This is a belated tribute by his son to the Sexton
Blacksmith of St. Jame's Church Normanton on Soar from
1899-1935, in the
days of Rev. Owen Orton and Rev. Henry E.
Hamilton, the organists Messrs. Henson and Kidger of Hathern
Charles Goodacre of Zouch, and Church Warden
J.B.T. Tidmas Esq.
Sexton Tom Peberdy retired after almost 36 years and
the duty was never again carried out to the full. The
morning 8 a.m. date bell ceased to ring, as did the
soul bell, and the four bells were never again rung in full
three were used. About twenty oil lamps were
tended during the dark nights, and the heating came from a
coke fired boiler
under the church. The Sexton's wife
cleaned the church and for a number of years scrubbed the
floor, from the alter to the
font on hands and knees ready
for the Easter services. The hassocks were brushed and
sewn or patched if the sawdust was
leaking out. The grave
digging was often a nightmare digging through clay and tree
roots. On one occasion the Sexton
dug a grave throughout
the night in the light of oil lamps and snow. His duties
were never ending. Rev. Orton and Rev.
visited him in the winter evenings to discuss church affairs
over a pipe of tobacco.
He called a halt to the clanging of wedding day bells
after four frivolous amateur campanologists, young men of
the village, dislodged a bell and put the church spire in
dangerous risk. It was said that they had had more than a
smell of the brewer's
These duties to the church Tom Peberdy carried out for
nearly thirty-six years, as well as keeping the wheels
agriculture on the farms from his blacksmith's
shop, and repairing everything possible for the natives of
the village and its surroundings (if it was only putting a
ring in the old sows' or bulls' noses) He shod many
unbroken shire horses with the aid
of barnacles and slings
when they were almost wild. Under those conditions today a
man would demand £1,000 danger money. It often took a team
of farm labourers all day in the fields before they could
get the alter on them. By the time the blacksmith
managed to get the four shoes on, the horse would be on its
way to being broken in. The question is, why did he do
He didn't have to. Where men made of steel in those
days? It makes one wonder.
His great love was of the game of cricket. He founded
the village team in 1895. Five of his seven sons played,
made a strong side until the year 1940. He was a very
highly skilled craftsman and his oldest son Lawrence (Loll)
last of a long line of Peberdy blacksmiths when he
called it a day in 1947, when horse power came to an end to
for the tractor, thus ending an era in time.
The church service was never started until the parson
heard the door latch go (a sound that could be heard all
church) after the last chime of the bell. He knew
it was the Sexton coming in. His pew was near to the font,
so that he
could keep the back row boys in order.
Every Christmas parson Harry Hamilton gave the choir a
sumptuous feast at the Rectory, followed by a drop out of
the bottle, and fun and games. He always sang his
favourite Irish song "The wearing of the Green" with his dog
at his feet. His daughter Augusta lived all her life
for her horses and dogs and was always short of money, but
she had a
good friend in the Squire, J.T.B. Tidmas, know as
"Johnty" to the natives.
The village was very much alive in those days; times
have changed so dramatically. People had time and now
none. The villagers walked to work, or in other
words went on "Shank's pony" and others cycled, and whistled
on their way
like the birds used to do. Livestock is
almost extinct, all the orchards and allotments are gone, so
are the masses of
snowdrops, crocuses and celandines in the
churchyard in the Spring.
The fields and streets are almost desolate, apart from
the invisible man on his tractor and the motor car in the
Much of the wildlife has gone never to return.
The gypsies no longer come and camp in the lanes with their
lurcher dogs and bantams. They were
generally well behaved but if they started pulling the
hedges and fencing apart they
were soon moved on. The
poachers are gone, nothing left to poach.
Tom Peberdy was a very modest man, and worked for
little reward. In many cases the farmers were very poor or
no money at all and were unable to pay for his toils.
He was a farrier sergeant in the Leicestershire Yeomanry in
a Special Constable in the Nottinghamshire Force.
His tireless devotion could never be exceeded in this day
and age. The
church and the whole village revolved around
him in reverence, work and play. Even the dogs of the
village visited the forge penthouse for a piece of frog to
chew contentedly for the rest of the day.
He always advised anyone who needed help to go to
someone who had plenty to do, because those who had nothing
do had not got time.
What more could a man be asked to do before being
bestowed with a knighthood?
Derbyshire House, East Leake