GRIFF COTTAGE

 

The legend of Weyland the Smith must be at least three thousand years old, and after the discovery of iron up in the hills above Askett, Weyland's Stock was designated as a boundary point on the tenth century charter, and the Whiteleaf Cross marked as Weyland's Meeting Place.

The image of the Smith, the magical worker of iron, was the supreme craftsman in any community, as he produced weapons of war and repaired all the things needed in simple agricultural and domestic life.

The first smithies appeared in the villages in the thirteenth century, so it is possible that on the eastern boundary of the Manor of Monks Risborough a forge started to work for the lord of the manor, and the manor farm workers making tools for the villagers. As farrier he shod the horses for hundreds of years, and it is at this point that local history can be established by a descending family name.

On 30th April 1623 Thomas Eldridge was buried. His son Thomas had married and had his son baptised Thomas too, but there is no record of the burial of father Tom, and one can only suggest that he went to the Civil War, recruited to mend the weapons, and did not return.

He left a young man to manage the forge, Thomas, born in 1637, and after marrying Eleanor had their child baptised on 5th October 1957, according to the clerk of the records, as Elnore, (but when she was buried in 1688 was decreed Eleanor). There followed three more girls and three boys, one of whom, William, continued the traditional craft of the Smith.

He married Sarah, and they had a son born in 1717 named William and twin sons, John and Thomas.

In 1701, on June 29 th , Jeremiah Gallant was born, son of Eleanor and Jeremiah Gallant, blacksmith of Askett. This entry must mean that the Eldridges offered a partnership to Jeremiah to help while young William was growing up.

Unfortunately the baby Jeremiah died in November of that year.

The following year, Elizabeth was baptised on 19th October. There is no other entry of young Gallants but in 1733 Eleanor died, and in 1740 Jeremy the Blacksmith was buried on 15th September.

Young William Eldridge married Elizabeth Gallant and they had sons and daughter who in turn carried on the trade.

By 1812 two brothers were registered as blacksmith, John and Richard, so trade must have been good. They in turn had sons and daughters, some of whom died very young, and others who lived to an old age.

At the time of the Inclosure awards of 1830, John Eldridge held freehold 'one plot of land on Ascott Green containing ten perches, including the site of a blacksmiths shop lately erected thereon'.

By 1847 again, two brothers, Richard and James, are the village blacksmiths, but Richard died in the typhus epidemic of 1853.

James continued on his own, marrying, and having a son William.

In 1876 John Berry joined James Eldridge as Smith for a while, but by 1887 William was old enough to take his place at the forge until 1911 when he died of pneumonia - so ending a family saga.

(On the Boer War Memorial on Coombe Hill, there is recorded Farrier Sergeant Eldridge among the local men who died in that war).

Ernest Kempster came from Berkhampstead to become blacksmith, shoeing horses and mending farm implements. He was exempted from military service in 1914-18 as he was one of the many blacksmiths who supplied thousands of horse shoes for the cavalry used in the First World War.

Mr Kempster died in 1920. His son married Daisy Stratford from Poppy Cottage, but they moved away.

John (Jack) Poulton and his sister Polly moved into the Forge Cottage where Jack, as wheelwright, worked at the forge at the back.

He was obviously very tolerant of young children who were fascinated by his forge and spent many hours watching him work. Small boys were great admirers of his skill at making farm wagon wheels without seeming to measure his wood and iron. When he had time he would make iron hoops for sixpence, and a wooden one for little children for one penny, for them to roll down the hill and along the lane.

His father came to live with them from his home at the Bell House Cottages when they were sold, and is remembered as 'Grandpa Poulton', who used to wheel the local children in his wheelbarrow to the allotments at 'long fortin' (at Lower Cadsden) and give little girls a rose from the archway in the garden.

Jack got married in 1927 and lived in the back two rooms with his wife, and daughter, until they moved to Monks Risborough.

Polly lived at the front of the house with a Mrs Spiller (from Cadsden) in some disorder, and Mike White lived in the wooden back rooms along the Crowbrook Road, until the property was sold.

Until 1947 Laurie Pullen came from Bledlow twice a week to do the blacksmiths work, on his motorbike, and, taking his Home Guard and A.R.P. duties seriously, sometime during the war, chased a barrage balloon that was loose, on his noisy bike, through the village and over the meadows.

The cottage was then re-modelled and re-named Griff Cottage.

Footnote: Mary Poulton bought The Old Forge (then called The Smithy and much later re-named Griff Cottage by Tina Evans) in 1927, for her parents.

The rooms Mike and Celia White rented were of brick, not wood. When Mike moved there from Whiteleaf there was no running water but he got tired of Celia forgetting to empty the bucket under the sink and kindly did a bit of plumbing. (Prior to this they had the use of an outside tap by Mary's backdoor.) They had an Elsan at the bottom of the garden - chilly on a cold winter's night. Celia lived at The Old Forge for five years; Mike for longer. They had a bath once a week in the main part of the cottage. Afterwards they were given a glass of port as Mrs. Spiller and Mary felt they would need fortifying.

 

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