An article by Bill Goodhand
Welbourn forge dates from 1864 and served the needs of local farmers and tradesmen for over 100 years, including the Welbourn branch of the Co-operative Society which had six draught horses and made deliveries of bread, groceries, meal, paraffin and coal by horse and cart, and Welbourn Manor which kept twelve hunters in its stables.
In conjunction with the village wheelwright, wrought iron rims had to be regularly fitted to farm carts, waggons and wheelbarrows, though other agricultural work was more seasonal as farmers renovated their reapers and binders for harvest, or repaired ploughs, harrows and drills prior to sowing. To fill in the ‘slack periods’ there was always a large range of small jobs to complete such as repairing domestic grates, making gate hinges and catches, and manufacturing forged iron work for farm carts.
The last blacksmith, Edwin ‘Ted’ Wilkinson was born in 1895 and left school at the age of fourteen when he became apprenticed to the then blacksmith, Mr Fountain Wells. He was employed at a wage of five shillings a week for a working day which began at 6.00am and often ended at 7.00pm (5.00pm on Saturday) all the year round.
The forge also had an ‘outshop’ at Temple Bruer and for three days at a time Ted would walk over the Heath to shoe the eighteen horses kept there and to repair the horse-drawn farm tackle. By the outbreak of the First World War, Ted had served his time and become a journeyman blacksmith and farrier and was now earning nine shillings a week.
With the replacement of horses by tractors and larger scale machinery, the skills of the blacksmith became less in demand on farms. Some turned to automotive work or continued carrying out small scale work to domestic appliances. Ted, now suffering from chronic arthritis, finally retired due to ill health in the mid 1960’s but all of the tools and equipment have remained in place and undisturbed until the present day.
In 1987, North Kesteven District Council purchased the workshop and, in collaboration with Welbourn Parish Council and a group of local volunteers, the building has been repaired and rewired. In 2000 the forge fires were lit for the first time in over 30 years and the volunteer group organised the first Open Day.
Members of the Volunteer Group continue to meet on the first Saturday of each month, when the forge is open to visitors.
Welbourn Forge by Bill Goodhand is edited from articles and pamphlets previously published by Bill Goodhand, including an article in Two Villages magazine dated October 2008.
Find out more about Welbourn Forge open days at https://www.visitlincoln.com/things-to-do/welbourn-forge