Account books and ledgers can be an excellent way of finding out about details of daily life in the past. Archivist Sarah Dickie rifles through the ledger book of John Packard Smith, blacksmith of Chipping Ongar, and turns up some unusual details of early twentieth century life…
John Packard Smith is listed in the 1908 Kelly’s Directory of Essex as a blacksmith, cycle agent and repairer. We found a couple of entries in 1911 for repairing and fitting cycle tubes but this does not feature as a large part of his work. The accounts in the ledger show that Smith’s work was predominantly as a blacksmith and farrier. For example on 13 August 1913 he made ‘a new steel plate to Deerings Binder Knife, Filing out [w]hole of New Casting & Fixing to Knife & Rivets’ for a sum of 2 shillings 3 pence for Mr. Bennett of Little Myles. Shoeing horses took up a great deal of his time, e.g. 22 May 1908 ‘To 3 shoes and one Bar shoe & dressing foot with tar 3s 6d’ for Mr. Brown of New House Farm (Greenstead-juxta-Ongar).
The ledger is extremely detailed and we get know a lot of personal details; Smith shoed horses called Druid, Pantaloon, Cardinal and Match Girl for Mr. H.E. Jones, whilst he made nuts and bolts for McNoble the builders to do repairs at ‘The Bear’, a pin for a boiler plug at Blake Hall and new gutter brackets for High Ongar Rectory. In this throwaway age it is surprising to see how many everyday objects were repaired. There are bills for a new hoop for a wine cask, repairing the woodwork on a wheel barrow wheel as well as fitting horse shoes for the Cheshire Regiment in June and July 1915. Many of his customers were farmers so it is no surprise that he was repairing harrows, undertaking major works on a hay shaker and supplying a new thumb screw for a churn.
Amongst his customers was the Eddison Steam Rolling Co. (shortening long reversing rod), Miss Bishop of Roden House School (soldering music stand), Bishop’s Stortford and Epping Gas Co. (mending and strengthening a generator bar), Mr. Bianchi of Hall Farm, Greenstead-juxta Ongar (repairing kitchen range) and Mr. Britton of the ‘Two Brewers’ [High Ongar] (shoeing horses).
This volume provides a wealth of detail on local businesses and individuals, as well as fascinating information on the work of a blacksmith at the beginning of the twentieth century just before the motor car took hold.