Memories of Peplow

Shop & Post Office Peplow July 1962
Jim Taylor’s shop and garage at Peplow crossroads taken in July 1962. The site is now Wilcox’s Garage.

Geoff Fletcher writes:

I was born at Peplow in June 1941. My father was porter/signalman at Peplow station, and then became signalman at the Hodnet station box. I lived at what was then 2 Council Houses (now 2 The Woodlands) just up the road from Cran-y-Moor farm by the T junction at the bottom of the Avenue.

Peplow in the 40’s and 50’s was a self-contained village, largely unchanged for many years. The shop and garage was also a Post Office and run by Mr Jim Taylor. Next to that, Jim Scott owned and ran the carpenter’s shop. The smithy was a working concern and pretty busy in those days. Enos Evans was the blacksmith and lived in the cottage adjacent to what was Ashes Farm across the road with his wife and family, including an ancient father – always known as “Old Mr Evans” – who had also been the village blacksmith in his time.

Enos worked in close conjunction with Jim Scott the carpenter. For example, Jim would make wooden cart wheels and take them over to the smithy. Enos would make the iron rim for the wheel. There was a circular steel plate let into the ground in the smithy yard, with a hole in the middle to take the central wheel boss. Jim would lay the new wheel on this disc and stand by with several buckets of water. Enos and a helper, usually old Mr Evans, would bring the iron rim out of the smithy glowing bright red with heat and slip it over the wheel, whereupon Jim and Enos would pour water on it to cool it down and prevent the wooden wheel catching fire. Amid clouds of steam and loud hissing noises, the iron rim would shrink onto the wheel, pulling all the joints tightly together. It must have taken a lot of skill and knowledge on Enos’ part to make the rim the exact size to fit when cold, let alone Jim’s skill in constructing the wooden wheel!

Added 2024 by Richard Underwood. Detail from Margaret Bailey.

In the mid 1960’s, Enos took on a 16yr old apprentice living near Ketley (now part of Telford) called David Duckett. When first travelling to work in Peplow, David would cycle to Ketley station, then travel by train to Wellington to catch the early ‘milk train’ which called at Peplow (and beyond). Once the railway closed to passengers he travelled by motorbike for a while, but then moved to work in Telford at GKN Sankeys. After obtaining his formal qualifications (from Hereford Farriers and Blacksmiths College) David worked for a Tom Giles in Stafford, where one of his jobs was shoeing Police horses. Thereafter, he worked for a Horace Foster in Great Haywood, Staffs. It was whilst working there that he married his future wife Margaret, in 1970, and in the same year attended the funeral of Enos. When a fellow mourner asked ‘why don’t you take on the smithy?’ an an idea was born: so, on 1st Sept 1970 he formally took on the lease for the smithy, and its associated house across the road, from Oxford University Chest Estates (who used to own large tracts of land in this area), and moved in.

Trade was a bit slow at first, but slowly built up to the extent that David was able to buy the smithy in 1976, running it from then until 1985 – when he moved to the USA. By the time of Davids departure the smithy was well used by local recreational horse riders, many of whom rode their horses to it from surrounding settlements. One notable feature of the smithy was a ‘girdle’ of old horsehoes that built up after being wrapped around an old tree trunk on the forecourt, see the before and after pictures below, the tree and shoes being removed on the 4th Sept 2009 – due to safety concerns.

Close up of Peplow Horseshoe ‘Girdle’, mid 1990’s

For a short while after David’s departure the smithy was rented to another blacksmith; but the mainstay of blacksmithing, shoeing horses, was changing into a mobile based trade and soon the smithy fell vacant. It stands empty to this day, though is still owned by David and under the care and maintenance of Margaret – who remains living nearby.

Back to Geoff

The railway station was also a going concern, with a thriving seasonal trade in sugar beet for Alscott Refinery, sleepers for farmers to use as gateposts, and various other commodities. There were at least seven trains a day in either direction. There was a large bike shed for the use of service personnel from Peplow (Childs Ercall) Airfield, although this fell into disuse when the airfield closed. Buses ran on two days a week to Shrewsbury and Market Drayton, and one day a week to Whitchurch.

Crossroads Cottages Peplow July 1962
The nearby Crossroads Cottages photographed on the same day.

There was no school; we all walked the two miles or so to High Hatton in all kinds of weather. When we passed the age of 11, we caught the school bus to Market Drayton from the crossroads for the Grammar School or the Secondary Modern (now combined into the Grove School). Enos let us shelter from inclement weather in his smithy in the winter, or failing that, we would cram into the telephone box! We left our bikes at Ashes Farm. We also collected our milk in cans from there, direct from the cooler in the dairy as often as not.

Peplow Hall was owned by Neville Rollason. He laid on a Xmas party for village kids in the Reading Room every year. Peplow Mill was also a very busy place. The chief local farmers were Sam Cottrell at Home Farm, Charlie Gatensbury at Cran-y-Moor, The Perrys and the Griffiths on the Avenue, and the James further up, near the A442. There was also Mr Greenhalgh at Highway Farm, and Will and Winny Appleby in the little farm on the A442. He was a Canadian and he and his wife kept the village kids supplied with goodies during and after the war by means of food parcels from his relatives over there – a lovely kind couple they were – no young children at home of their own. Tom Jarvis lived in Highway Cottages – the one nearest Hodnet. He kept rabbits in hutches in the back garden and I used to play with his son and daughter when I was younger.