Redlingfield’s last blacksmith, Eddie Coe, who knew the building well thought that Redlingfield forge, in the centre of the village, dated back to the 1700s.

Records show the Howes family worked the forge for more than 100 years. Oliver Howes came from Worlingworth to Redlingfield in the early 1800s, probably when he married Mary Cracknell in January 1807. I have found 12 children born to Oliver and Mary between 1807 and 1826. Six girls and six boys – three of the boys became blacksmiths and three were wheelwrights working in neighbouring villages including Horham and Wilby.

The tithe apportionments of 1839 show Oliver occupying the forge and the house across the road now known as Tudor Rose. He did not own these properties but had bought the building known today as Mill Cottage in 1814.

Census information for 1841 shows Oliver and Mary with their daughter Rachel (dressmaker) and son Thomas in the house. Mary died in 1842 and in 1851 Oliver was sharing the house with Rachel, her husband John Bolton, blacksmith son Thomas and two grandsons, the children of another married daughter.

Soon after the census Thomas died on 9th April and then Oliver died from typhus in May. “A sale of the furniture and effects of Mr O Howes on 8th October 1851” was advertised in the Ipswich Journal.

Alfred Howes, son of Oliver, took the forge on. He married Lucy Cracknell Bayles in 1834 and in 1841 was living in Redlingfield with Lucy and their two daughters. By 1851 the couple had five children and seem to be living in part of Mill Cottage. Sadly, his wife died in 1855 the same year as daughter Ellen, aged five.

By 1861 Alfred had moved into the house previously occupied by Oliver. With him were daughters Lucy, with her husband Thomas Cracknell (wheelwright), Betsy and Mary (dressmaker); also sons Walter 18 (blacksmith) and George Bayles Howes seven (scholar). Alfred died in 1868 aged 54.

Probate records state that his effects passed to Walter Howes. Walter carried on. I believe he had been working with his father and by 1871 he was joined by his brother George. At this time Walter was living at Mill Farm having married Ellen, daughter of farmer Isaac Pike, in 1869. In 1881 Walter’s occupation is farmer as Isaac had died. Walter and Ellen left the farm at Michaelmas 1887 and were keeping the Three Tuns in Needham Market in 1891.

George Bayles Howes was working with Walter by 1871 and continued until 1920 so he could have worked the forge for fifty years. He married Emma Green in 1877, they had no children. One of the ledgers kept by George is at the Ipswich Record Office. It is neatly written and is a fascinating record of the varied work carried out and how long it took some customers to pay for it!

The Diss Express advertised the sale on 5th June 1920 of the effects of G. B. Howes “on account of an accident”. He continued to live on in the village until July 1932 and is buried in Redlingfield next to Emma who died in 1937.

Between the Howes and Coe families it seems that a Mr Taylor was the village blacksmith.

Eddie told me that when his father Alfred Coe came back from serving with the King’s Royal Rifles around 1920, he worked with Mr Taylor and took the forge on when his employer decided to leave. Alfred was one of the sons of Joseph Coe who came from Huntingfield. Joseph was listed on the 1901 census as wheelwright living in Tudor Rose (as it is now). Joseph was the brother-in-law of George Bayles Howes. Alfred married Minnie and they lived in Bridge House where Eddie grew up. Alfred won horse-shoeing contests at the Suffolk Show.

Eddie joined his father in 1953 when he left the army having completed his National Service. Alfred died in 1964 aged 65. Eddie carried on working with various assistants until 1998. One of these was his wife Edith who remembers tube bending and drilling among the tasks she carried out. Some villagers remember being able to keep warm at the forge whilst waiting for the school bus on cold winter mornings.

Eddie lived in Walcot with Edith and their two daughters, later moving to Rest Harrow in Mill Road and then Fressingfield. He knew so much about the history of his village and was keen to share it.  I am glad to have had many conversations with Eddie and will miss him very much.

I had intended to write about the forge for this edition of the magazine and it now seems all the more appropriate since the sad news of Eddie’s death.

Linda Hudson (Published in Athelington, Horham & Redlingfield News Winter 2016-2017 issue No 38).