Redding, Bill (b.1908)
Bill Redding ran a blacksmiths shop in Lime Street, Nether Stowey, a village on the northern edge of the Quantocks. He and his father did the metal work for gates, bonded wheels for the wheelwright, repaired ovens, shoed carthorses, and looked after the local hunt's horses. Bill Redding retired in 1976 after working in the shop for 53 years. At the time this recording was made the blacksmith’s in Nether Stowey was still operating.
A blacksmith shoeing horses in Compton Dundon, c.1950s. A blacksmith shoeing horses in Compton Dundon, c.1950s.
Sound File
Listen to Bill Redding - 2.43MB Duration 5:18 min.

BR: Make shoes yes, we did make shoes.  In those days we had to make them all Father and me together always made our own shoes for many years until shoes came back you know they started to make them in the factories.  Gradually had to buy, were so busy, buy so many, we always had to make some of our own.  One thing you can’t beat your own made shoe.  It is hard work then in the early years, my early years had to do all the sledge work.  There were great carthorses we had to be under, over a ton in weight.  That was all day long; spend the whole day you finished up with your legs like this (bent).


Because the carthorse, they never help you, they always put their weight on you. [] they knew what they were coming for.   But there you was, that was your life there were no arguments, that or nothing.  But I enjoyed it all through the years.  Because in those days it was rough and ready, all the old carters rough and ready hard-working, rough and ready, but were real good fellows to be with.  You couldn’t wish for better.  We used to get on all right with them.  Perhaps the language wasn’t always good useful to listen to sometimes one way and another but it was real good stuff.


And I always remember there were no motor cars; there was all the farmers they go driving about always on a Wednesday, Bridgwater market.  You see them going out so early in the morning with the horse and traps off to go in market.  Then, in the late afternoon, you would see them coming back up through.  I could always see them in the front shop you see.  All our men were in the one shop.  It’s a two-tier lot now over there. But then late in the afternoon we see them come back it was.  It was the ponies taking them back, they weren’t driving the ponies.  Ponies knew exactly where to go.  Because they weren’t always sober.  The reins were thrown down.  The ponies knew every inch of the road, they would get them back.  As the years go by of course the motor car came in.  That was a different way of life.  It was enjoyable.  I used to like it as the years went by.


AH: Were all the horses brought to the shop to be shod or did you ever go to the farms?


BR: No, come in the shop, never went to the farms.  All come in the shop.  Recent years be all done by appointment, but you had to otherwise the street was choc-a-bloc.  But back in those days you never knew when you were going to see half a dozen cart horses come in the shop.  Perhaps raining, pouring, in the middle of winter, all sorts.  They couldn’t go out in the fields.  Oh well, the horses want shoeing, [] you get on.


AH: How long does it take to shoe a horse?


BR: If you had the shoes ready, years ago, a carthorse, you could always reckon to do a horse an hour, always reckon one an hour, that’s the big cart horses.  Lighter ones you could do them far quicker.  Always spent time in the morning getting shoes ready.  You didn’t keep them about too much unless you had to make anything special.  [] You just couldn’t cope, especially as the years went by and the traffic up through the street before the bypass, that was terrible.


MG: What types of carthorses were they, were they Shires?  What kinds of horses?


BR: Big Shires and halfway ones.  Big Shires, great big things with great big legs.  It was hard work; it really was, whether like with all the hammering, I used to do all the sledge work.  I remember going down having my ears done, a few years back and the nurse that was there, she come and did them for me.  She said ‘You know, Mr Redding, your trade has got a lot to do with this, bang, bang, banging away”.  [] Whether that is right or wrong, I don’t know.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley and Mary Gryspeerdt in October 1988. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.