alice age 32
1904 Abraham Harrison died . Will £402 19s 9d. Probate to Charles Harrison (bricklayer) and to Sarah Ann Harrison( spinster).
Walsall Wood, a short history,(page 2) Margaret Brice
‘The last nailmaker in Walsall Wood was one Abraham Harrison, who ceased trading in 1896 and died in 1904’
The two plastic shuttered windows are modern and cover the original windows. To the left the large white plastic garage door was formerly two large barn doors which opened on to the courtyard by the side of the cottage. The forge chimney was inside this corner of the workshop, near the camera, and was removed some years ago.
The image shows the corner of the workshop where the forge chimney used to be.
It is possible to make the outline of one of the two original workshop windows on this end wall.
The rear of the building has no windows, and I was told that there was once a ditch by this wall.
This shows the stable part of the building, with an original window, and ivy creeping up the outside wall. What lies behind the ivy?
At the far end of the stable is a small building, much more modern and quite amazing. The thick flat concrete roof gives a clue….
This is a complete, intact, Second World War air raid shelter! Part of the original door frame is still visible.
The entrance to this shelter shows the blast protection inner wall, and the space inside the shelter measures some six feet by six, The roof is low and corrugated patterning in the concrete roof is clearly visible. The building is quite dry!
The small window is seemingly original and its original purpose becomes clear as one explores the inside of the building. The ivy obscures another feature of the smithy.
This is the window that is covered by the ivy. It is possible to make out that this was the formerly the stable doorway that had later been modified to an arched window. Close examination of the outside wall under the ivy showed that the brickwork was different.
In this stable part of the building there are two doors which lead from the forge workshop to the stable. The roof has been repaired in modern times, but we there was once an upper floor…the holes show where floor joists had been. This was the hay loft, above the stable. The pitched wall is a load bearing inner wall that divides the workshop from the stable. The forge/workshop roof timbers are bare, telegraph pole style timbers. What had the iron hoop been used for? What had the old chain been used for?
In the corner of the stable we can make out the iron ventilation blocks and some old white- washing or lime -washing of the inside. This corner was under the stairs or ladder the led to the loft (the space between the wall and the first joist is greater than between the other floor joists).
And in the other corner we have the little window, to light the way up to the loft.
Throughout both the stable and workshop we can see the brick flooring, well worn and intact.
And, in the corner of the smithy workshop part of the building, just visible , the soot marking where the old chimney had been.
The workshop seems to have been well laid out….a pair of wide-opening barn doors, a forge in the corner by these doors, two good windows to let in the light, and possibly in the corner to the left, a pump.
Just visible in the floor near the back corner of the forge, by the back wall, are the remains of some kind of drain, which discharged in to the ditch outside.
I would like to give my sincere personal thanks to Emma Smith for contacting the blog and to the Hewett family for so kindly welcoming me and allowing me to visit, view and photograph this building and so bring this part of our local history to light.
David, June 2016