at Mulbarton Bridge

Some Directory entries for Bracon Ash include a blacksmith - and he is described as 'on Turnpike' or 'near bridge' or 'near Mulbarton'. In fact the actual blacksmith's forge was over the boundary in Mulbarton parish but the blacksmith's house - the fine thatched Forge Cottage - was  within the parish of Bracon Ash. The boundary follows a strange route in this corner - maybe as the course of the stream changed. One result is that some Directories list the Bracon Ash blacksmith under Mulbarton!

Extract from a large-scale Ordnance Survey map on the junction of B1113 and the East Carleton Road. The parish boundary is shown with a dotted line and does not follow the stream.

The forge itself is an elegant brick building that has been described as 18th Century but more probably dates from the 1830s. The picturesque thatched Forge Cottage is far older.

Directory entries for Bracon Ash and Mulbarton list a number of blacksmiths:
James Rice - blacksmith (Whites, 1845)
Robert Rice - listed as wheelwright and beerhouse keeper in 1845;
Mrs. Elizabeth Rice - listed as blacksmith (1865)
Robert Rice - blacksmith (1869, 1875, 1877, 1883 and 1892)
Everett Eke - blacksmith (1904, 1908)
George Goward - blacksmith (1922) and listed as 'now also agriculture implement agent and acetylene welder' in the 1937 Kelly's Directory.

In 1920, the Steward family sold the East Carleton Estate, including the forge and Forge Cottage:

LOT 20: The Picturesque Cottage and Smithy with Pasture and Arable Land attached... Situated on Mulbarton Common with frontage to the main road and in the Parishes of Mulbarton and Bracon Ash. The Cottage is picturesquely built of brick with a thatched roof. It has two staircases...three bed rooms, two sitting rooms, back kitchen... water from pump. Excellent garden at back and front.

The brick and tiled Blacksmith's shop consists of Forge House with two forges, Coal House... Shed... two-stall Stable, Hay House, Trap House... Hay Shed, etc.

Meadow and Arable land at rear.... Total 4.361 acres. Let to Mr. G. Goward on a Yearly Tenancy at the rent of £25 pa.

George Goward obviously took the opportunity to buy the freehold, which was passed on to his son, William (known to everyone as Billy).

Billy Goward is the blacksmith people remember. Richard Berney (of Bracon Hall) once commented that he learned more colourful language from Billy Goward than from anyone else! He was the first man to introduce Acetylene welding in the Eastern Counties and was a gold-medallist for horse-shoeing. He was elected Chairman of the Master Farriers' Association in the Eastern Counties, which involved a lot of travelling to annual conferences and meetings around the country. He was presented to the King at the Royal Norfolk Show at Keswick - and villagers reported that they made great effort to teach Billy to talk politely and without swearing in his usual manner!

Billy Goward (centre) relaxing with Charlie Frost of Mulbarton garage (left) and Mr Wasey
Billy Goward (centre) relaxing with Charlie Frost of Mulbarton garage (left) and Mr Wasey

The forge closed in the mid-60s (below is one of his last bills). Billy Goward died on 30th December 1968, and with him died the blacksmith business serving Bracon Ash and Mulbarton.

There is more about the blacksmith on the Mulbarton History website.

(Above) Forge Cottage on the old Turnpike road (now the B1113) with the brick forge to the left. The parish boundary of Bracon Ash and Mulbarton runs between the two buildings: the cottage is in the parish of Bracon Ash.

Forge Cottage was described as a Tudor building when it was put up for auction by Mrs Goward in December 1969. Built of brick and clay lump, it is one of the few cottages in the area that is still thatched. There are exposed beams in the dining room, so it could be 16th century, but with 2 front doors and 2 staircases it must have been 2 separate dwellings at some point. The 'blurb' of 1969 is not dissimilar to the description of 1920: 'delightful and charming.... with a large cottage garden with lawns and orchard to the rear'. It had a dining room, sitting room, walk-in pantry and kitchen, conservatory and small cellar, and 3 bedrooms. The well in the garden is described as having 'soft water', which is most unlikely given the underlying chalk! Both the cottage, the smithy and outbuildings were auctioned by Irelands on 12th December 1969 at the Royal Hotel, Norwich. By then, Mrs Goward had had a modern bungalow built by the Common, and the remainder of the field had been sold off for housing - planning permission for 11 residential properties was sought, with their own access road from the Common, now Forge Orchards.