Fonds BR 283 - Eric A. Stevenson of Wroxham, General Smith, Engineer and Wrought Iron Worker: Business and Personal Records

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BR 283


Eric A. Stevenson of Wroxham, General Smith, Engineer and Wrought Iron Worker: Business and Personal Records


  • 1921-1990 (Creation)

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62 pieces

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Biographical history

Eric Arthur Stevenson was the last of an unbroken line of blacksmiths in Wroxham. His father, grandfather (Henry Stevenson) and great-grandfather (John Stevenson) all preceded him in the calling. Born in Church Lane, Wroxham in 1908 to parents, Henry Robert and Annie Hannah Stevenson, he was the youngest of four sons and was not initially attracted to blacksmithying. However, by 1928, he found himself assisting his elderly father at the forge and when his father died two years later he was left with sole responsibility at the age of 22 for the family business.
Initially his work, like that of his predecessors, consisted of a mixture of agricultural blacksmithying with ironwork for Wroxham's local boat builders and building companies such as A.R. Taylor and Company Limited, Wroxham Builders Limited and the Trafford Estates Limited. As agricultural demand fell away after the last world war, the boat and house building trades came to supply the majority of his work. However, Eric also gained a reputation as a specialist in wrought-ironware, having been recognised for the quality of his work in this field as early as 1938. A keen churchman, he went on to undertake commissions for wrought-iron work in churches, cathedrals and colleges throughout the United Kingdom. His screens, gates, stands, rails and light-fittings are to be found in places as diverse as Ashburton church, Devon, Norwich Cathedral, Holy Trinity, Darlington and the cathedral in Washington D.C. In addition, he supplied many local parishes with their village signs and fulfilled orders for domestic ironware (decorative firescreens being a speciality). In 1956, he was awarded a bronze medal by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and received a silver medal in 1966. In 1970, he became the first person to be awarded a gold medal by the Company for his wrought-iron screens in St Nicholas' Church, Great Yarmouth. He preferred to work with architects on large commissions (although he also undertook his own designs) having long-standing associations with architects, Bernard Fielden (of Fielden and Mawson of Norwich), S.E. Dykes Bower (surveyor to the fabric of Westminster Abbey) and, for Roman Catholic commissions especially, Donovan Purcell (surveyor to the fabric of Ely Cathedral).
A man of great energies he moved his forge from 223 to 232 Norwich Road, Wroxham in 1952 and also erected and ran a petrol-filling station on the new site. He ran both businesses with the help of only one general assistant until 1970, when he sold the petrol station. He also served as a part-time fireman with the Wroxham Fire Brigade where he was station officer for over 23 years from 1956. In this capacity, he sat on the executive committee of the Fire Services National Benevolent Fund which administered grants to and pursued claims on behalf of needy firemen. He was also active on the Craft Committee of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and served on the Norfolk Small Industries Committee for the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas (COSIRA) until 1983. He had been a founder-member of the Norfolk Rural Craftsmen's Guild in 1951 and became its president in 1971, serving that post until 1984. Eric was also a long-standing and enthusiastic freemason belonging to the Lodge of Sincerity and to the local Clarence Chapter, where he was treasurer from 1976 to 1983. In addition, he stood for election to Wroxham Parish Council in 1952 and served on various committees until his resignation in 1990.
In the early 1980s, Eric went into semi-retirement but filled his time with committee work, talks, lectures and judging blacksmithying events. After an active life of 86 years he died in April 1994, being survived by his widow, Lily.

Archival history

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Received by the Norfolk Record Office on 13 April 1999 (ACC 1999/2).

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See ACC 2002/5 for additional papers.

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Created 05/07/2000 by Droip. Modified 27/02/2019 by Catherine.Collins.


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