Memories of a Walcha smithy

Piece of history: The blacksmith shop at the Walcha District Historical Society Museum is equipped with tools, equipment and artefacts from Ernie Partridge’s smithy in Hamilton Street.
Piece of history: The blacksmith shop at the Walcha District Historical Society Museum is equipped with tools, equipment and artefacts from Ernie Partridge’s smithy in Hamilton Street.

Ernest James “Ernie” Partridge was the proprietor of the last of several blacksmith shops that once traded within the town of Walcha.

His smithy was in Hamilton Street where the Walcha Fire Station is now and it closed on his retirement in the mid-1950s.

The Walcha News of March 16, 1961, said in its report on Ernie’s death that he had been a blacksmith in town for nearly 50 years and was apprenticed to Walcha’s Bill Scott at an early age. He acquired a half share in the smithy from James Herbert in 1917, and later purchased the whole business.

Doak and Partridge advertised in the Walcha News of March 3, 1927, making it known that the firm manufactured cemetery plot railings to any design, specialised in horse shoeing and undertook repairs and fitting of steel tyres for carts and wagons on a daily basis.

Ernie married Hugh Doak’s daughter Gertrude in 1921; Doak, who was 81 years old when he died in 1957, was considered to be the best blacksmith in Walcha.

In his later years, he continued to help out at the smithy when his health permitted. Ernie also employed a man by the name of Dawson from time to time.

Walcha blacksmiths once paid 15 pence for a three-bushel bag of stringybark charcoal, which was considered to be the best forge fuel available in the local area. Charcoal was gathered from fallen timber that had been burnt in the wild.

During World War II, good quality steel tools were not available outside of the armed services, so blacksmiths had no option but to make their own.

During World War II, good quality steel tools were not available outside the armed services, so blacksmiths had no option but to make their own.

People bringing horses in to be shod were encouraged to bring worn-out rasps and files as well, as they could be re-tempered and made into useful tools.

Many of Ernie’s tools, together with hinges, gudgeons, horseshoes, branding irons and blacksmith-made tools were donated to the Walcha District Historical Society and are now housed in the slab-built smithy. 

The display also includes the heavy entrance doors to the old smithy, the insides of which are covered with the imprint of hot iron livestock brands that were tested on the back of the doors.