Memories of the farrier at Dawkins Forge

Image shows shoeing cage of Dawkin's family forge - Marshall's Row
Image reproduced with permission from Brighton History Centre

“When I was a child in the 1950’s, the Open Market was largely a series of stalls with corrugated iron roofs, otherwise open to the elements.

I wasn’t really interested in the fruit and veg stalls, but the blind man’s stall was very enticing to children with a few pennies to spend. The stall-holder was indeed blind, wearing dark glasses, but seemed to be able to detect any wandering hands of potential “customers” fingering his wares – usually very cheap toys.

I also remember the blacksmith’s forge on the London Road side of the market, where my brother and I would watch horses being shoed, with loud hammering on the anvil and accompanying smoke and steam. A wonderful sight that would keep us enthralled while our mum did the shopping!”

The smell-memory of Dawkins Forge
“Aah! the ‘smell-memory’ of Dawkins Forge as he pressed the hot shoe onto the hard pad of the horses foot! The only bit of the forge remaining is (or was recently) a large iron ring that the horses were tied to. It is set in the flint wall, behind all the fruit shop clutter, on the west side of the greengrocers at the London Road side of the market.”

Geoffrey Mead
Submitted to the website by e-mail, September 10, 2002

How many people recall the farrier?
“How many people recall the farrier who worked outside the main gates of the old Open Market (London Road entrance)?

As children, my sister and I were allowed to stand outside his workshop (where Mears the greengrocers shop is now) and watch the Farrier shoe the horses. There would be a small circle of adults and some children standing in a group as the big horses were stood to be shoed.

It was fascinating to watch the precision of this craftsman. First he eased off the shoe, cleaned and evened off the surface of the hoof with his tools. These were large working delivery horses, and he would fix their great feathery hoofs on his thick leather apron between his knees. Those horses knew and trusted him and rarely made a fuss. Then he would go into the black bowel of his workshop and come out with a possible suitably sized horseshoe. Next he would lift the hoof and try the new shoe for size, and then put it on a long rod into the blazing furnace. The most exciting part for us kids was when the new shoe was sufficiently translucent he would carefully lift the hoof and try the new shoe for size. I can still smell the momentary burning hoof as he checked out the new shoe. It would then be returned to the anvil and adjusted. Finally it would be put in a barrel of cold water to cool. Once again I can remember there was another smell of the cooling metal.

The horse would not move as he carefully placed the new shoe on and fastened it with what seemed to be horrifically long horshoe nails. As a child I was always scared that he might get it wrong and put the nail into the horses foot, but of course, he never did. Wonderful, amazing memories.”

Marie Lewis
Submitted to website on 10-12-2002

Comments about this page

  • I lived above Timpsons Shoe Shop in London Road, the back looked out over the market and the blacksmiths. I remember this so well.

    By Sue Loveridge (11/02/2006)
  • My Saturday morning chore in the early 60s was to get the bus from Patcham to buy sage and onion sausages from Longs. My father would eat no other sausages. Mum used to cook the lot when I got home for my dad to take to work with his packed lunch, and then hide them. I absolutely could not resist sausages. I discovered that she put them in an old butler’s sink which my dad had buried in the garden in an area of crazy paving and replaced the paving stone to hide it.

    By Neville Bolding (09/09/2007)
  • Like others I too remember the open market in the late 1940s and 1950s and the blacksmith (as we called him) just before the market entrance. What also sprung to mind was the fish stall with what I always thought were eggs ready for frying in shells! I’ve since learned they were escallops.

    By Joan Oram (07/07/2008)
  • Mick Peirson – have you a sister called Geraldine?

    By Jackie Soutar (nee Gladwell) (14/08/2008)
  • Are you the Joan Oram I went to school with – Varndean Girls?

    By Teresa Nolan (19/10/2008)
  • Hello Teresa, I’ve only just seen your message. I certainly must be the same person for it is an unusal name and I don’t think anyone else of my name went to Varndean. I’m racking my brains but I cannot place you, was it 3Y? Please forgive me, I’ve lived in London for 50 years and although I visit family, have lost touch. This site has brought memories flooding back. Perhaps you will make contact and we can reminisce.

