Forge Cottage - a brief history

Photo:Chapel Road seen from Maidstone Road with the Forge complex on the right

Chapel Road seen from Maidstone Road with the Forge complex on the right

Taken in 1980, Courtesy David Millar

Photo:Forge Cottage has a wealth of beams

Forge Cottage has a wealth of beams

Photo kindly provided by Steve and Jane Clark

Photo:Upstairs in Forge Cottage

Upstairs in Forge Cottage

Courtesy of Steve and Jane Clark

On the Westwell/Hothfield border

By Steve, Jane and Claire Clark

The cottage was listed grade 2 in 1986 and has stood on site since around 1650 at that time the English civil war was coming to an end and soon after the English were fighting sea battles with the Dutch just of the coast near Dungeness.  Then, and until relatively recently, the building was officially in the Parish of Westwell.

The cottage may well have stood on its own with no other buildings around and may well have been a forge at that time. I have recently learned iron working may well have taken place nearby possibly where the retirement village is now and local parish records from around 1650-1622 show that several people with names that link them to the iron history were recorded.

The Reverend Russell, rector of Hothfield until he died, researched the Parish up to 1902.  In his extensive manuscripts, since transcribed by the History Society, he refers to 'Brick Field' and Forge Field.  He wrote: "Forge Field  is on the west bank of the stream from Westwell, & is opposite to Grafty Field.  In the 17thcentury the iron trade was carried on in this Parish; & an artificial depression in this field near the stream was probably the site of the workings."

The Listed Buildings register tells us the front elevation of the cottage was bricked up around the end of the seventeenth century a wing now called Myrtle Cottage was added and the forge complex was born.

As time moved on the village of Hothfield and the market town of Ashford grew as did the forge complex.  It became a blacksmiths, farriers and wheelwrights you can still see the wheelwrights tyre ring in the floor outside the white cottage known as (The Old Forge) on Maidstone road (A20) by the bus stop opposite the Woolpack inn.

In Victorian times the houses to the left of the cottage and the wesleyan chapel were built and Forge cottage became terraced. This meant that the rear pitched roof needed to be modified to allow the roof to drain therefore the rear pitched roof was removed and a partial flat roof was fabricated in its place and this layout remains the basis of Forge Cottage today.

The forge complex was still in use in the nineteen twenties and was bought by local blacksmith William White for £375 from the local landowner when the Hothfield estate was broken up.  ‘The Old Forge’ was still functioning as a workshop right up till the nineteen seventies.  It now finds itself in the Parish of Hothfield as the boundary, which previously crossed the 'common' (Hothfield Heathlands), moved to the Ashford-Maidstone Road (A20).

As you can see the cottage has a long history and we hope you find this information interesting.

by Steve, Jane and Claire Clark our own family archivist

This page was added by Chris Rogers on 02/06/2014.
Comments about this page

I used to holiday at the forge in the late fifties/early sixties until 1962 or 1963 (I was born in 1950).  My father's uncle owned & ran the forge (although crippled with damaged hips ) & I used to watch him walk into the forge with 2 sticks, prop them up on the side of the fire & work all day standing.  I think my father's uncle was named Cheeseman (this name sticks in my mind for some reason).  Can anyone give me more info on my father’s uncle as I was told he was quite a good cricketer in his younger days?

He had a son who worked for an engineering company in or near Ashford.

I used to play with a boy (do not ask me his name as I have the worlds worst memory for names) who lived further down the lane.  I can remember part of the orchard being sold to a petrol company for a filling station.  The journey to get there from my home in South Wales was a nightmare (no motorways) leaving on Friday evening & getting off the bus outside the Woolpack at around midday Saturday.

Another thing that sticks out is metal gates displayed outside the forge on the main road & the intricate designs of flowers & leaves on them.

By Gwyn Davies
On 05/02/2017

Gwyn, who remembers spending his childhood holidays at ‘The Old Forge’, popped in to the forge in early July as he was visiting Kent on holiday from his home in Wales.  The building is now our house and we were pleased to show him around.  Gwyn was able to tell the us a few details that we didn’t previously know about the layout of The Forge in it’s working days and he seemed to be pleased to re-visit an old haunt and see how it looks nowadays.

Gwyn told us that the blacksmith lived in the adjacent cottage (now ‘Forge Cottage’ on the corner of Chapel Lane) and worked in the Forge when he used to visit in the early/mid 1950s.  He remembers the blacksmith was on crutches as a result of injuries sustained by being kicked by horses over the years and would literally prop himself up at the central fire with all his tools within easy reach and work there all day, rarely moving from the spot!

Gwyn used to come for summer holidays here as a child and as Gwyn’s father worked for a bus company in Wales he was able to get a free bus ticket for the return journey.

George Horn, who is a farmer in Westwell, has very clear memories of the inside of the Forge and of the visits they made to have tools repointed or repaired, or holes drilled, in the 1960s.  He remembers a large upright drill like you see in metal workshops.  He remembers the Blacksmith but also doesn't know his first name as he was always 'Mr Cheeseman'.  Towards the end of his working life Cheeseman gave up shoeing horses as he couldn't take being jostled by the horses with his bad legs, but everything else he could do standing at the forge where he could reach everything on racks without moving from the spot.  George remembers the blacksmith having huge forearms and wrists, and could cut metal just with a chisel and a hammer (no mechanical saws).  The Horns bought coach bolts which we think were bought in by Mr Cheeseman (probably not made on the premises).

He also remembers that the forge had a nice garden. He recalls Mrs Cheeseman bringing out coffee.  George thinks that Mr Cheeseman made special clamps for the water company who fix leaks by bolting metal 'saddles' around the broken pipe.

By Mark Matthews
On 06/07/2017

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