"This information is largely drawn
from the experiences Mr Sims of
Note that this article was
originally written in 1968 byh Mrs P Reeks.
Mr Frederick G. Barrow with
were four forges in Verwood in the early 1900s, three of
these combined smithery with the work of the wheelwright.
The Ringwood Road
forge was working again in 1967 and had been in use for at
least one hundred and fifty years. It was there, that Mr.
Percy Sims began his three year unindentured apprenticeship
in 1912. He had always been interested in horses and
smithery had been his ambition.
begin with he learned how to shut links of chains, which
were used for traces and hauling. This is done infrequently
today as chains are being replaced by wire rope. Another
task he was allowed to do was pulling off horse shoes. The
clenches (turned over nails) had to be cut off before the
shoe was pulled off.
Sims took ever the forge himself in 1927, and he told me
that a frequent task at that time was repairing children's
hoops. Girls had wooden hoops and boys had cast iron hoops
two feat six inches to three feet in diameter, which were
constantly breaking on the uneven gravel roads. This was a
job that he did not like because it was difficult to weld
the ends together as they sprung apart easily. He used to
charge one penny for repairing a hoop.
weld two ends of metal, they had to be held together in the
forge until they reached a certain temperature (judged only
by an experienced eye) and then hammered together. If the
metal was too hot, pieces of metal shattered and showered
around the operator. Mr.Sims said that he did not use a
flux, but the other village smiths used "welding
plate" or silver sand from the local sand pit.
This was used as an abrasive, to prevent the ends which were
joined from moving.
there were three wheelwrights, smiths in the village, Mr.
Sims made and repaired wheel tyres or bonds. The bonds were
made three eighths of an inch to one inch smaller than the
wheel and were shrunk onto it. To make a bond, a piece of
flat iron of the appropriate dimensions was selected and
laid flat on the ground, a chalk mark was made on the wheel
rim and this mark placed on the end of the metal strip. The
wheel was then rolled along the flat iron until the chalk
mark was reached, twice the thickness of the iron was added
and the iron cut at this point.
ends were then joined either by tapering them, frilling a
hole and riveting the ends, or by dove tailing the joint.
traveller (or circular measuring instrument rather like a
miniature trundel wheel) was then used to measure the inside
of the bond and the outside edge of the wheel before the
bond was forged. As the forge was not large enough to
accommodate the bonds, a fire was made out in the open,
sometimes twelve bonds being forged at one time. No coke or
coal was used, but turbes were cut from Boveridge Heath by a
ivered to the forge. These were left to dry out before
usage. The fire was lit and the bonds, if possible fitting
one inside the other were laid in the fire. A mound of
turves was built up over these in a dome, each turf covering
a join in the underneath turves. Mr. Sims said that the
bonds became white hot and "as soft as putty" and
the turves burned to a white ash,
the forging was taking place a wheel was screwed down to a
platform which had a hole in it to accommodate the hub. When
a bond was ready it was taken from the fire and dropped over
the wheel. Sometimes the gap all round between the wheel and
the bond was as much as half an inch. Mr. Sims then ran
round the wheel pouring cold Water onto the bond, so that it
shrank and made contact without burning the wheel. As no
glue was used in making the wheel, the contracting bond
pulled the wheel together. A sledge hammer was then used to
force the ond flush with the wheel and to help bed the bond
into the rim. Nails were driven through the bond into the
wheel at every other spoke.
eventually wore out and often during the summer months had
to be "cut and shut" due to the drying out of the
wooden wheel and the rough surfaces of the roads.
of the village fold worked for the council. In the summer
they "picked out" gravel from Boveridge heath to
lay on the roads during the winter. Their pick-axes were
"lained" or retipeed at the forge, as were the
farmer's knife coulters.
Hinges and hooks for gate fastenings were also made by the
farrier. The hooks were made with long sharp points so that
they could be driven into the gate post. The holes in the
iron-work were punched, first from one side then the other
side and then put over a hole in the anvil and punched out.
Sims' greatest love was shoeing horses. In the 1920s there
were approximately two hundred horses in Verwood, today
there are only about five. At one time Mr. Sims made shoes
from iron bars, but eventually he bought ready made shoes,
as iron bars were eighteen shillings per hundredweight. Old
shoes were remade by turning them back (in half) using two
turned shoes and making up the weight with additional metal.
These were called "doubles" and were considered
the best shoes. Shoe sizes varied from three' to eight
inches across. Steel nails with a tapered head were used so
that the head fitted into the hole in the shoe. The nails
should not be put inside the white line of the hoof as This
part is tender. It took Mr. Sim's approximately one and a
half hours to shoe a horse.
used to go to outlying farms to shoe cart horses before
breakfast. The forging was then done on coal, and he took
ready made shoes, as he knew from previous visits
which size a horse needed. He shod very few donkeys as
"they were to small to get underneath".
Sims spoke from experience when he said that the way to calm
a nervous horse was to sing to it, though a spirited horse
had to have a side-line fitted. This was a rope that was
tied to the horse's fetlock, threaded trough its collar and
tied back at at the fetlock. Holding its hoof up. He could
work in this way without any mishaps.
his will Mr Sims was forced into retirement in 1955. He had
an invalid wife and he himself suffered with arthritic hips
which prevented him "getting under" horses. Thus
farriery is now part of Verwood' s history.
© P Reeks.