The Thurlows

Village News & Information

The village blacksmith

A favourite place for us boys to go if it was raining or very cold was in the blacksmith’s shop at Pound Green. The blacksmith at this time was Jack Norden, who used to cycle daily from his home at Westerly Waterless. He was a very handy and obliging man who would repair almost anything, including mending bicycles, soldering kettles and watering cans, and sharpening shears and wood axes.

We would pump the bellows for his fire, and there was an art in this since too much pressure would blow the hot coals away from the fire. The end of the bellows handle was a piece from the horns of a bull. One wet winter morning some of us boys who were on our holidays were in the shop. I was blowing the bellows for Jack, who I believe was making some harrow teeth, when suddenly there was a loud bang and the hot coals from the furnace were blown out. Somehow a .303 cartridge case with a detonator had found its way into Jack’s fire, and needless to say we were banned from the blacksmith’s for a while, though luckily there had not been a horse in the smithy at the time. And you hear some people making comments about youngsters of today…

November 1943 saw the resumption on a limited scale of foxhunting, with the Opening Meet being held at Bradley Fox. Once again we saw the familiar sight of the terrier man cycling through the village, Lance leFleming, the son of the vicar of Great Thurlow, who carried the hunt terrier in a basket on the back of his bicycle. He would cycle miles for his sport, also following the East Essex and the Puckeridge packs. He was a very polite and cheerful man, always raising his cap to everyone he passed.

November also saw the free distribution of bread, which Mr Rutter used to bake, to the parishioners through the Houghton Charity. This took place on a Saturday morning.

More functions were taking place now, with concerts were being held in the Clubroom at The Rose & Crown and proceeds going to the Welcome Home Fund, for the return of the members of the Forces.

Annual dinners were also held in the Clubroom for the cricket and football clubs, and also for the British Legion. I remember Mr Rutter baking a large local ham for one dinner. The ham was encased in bread dough, and after the last batch of bread had been drawn from the oven in the afternoon the ham was placed on a tray in the oven and allowed to bake slowly for several hours. When it was taken from the oven the bread dough was removed and the ham allowed to cool. Les, the butcher, collected it in his van and carved it later in the evening at the dinner.

December 1943 saw the end of my schooldays. I had now reached the age of 14 and I started working full-time for Mr Rutter at the bakery.

During the winter months my father and I would go rabbiting up at the Hall with his ferrets. Sometimes he would be lucky and get a few, especially if it was dry and frosty when the rabbits would bolt better, though some rabbits would get away if he had not enough nets to cover all the holes. Sometimes the ferret would get ‘laid up’, meaning reluctant to come up, and this meant getting the spade and digging the ferret out so that it was sometimes dark before we finished.