Topley and Fisher

Article first appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of the Rollestonian.

Frank Topley, our last village blacksmith, followed his father in the business and later joined up with his engineer friend, Bob Fisher, to form Topley and Fisher, working out of what is now called Blacksmiths Yard off Burnside. If you are a new resident and haven’t looked, Frank’s anvil stands as a memorial on the Spread Eagle island. (A photo and brief account of Frank’s noted eccentricities was published in Rollestonian, Spring 1985).

After Frank died (1984) and Bob retired the company was sold on to a small group of engineering investors and moved to Hatton. The last of that group, Mr Andy Bird (a former employee of Frank and Bob) of Nene Close, Stretton, is retiring and the company is now owned by Mr & Mrs Spare of Anslow Lane. So, Topley and Fisher lives on and is back in Rolleston ownership.

As a last act, Andy Bird has generously donated to the Village Archive a small collection of Frank’s smithing tools and the Topley & Fisher business ledger for the years 1948 – 1969.

At a basic level the Ledger is a list of jobs and prices. It is, however an important piece of social history, both to the village and as an illustration of the craft and diversity of work to support such a business in the dying days of the traditional village forge.

Village business is illustrated by –

Traditional farriery continued as an important business, servicing the horses still on the farms or with the local “gentry”. Frank also appears to have been farrier to the Meynell hunt supplying as many as 24 new shoes on occasion.

Many local businesses including the breweries and the fire brigade seem to have called for special jobs from Topley & Fisher at some time. A particular speciality which brought in work nationally was Frank’s ability to recondition and forge new leaves for the compound leaf springs that provided the suspension of motor cars up to that time.

Look out for the ledger the next time that we have a village exhibition. There is no indication that anyone left Frank in debt but, in typical “Frank” language, one account ends “Died 28th August – poor sod!”

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Last updated: 24 June 2006