INTRO. CHRONICLES. SOCIETIES. PARISH. VILLAGE. CHURCH. PEOPLE.

A History of YALDING, Kent, England

WHEELWRIGHTS.

 

Of all the dedicated artisans and craftsmen in the typical village, the wheelwright was perhaps the most versatile, as he needed the skills of a carpenter and joiner, and the knowledge of a blacksmith. He was often required to build the whole cart or wagon, not just the wheels, although these needed to be repaired, and he needed to have a knowledge of the stresses and strains within a wooden wheel, taking into account the individual needs and local conditions. The construction of wagons varied according to their different types of loads, and the wheel rim widths needed to cope with our local clay or soft mud.

Our parish has been a very active agricultural community that started the 19th century with over forty farms, and after several mergers closed it with about twenty-five. Before Paddock Wood was formed in the late 19th century, the extent of the parish was 5,771 acres, of which 1,400 was given over to the cultivation of hops, and 72 acres to our lakes and waterways. Farm sizes ranged from a mere 4 acres to as much as 550, and some wheelwrights functioned within a large farm, but most worked from independent establishments. During the period of 1840 to 1900 there were at least 43 individual wheelwrights, plus other employees and apprentices, with some active for a short period, whilst others were resident for longer, and became part of the community structure. These workshops totalled about twelve initially, and reduced to half that number by the close of the century. Brief descriptions that follow of the craftsmen and their families, are in chronological order.

 

The site of William Cronk’s workshop was opposite New Barns Farm at the end of Mill Lane.

William Charlton worked from his farm along the Lees to Laddingford road.

John Newington of Laddingford, married Elizabeth Hubble, and when John died in 1857, she employed a man to carry on the business.

Richard Ransley worked from within the village, whilst Edward Rayner had a workshop opposite the Woolpack Inn, and that of James Snashall, called Little Woolsey, was on the site of Peacock Farm.

 

At Congelow was father and son, William and James Tomset, and in 1851 James was still there but living on his own.

These men with their wood skills were all initially here in the 1841 census, and the only other one was David Hope. His workshop was only 100 metres from that of William Cronk, across the road next to Little Benover. David and his wife Ann were both 25, living with children David 5, Ann 3, and Martha 2 months. By 1851 they had moved up to the village, and had soon also started an additional business of a green grocer. In the 1861 census, David junior had opened a wheelwright shop in Collier Street, but when his father died in 1866, he moved his operations up to his father’s workshop, now the Eden barn. This David and wife Emily, with children, Emily, Ann, Lavinia, and David, called their new home Hope Cottage. In 1891, Lavinia at age 20 was a school mistress at the village school, and ten years latter as Mrs Lavinia Button, was head mistress at Laddingford school.

Fresh skills were constantly coming onto the scene, and by 1851 Thomas Mosely with his family were at Spring Well. Soon with wife Mary they moved nearer the village, and still there 40 years later were in Miss Towns cottages, possibly in the High Street.

 

Meanwhile at Collier Street the name of Nathaniel Worsley arrived, with wife Elizabeth, and by 1861 their six children, included son John born in 1851. With a growing family to help they were also to branch out and start a grocery business, and later Nathaniel became the local postmaster. In 1868 wife Elizabeth died, and two years later he married Frances Elizabeth Burch at East Ashford. In 1881 the trade of wheelwright was replaced by that of Coach Builder, so still with grocer and post office activities he was employing five men. During this time son John was learning the trade, and in 1891, with wife Emily and three children he was at Jasmine Cottage, at Downs Farm, established as a Carriage and coach Builder.

When John Goble was added to this list he was lodging with the Worsley family, along with apprentice wheelwright James Manktelow. After John Goble married Esther Reeves Cheesman, a dressmaker, in 1853, he replaced the Tomset family, and took over the workshop at Congelow. By 1871 he had opened a beerhouse on the site, which was to be called the Chestnut Tree, that later became a public house.

 

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