Of Blacksmiths and Bicycles

By comparison to most readers of this newsletter, I would consider myself to be a complete novice in the area of genealogy, although I believe my interest was first aroused many years ago when I was just a schoolboy. My mother would have lengthy talks around the fireside at home telling me about my grandparents and their family.

My grandfather Edward, and grandmother Emily Francis Chandler, the daughter of a local builder, lived in a tiny terraced cottage at 26 Lower Church Lane, Farnham, Surrey. Here they raised their family of two boys and two girls.

In my imagination, I could see my grandfather who I can remember as a lovable old man with grey whiskers on his chin, a flat cloth cap on his head and the British Legion badge so proudly worn on his jacket lapel, stepping out of the front door of his house, straight onto the narrow cobbled street. From here he would start the short walk to work at the Bush Hotel in Farnham town centre, where he was employed as a domestic coachman. Part of his duties included collecting passengers from the local railway station, and, with his handsome coach and horses, he would transfer the guests to the hotel. In my youthful mind, I could hear the sound of hooves and iron clad wheels as they entered the ornately arched and cobbled hotel courtyard.

My great grandfather John, was baptised at Cuckfield in 1846, and grew up to be a blacksmith living in Staplefield, and on the 5 December 1870, he married Esther. She was born in 1849, the daughter of Edward Dawes, an agricultural labourer, and an intriguing discovery was that Esther’s mother, Martha, was the daughter of James Lindfield, a local broom maker. Within two generations I have two branches of the Lindfield tree.

St Catherine’s indexes record John born 1874 and Esther born 1872 and I am soon hoping to confirm that these were the elder brother and sister of Edward, who my mother knew affectionately as “Uncle Jack and Auntie Etty”, meaning that the first two children in the family were named after their parents.

At some time before the end of the 19th century, John and his family had moved from Sussex and he was working at the blacksmith’s shop at Frensham, near Farnham, and many times I have been told the story of a huge pair of wrought iron gates that he had built for the nearby Grayswood Manor House, and that during World War 2 they were hurriedly exported to prevent them being requisitioned for use in the armaments industry.

By 1904 he had changed his occupation and in partnership with his eldest son John, had opened the cycle business in Bagshot, Surrey, which features in the cover picture. The photograph seems to indicate that he still used his heavy blacksmith’s hammer for the cycle repair work!

My one great sadness is in the knowledge that no boys were born to either of grandfather’s two sons, so with the eventual demise of my dear old uncle Albert, my branch will fall from the Lindfield family tree.

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