Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Laxton blacksmiths

Here is another blog post from what is now the 'new normal' of lockdown. Like everyone I am missing seeing my friends in the flesh so to speak but we talk a lot, e mail each other and last week I joined a Zoom conference with around 75 other WEA tutors from all over the UK. It was interesting hearing from  tutors who taught local history in London and Hove  as well as sympathising with those who taught painting, pilates and even soup making. I know we can all go onto the internet but it is not the same as seeing our students round the table all chipping in with their comments.

But enough of that as when not working on the computer I, like millions of others,  have been gardening. The onions are flourishing as are courgettes and sweetcorn [in the greenhouse]  and we have been eating soups made from wild garlic and lovage.

I have also been keeping a close eye on old pictures which have been coming up on e bay. And one which I bought has led me into some interesting if quite sad research. It was a wedding picture and written in pencil on one corner was Laxton 1915. The groom and best man were in uniform but I wasn't certain about where the picture was taken.

Using Find my Past I was able to narrow down the number of weddings in Laxton in 1915 to four. And one in particular seemed to be likely. It was the wedding of cousins Lilian and John Edward Dickinson.

John Edward was 24 and was from Thorne Moorends. He worked in the peat works and lived with his parents and brothers and sisters. His father, Fred was foreman at the works and was originally from Bilbrough.

Lillian, who was the same age,  was the daughter of Laxton blacksmith Wallace Dickinson who was Fred's younger brother. Wallace came to Laxton in the 1880s and in 1889 married Annie Mary Fox of Howden. They had two daughters Lilian and Eva.

Sadly Annie died in 1907 aged 46 and her sister Sarah moved in as housekeeper.  Sarah's son Lawrence, then aged  four also became part of the family. His school admission is online.

I then had a look in the back copies of the Goole Times and was able to find a report of the wedding, described as a 'khaki wedding'.  The reception was held in the Laxton schoolroom and I am fairly certain that the picture is therefore taken outside the former blacksmith's house on Front Street in Laxton. But I may be wrong.

John and Lilian had a daughter Annie who was born in 1916.

But on August 29th 1918, only a few weeks before the end of the war, John Edward was killed and is buried at the Wancourt British cemetery. He is also commemorated in Laxton churchyard.

And then in 1925 Annie died aged only 9.

Laurie Fox grew up in Laxton and then went to work as a blacksmith in Scarr's shipyard at Howdendyke.

Wallace Dickinson died in 1940 and Laurie Fox became the Laxton blacksmith.  His apprentice Herbert Martin eventually followed him in the role and was in fact the last Laxton blacksmith. His smithy has now been rebuilt as a house.

Below are the pictures which tell the story.

Messrs Claude Brignall, Herbert Martin and Clarrie Dowson righting the world outside the smithy

Laurie Fox in Front Street opposite the blackmith's shop with Major Empson's polo pony
A page from Laxton school admission register for 1907.
The wedding of John Dickinson and Lilian Dickinson in 1915
The report of the wedding from the Goole Times

A 1970s view of the house where Wallace Dickinson lived and the smithy


  1. As a teen i rode down to laxton from sandholme to have my pony shod. I just turned up no appointment. Late 70 s i remember being fascinated.

  2. Thanks for your comment. Herbert was a talented blacksmith and many of his wrought iron creations are still around in the area.

  3. I put a stable door on our house in Hook in the late seventies and decided it needed a horseshoe for luck. My wife who is a good friend of Herbert's daughter, Bren suggested I visited "The Smithy". After introducing myself and asking nicely. Herbert said drily " Aye there might be one or two through theer" indicating a door through to a back place , When I opened it I was looking at a pile of what seemed to be ten thousand horseshoes ! I picked one out of the pile and said my thank-yous. I still have the shoe to this day and I believe it has brought us some luck over the years.

  4. What a lovely story - I hope it continues to bring you luck!!