There was probably more than one forge in Mulbarton - the windmill near the common certainly had its own forge. But the building remembered as the blacksmith's shop is an elegant brick building, almost classical in style, which was described at auction as 18th Century but more probably dates from around 1830. Next-door is Forge Cottage, a fine thatched house which is technically in Bracon Ash parish. Described in auction 'blurb' as Tudor, there are exposed beams in the dining room and the building itself is a mix of brick and clay lump. With two front doors and two stair-cases, it is likely to have been two dwellings at some stage.
The smithy and house were part of the estate of the lord of the manor, which in the 1800s and early 1900s was the Steward family. They were part of the great sale of the East Carleton Manor Estate in 1920, where they are described in the auction handbook:
LOT 20: The Picturesque Cottage and Smithy with Pasture and Arable Land attached... Situated on Mulbarton Common with frontage to the main road and in the Parishes of Mulbarton and Bracon Ash. The Cottage is picturesquely built of brick with a thatched roof. It has two staircases...three bed rooms, two sitting rooms, back kitchen... water from pump. Excellent garden at back and front.
The brick and tiled Blacksmith's shop consists of Forge House with two forges, Coal House... Shed... two-stall Stable, Hay House, Trap House... Hay Shed, etc.
Meadow and Arable land at rear.... Total 4.361 acres. Let to Mr. G. Goward on a Yearly Tenancy at the rent of £25 pa.
George Goward obviously took the opportunity to buy the freehold, which was passed on to his son, William (known to everyone as Billy).
Blacksmiths & Wheelwrights listed in Directories:
James Rice - blacksmith (Whites, 1845)
Robert Rice - listed as wheelwright and beerhouse in 1845;
Mrs. Elizabeth Rice - listed as blacksmith (1865)
Robert Rice - blacksmith in 1869, 1875
Samuel Dye - listed as wheelwright & carpenter & beer retailer, 1869, 1875
('beer retailer' refers to the Tradesmen's Arms - long assocated with the wheelwright's family)
Mrs. Charlotte Dye - wheelwright and beerhouse, 1883, 1890
Robert Rice - blacksmith, 1883, 1890, 1896
Edward Dye - wheelwright, carpenter and beer retailer in 1896 & 1904
Everett Eke - blacksmith (1904)
Edward John Chaplin- wheelwright (1922)
George Goward - blacksmith (1922) and listed as 'now also agriculture implement agent and acetylene welder' in the 1937 Kelly's Directory. Some of the certificates he won at the Royal Norfolk Show are still in the Smithy (now used as a store) - below.
Billy Goward - Blacksmith
Billy Goward succeeded his father, George, who had been blacksmith in Mulbarton since 1912. In 1940 he married Cynthia, a mental health nurse who was born and brought up in Swardeston who had served with the Red Cross in Greece and Turkey in World War 1. The main work at the forge was showing cart horses and putting metal tyres on wooden wheels. During World War 2, Mrs. Goward did a lot to help her husband at the forge, as there was a shortage of labour.
Following a tradition going back many years, the wheelwright was also the landlord of the Tradesman's Arms opposite the forge. Wheels were brought across the road and laid on a special platform in the yard. The tyres were made to fit, then heated until red-hot and levered onto the wheels.
Billy Goward (centre) relaxing with Charlie Frost of the garage (left) and Mr Wasey
Billy Goward was the first man to introduce Acetylene welding in the Eastern Counties and was a gold-medallist for horse-shoeing. He was elected Chairman of the Master Farriers' Association in the Eastern Counties, which involved a lot of travelling to annual conferences and meetings around the country. He was presented to the King at the Royal Norfolk Show at Keswick - and villagers reported that they made great effort to teach Billy to talk politely and without swearing in his usual manner!
The forge closed in the mid-60s (below is one of his last bills). Billy Goward died on 30th Dec. 1968. The following year, his widow had a bungalow built for herself on the corner of Forge Orchards facing the Common. The remaining land was sold and planning permission sought for 11 residential properties with access from the Common - now Forge Orchards and two houses facing the Common. Forge Cottage, the old forge and some outbuildings were sold by auction on 12th December 1969 by Irelands. The description is remarkably similar that given in 1920 - with a footnote that mains sewerage was about to arrive. Both were then classified as Grade 3 Listed Buildings.
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