People of the Village - Tom PEBERDY



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Normanton on Soar




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The Life of a Sexton Blacksmith

by Maurice Peberdy


My sincere thanks go to the East Leake and District Local History Society, Nottinghamshire,

England for giving me permission to use "Life of a Sexton Blacksmith".  The article was written

by Maurice PEBERDY as a tribute to his father Tom PEBERDY.    The article appeared in the Leake Historian No.1 published in 1993 and the Society holds the copyright to the notes and original article.


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 followed by

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 Sunday

morning 8 a.m. date bell ceased to ring, as did the soul bell, and the four bells were never again rung in full harmony, only

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.

Hamilton often 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 turning in

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

had 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 it?  

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, and

made a strong side until the year 1940.   He was a very highly skilled craftsman and his oldest son Lawrence (Loll) was the

last of a long line of Peberdy blacksmiths when he called it a day in 1947, when horse power came to an end to make way

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 over the

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 Paddy

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 there is

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 street.  

Much of the wildlife has gone never to return.   The gypsies no longer come and camp in the lanes with their ponies, donkeys,

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 had

no money at all and were unable to pay for his toils.   He was a farrier sergeant in the Leicestershire Yeomanry in 1900 and

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 to

do had not got time.


     What more could a man be asked to do before being bestowed with a knighthood?


Maurice Peberdy

January 1989

Derbyshire House, East Leake

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