Archibald and Michael Sutton-Blacksmiths/Farriers of Orwell

By Janet Chessum

Photo:Archibald Sutton (standing) with his brother Arthur, during the First World War.

Archibald Sutton (standing) with his brother Arthur, during the First World War.

Archibald (mostly known as Arch) Sutton was born in Barrington where he grew up and had his original 'training' as a blacksmith/farrier.

As a young lad he would frequently be in the blacksmith shop, which was situated on the village green at Barrington, learning what was to become his life's work from the blacksmith/farrier at the time called Abbey.

Arch enlisted in to the army when the first World War broke out and was trained as a farrier/come vet. In the first World War the Farrier had to be able to treat horses out on the field of conflict because there was not always a vet available. As a child I remember seeing all of his books on the care of horses. I think that my brother Michael must have had them.

As a Farrier in the first World War Arch was paid a penny a day more than his counterparts in his regiment. In those day a penny was worth having. I think he rose to the rank of a Farrier Sergeant-Major. I do stand to be corrected on that.

Before he eventually started up in Orwell with his own blacksmith/farrier business Arch spent some time working in London for a large brewery. In those days all the deliveries were done by horses. These horses knew the way around London better than the men who were at the other end of the reins. Just as well, as the landlords of all the pubs they were delivering to always gave them a glass of beer, so probably the horse was the only really sober being of the outfit and so had to find its own way back to the brewery. The horses were very well looked after at the brewery and went upstairs to bed at night. Their stalls had a chain across the back so that the horses could sit down on it to rest at night.

Arch set up his own blacksmith/farrier business sometime around the end of the 1930s or beginning of the 1940s. I am not sure of the precise date. To begin with he had a small blacksmith's shop at the bottom of our garden at 62 High Street;  at the end of the second World War he purchased a nissen hut and so had a very large blacksmith's shop.

On a Saturday he would go to the blacksmiths shop at Barrington where all those years before he had started to learn his trade. The local farmers brought their shire horses to have new shoes fitted, and any repairs required to their farm implements. My brother helped him until he had to do his national service, then I had to go. I had to pump the forge and get the shoes hot. You had to keep moving the shoes around in the fire while you pumped the bellows.  One Saturday I obviously got distracted by something and forgot to turn the shoe soon enough and burnt it so it was useless. My father, to say the least, was not a happy man because he had to make another shoe and obviously whatever profit he should have made was lost. I survived because the farmer there with the horse placated him. I never did it again and for the first time I realised you could burn iron/steel.

On a Wednesday Arch would go to Melbourn where a Mr Golthrop was the blacksmith. He was getting old and could no longer shoe the large shire horses. These horse would very often lean on the blacksmith when he was fitting their shoes; you had to be strong to support about a ton of horse and still do the job.

There were a lot of farmers in those days, all of whom had horses and also came to my father when their harrows or cultivators broke. He would either repair or make new ones for them.

Here are some of the farmers that my father did work for: Radford at Willsmere farm, Arnolds at West farm, Breeds, George Flack, Charlie Marr at Malton, Vernie Hart at Meldreth, Percy Gadsby at Meldreth, Farnhams at Meldreth. At Barrington there was Arthur Storey, Philip Jude, Eddie Warren, Folbigg, Gadd and Brooks. Some of these families are still in farming now but many are not.

There is a funny story relating to Vernie Hart of Meldreth. He had a dairy farm and a milk delivery round with a horse drawn milk float. He decided that he ought to buy a younger horse and get it trained to pull the milk float and asked my father if he would break it in. My father agreed. What Vernie Hart should also have done was taken my father with him when he purchased the horse. Vernie contacted my father and said he had got the horse and would my father collect it and break it in. My brother Michael duly went to Meldreth and rode this horse home. It was a beautiful grey horse. My father put it in our stable and fed and watered it etc. However this horse only likedwalking on its two hind legs and eventually broke out of the stable and headed across the road and up the fields opposite. After a lot of running by quite a few people it was eventually caught and returned to the stable and secured. It transpired that its mother was a circus pony and obviously this one was only fit for the circus, certainly not a milk float.

My father was also a great wit and there are a great many stories which he would tell the locals when he was at the pub for a pint. He was known to tell tales to the Americans because he used to get fed up with their bragging about how everything was bigger and better in the States.

Photo:Michael Sutton, farrier

Michael Sutton, farrier

My brother Michael followed in our father's footsteps. When he left school he went to a blacksmith in Diss to do his apprenticeship. Then he did his national service, after which he worked for a time for a blacksmith at Bassingbourn. He eventually went to Willie Stephenson's racing stables at Royston where he became the Head Farrier, achieving the distinction of 'plating' the Grand National winner, Oxo, in 1959. 

Michael worked for Stephenson for over 20 years before eventually setting up on his own. He like my father absolutely adored horses and was also an excellent rider. I can remember when he was a young lad that he did not need any bridle or saddle to ride a horse. He did not see any fear and, like my father, horses knew that he was in charge. He carried on as a farrier until he was well into his sixties and his customers were very sad when he retired. My brother and my father had learnt their trade on the job with a skilled blacksmith/farrier beside them and they had a liking for horses. Michael, like my father, is sadly missed from the village, but there are lots of memories.

Janet Chessum (Sutton)





This page was added by Janet Chessum on 09/09/2013.

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