Blacksmiths


Barnabus Cooper bought the blacksmith’s shop at Downton Farm in 1799 and was the first recorded blacksmith in Brook. John Hookey, who was the son of a Shorwell blacksmith, was apprenticed to Barnabus and later became his son-in-law when he married Barnabas’ eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

We are fairly sure that there were two blacksmiths’ workshops in Brook in the 19th century, one at Brook Villa, run by the Hayter brothers and one at Downton Farm, run by the Coopers and later the Hookeys.

By the 1911 census we see that the brothers, James David (Daff) and Thomas Hookey had taken over as the village blacksmiths. Tom Hookey also became coxswain of the Brooke Lifeboat. 

The Hookey family continued to run the blacksmith shop at Downton Farm well into the 1950s. In 1958 Ella Way Hookey, widow of Tom, recalls how at the turn of the century:
there was a great deal of work mending wheels so there was a prosperous blacksmith’s shop in the village. The Hookey family ran this and had a pony cart in which they carried the shoes round to the various farms and shod the animals on the spot to save them having to travel far… Tom died at the relatively young age of 55 (see Ship Ashore!) and his widow Ella and her children then exchanged Downton Farm with her brother-in-law David’s family and went to live at Myrtle Cottage, next to the Methodist Chapel.

In Forever England (1932), General Jack Seely describes his friend the local blacksmith, David Hookey: I have never known a human being with so much quiet energy… He is the oldest member of our lifeboat crew, and has never once missed either a practice launch or a wreck.

A number of people today still remember David (Daff ) Hookey, in later life, chewing and spitt ing out his twist tobacco. His niece Kitty remembered him as an unusual character, an irascible man who would, at times, stand in the road shouting at people. Apparently only his brother Tom could deal with him.

David Hollis remembers: Once father used to hire out horses and carts for the Council. We went to Brook one day and the horse’s shoe was loose. I went in to see Daff Hookey, as he was called, ‘Yes, we can do that’, he said, but he had to have his breakfast fi rst. By the time he had had his breakfast and then gone out for a yarn with people, half the morning was gone before he got our horse out onto the road.

As a young boy, Robin Shepheard remembers in the 1950s: I was a bit scared of ‘Granfer, who was always telling David and me off for messing around in his blacksmith’s shop, particularly when we started up the fi re and played with the bellows. David became very clever with metal and iron work, all of which he picked up from his grandfather. The Smithy was left untouched from the day the last tool was put down in the 1950s until 2010 when the farm was sold.