Our site history within the Croxley Green community.

CH.Gibbs – Taken from “The Rickmansworth Historian” 1975

There was a Blacksmiths, Wheelwright and Painters named Gibbs from at least the late 1880s on the site now occupied by Meads Autos in New Road, Croxley Green. It was owned by my Grandfather and his sons. I was born at 165 New Road but soon after moved to No.46, next to the Blacksmiths where I lived until 1932. I remember the sawpit at the back where they sawed their own planks from trees in the early days. In front of the shop was a steel bed with a central screw where iron tyres were put on wooden cartwheels. The tyres were made red hot in a huge wood fire, then cooled quickly with a bucket of water. There were two shallow wells for the water and most of it ran back for use next time.

Grandfather Jessie, a Methodist Lay Reader, was the boss and could do most things when he was younger but of course he was getting old when I knew him. His son Walter was the blacksmith and his other son Jim, my father, was the blacksmiths doorman and vet farrier. Wally Chapman, a son-in-law, was the wheelwright, he often had an apprentice in the earlier days. He made all kinds of carts, from drawing board onwards, until completely ready for painting, entirely by hand, without any machinery at all. A third son Denny, was the painter, who with the help of an old Uncle Phillip made up and mixed their own paint. Everything was painted from bare wood onwards with eight to nine coats of paint, and then decorated with lining, scallops and Gold Leaf and finally varnished. there was another son Bert, another painter who left when I was young. I suppose most people immediately think of a Smithie as being a very big man, with huge arms and a chest, but they were a family of very small stature and not at all like the popular idea of a village Blacksmith.

At one period they had another Forge as well as assistants,  which is by the church where the sportsman Saloon is now. They were kept very busy with the horses to shoe and equipment to repair from a dozen farms around the area, going out to Loudwater and Redheath. In addition there were horses belonging to local traders: watercress growers, butchers, bakers, grocers, coalman, milkmen and the like, as well as barge horses from the canal. In addition Mr Wilbee kept a two horse brake and Jesse had a horse himself, besides several people living round about who kept horses for riding and driving. When I was a small boy I was often given the job of returning the work horses to perhaps Loudwater farm. I would be put up on the horses back and off we would go. Of course, I always had to walk home, but very often I would have to walk most of the way there as well, because if I slipped off the horses back I couldn’t possibly mount myself again.

After Grandfather died the boys kept on the business as Gibbs Brothers. During the 1914-18 war, when the Royal Artillery were stationed in Rickmansworth Park, they were kept busy with branding and shoeing horses with the help of trainee apprentices from the army. another good period was in the 1920s when the MET railway was being extended to Watford. Although most of the work was done by machinery by this time, quite a few horses were still being used for 24 hours a day, which meant more shoeing and tool sharpening.

Gradually though the motor tractor took over from the horse and business slowly dropped off, with none of Jesse’s grandsons growing into the Forge. my father used to say “There were once over 100 horses round about here but now there are only one or two.” The business finally closed in the 1950’s, after my fathers death and due to my uncles ill-health. The Mead family who now have a garage on the site are relations of Mrs Mead Senior, one of Jesse’s daughters.

CH.Gibbs – Taken from “The Rickmansworth Historian” 1975

1980’s Newspaper Ad


My Croxley 2010