This was a profile of Fred Pearce written by Mary Neathey in about 1965 and published in the Outlook Magazine of the Thornbury and District Community Association.
Having watched — and interrupted — Fred Pearce at work, I know that the smithy in Crispin Lane is more than a place where horses are shod. It is a link between old and new Thornbury.
Fred Pearce joined Mr. 0. Higgins at the forge, as an apprentice at the outbreak of the first World War, when they turned out thousands of small tough shoes for the mules that were the pack-animals in the trenches. The forge had then been in existence on its present site for at least a hundred and fifty years, and work, when necessary, was taken outside and done in front of the high stone wall and double doors of ” The Crispin,” the pub from which the lane takes its name.
Mr. Pearce continued to work with Mr. Higgins until the latter retired shortly before the last war, when he took over the ownership of the smithy. The war halted the tide of mechanisation in agriculture, and so great was the amount of work that clopped, trundled and creaked into the smithy that Mr. Pearce had to be released from the Fire Brigade, in which he had served during the blitz on Bristol.
After the war the type of work gradually changed, and now, although he is an agricultural smith, he has contracts with the County Council and the Power Station. And is the answer to all problems of iron in Thornbury. During the time I was in the forge he found a new scraper for an old fashion range, removed rusty bolts from a gas-fire and was about to weld new hinges for a wrought iron gate.
But in this great hunting country his main work is still with horses, not the heavy shires from the field but elegant hunters and small well-loved ponies. Under his expert hammer, the anvil bends lengths of iron into shoes of all shapes, sizes and thicknesses: conventional ones, a heart-shaped surgical one, and brushing shoes for the pigeon toed.
This big man his biceps are comparable in size to many men’s thighs – is well known over the county between Berkeley and Downend. Twice a week he goes to the kennels of the Berkeley Hunt, and at other times to those people who are unable to bring their horses to him. On these occasions he takes with him a portable forge as a substitute for the one that glows and leaps to life with the rhythm of the bellows in the smithy here in Thornbury.
I said earlier that Fred Pearce was a link between the old and the new in Thornbury. It is obvious that a man who has lived the greater part of his life here should hold the affection and trust of the older members of the community – Dr. Grace, whose hunters he shod, speaks highly of him – but in addition he has the gratitude and respect of generations of young riders who have brought their ponies to him, and he looks more kindly than some of his contemporaries on the influx of young people to the district and the revived interest in horses. In parenthesis I should like to say that he is concerned for the safety of the very young children who watch when he is shoeing and to ask parents to keep them at a safe distance.
Mr. Pearce is married with two sons, one of whom, Donald, works with his father. He and
his wife live in Castle Street and this Christmas, as happens every year, the house is
covered with cards and calendars from his past and present customers.