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Willis Family          Thoralby Blacksmiths  Over 100 Years Smithy

The earliest evidence we have for a Blacksmiths in Thoralby is the will of John Matchell d. 1705, Thoralby, Blacksmith. He leaves “east Hallgarth … my House … shope or smiddy” firstly to his wife Maudlin and then to my son Robert.















I do not know for certain where this smidy was in the village, but think it probable it was just round the corner from Hallgarth at what is now known as Wayside, below is a section of the Tithe map from 1840, house No. 181 is Hallgarth and building No. 120 was the smidy.













The next evidence of a blacksmith is in the Trade Directory of 1823 Baines, when Willis John, blacksmith is listed. The Willis family appear to have been Blacksmiths in Thoralby for over 100 years and they and other smiths appear in the 1840 Tithe Award for Thoralby and subsequent Trade Directories and Census Returns.

John Willis (1795-1875) at the time of the Tithe of 1840 and Census of 1841, John and his wife Eleanor and sons, Matthew 11, John 9 and James 6, were living at Grafton No.93 on the tithe (see below).

The blacksmith's shop that the Willis family used in the 1840s was alongside the village shop in the centre of Thoralby, very convenient for passing trade, see the photograph below.

Hallgarth & Smidy 1840 tithe map
© Thoralby Through Time
© Thoralby Through Time
© Thoralby Through Time

Thoralby village shop and stables and blacksmiths shop, courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.


This photograph of the grocer’s shop predates the building of the Reading Room in 1887. To the right of the shop, where the Reading Room now stands, were stables belonging to John Sadler, a solicitor and landowner living at High Green House. Behind the stables was the smithy of John Willis.


Below a 'close-up' of the smithy and horse being shoed, courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.

© Thoralby Through Time

Whites Trade Directory of 1840 show the following two blacksmiths listed in Thoralby, Nicholson John and Willis John.


At the smith’s shop and cottage at the foot of the village, now known as Wayside and owned by John Nicholson was, his wife Elizabeth and son Thomas aged 20, also a smith (see Tithe Award and 1841 census return).

A further smith’s shop, since then gone was near to Beech Cottage and was also owned by John Sadler, solicitor of High Green House.


The occupants of this third smithy were William Heseltine and James Dinsdale Junr., however only 20-year-old William Heseltine appears as a smith in the 1841 census return (see Tithe Award and 1841 census return).


This means there were a total of four working blacksmiths in the 1841 census, using three different smithys.