    By Joan Oram (03/04/2009)
  • I remember the blacksmiths at the market well - what amazing showers of sparks for a small boy to stare at. There was also a blacksmith in Jubilee Street off North Road

    By Bob Golby (28/08/2009)
  • Maurice Raff, the blind man who owned the toy stall in the Open Market was my Grandfather, and helping him out there on a Saturday was my first job. Before he lost his sight he had been a tailor and, before he shared a stall with Vic (I think his name was), the engraver, he always stocked large rolls of material, elastic, zips and other haberdashery items. Sometimes a crowd of children would cluster around the front of the stall, sent by their Mothers to look at the toys whilst their Mothers did their shopping. Knowing that they weren’t going to buy anything, he would go to the front of the stall and move along it ‘tidying up’ the toys and pretending he hadn’t realised anyone was there, until he had cleared the crowd away and, hopefully, left the way clear for real customers!

    By Sara Rosen (01/03/2010)
  • Does anyone happen to know when the old farrier’s building was demolished and replaced with the current grocer’s shop and apartments above? I live in one of the apartments and I’m quite fascinated by the history of Marshalls Row and the Open Market area.

    By Rosie (29/04/2010)
  • I remember the blind man’s stall in the market, I even tell my grandchildren about him. Also Pips’ icecreams and the tiny glasses of fizzy drink you could buy as well. Also on one of these sites, someone remembered the fountain in the Steine changing colour. I thought I had imagined that!

    By Gwen Tucker (02/05/2010)
  • I remember my mother, Doris Wilson, showing me a photo of the forge in a book on Brighton with her father, Charles Gravett, in it as a boy. Apparently that’s where he was trained to be a farrier. I’m still looking for the book!

    By Darrell Wilson (28/09/2010)
  • What wonderful memories. I to used to stand across from the forge outside a clothes shop near the rather smelly toilets whilst Mum went to buy the veg. As the previous comments, I think the smell of the hot shoe being fitted to the horses hoof will remain forever, not unlike that smell of a tooth being drilled. The shoeing cage still exsists I believe. I last saw it in the Stanmer Rural museum behind Stanmer House. Worth a visit if its still going. Also see the Donkey Wheel next to the Church.

    By Alan Spicer (18/06/2011)
  • Seems I am one of the many who remember with fondness the ‘open market’, the blacksmiths, the blind man’s stall etc. Every Saturday my mother would take me there and after doing the shopping we would go into one of the little stalls which was run by a husband and wife where we would enjoy a cup of tea and my favourite savoury pastie (very tasty), usually my mum would meet up with one of her friends in there too. Happy days as the saying goes….

    By Iris Taylor (08/07/2011)
  • It seems that I am being taken back in time reading all of these comments. I also was enthralled watching the blacksmith shoeing the horses. My mother used to leave me there to go along to the Coop store sometimes for ages it seemed. Food rationing in those days and queues everywhere. I do not think people have the patience for queueing today, everybody is in a rush and it is just the same here in Australia but I enjoyed the Queens visit this week. What a grand person she is.

    By Garry Lockwood (30/10/2011)
  • I remember as kids me and my brothers waiting by the blacksmiths while  mum went shoping.The smell of burning on the shoes on the horses feet.The timber frame is now at Stammer Park in the Museum part. I remember wondering off and ended up in Woolworths in London Rd. I ended up getting lost and ended up in the Police box in the market.

    By Andy Gumbrill (16/11/2011)
  • Two things I recall about the Open Market are: The Blacksmith (farrier) not only shoeing horses but fitting the metal tyres onto cartwheels where the tyre was heated up then pressed on to the wooden wheel rim then doused with cold water to shrink it onto the wheel with loads of steam. Marmery’s fish stall. David Marmery lived in Mayfield Crescent, Patcham next door to the twitten that ran uphill from Carden Avenue. I lived to 1954 a few doors down on the other side. I think he was bright and went Varndean School. I remember him running the market stall many years later. John C Snelling.

    By John Snelling (11/12/2012)
  • If a former contributor reads this. Neville, I recall living almost opposite the Bolding family in Mayfield Crescent. I believe you were actually uncle to the other boy in the family although of a similar age.

    By John (26/11/2014)

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