Ex-policeman turns Blacksmith

Bailiff Bridge blacksmith's shop with Tom Greaves, pictured right
Bailiff Bridge blacksmith's shop with Tom Greaves, pictured right

I am sure those readers who have spent hours, weeks and in some cases years researching their family history will have spent endless moments starring at brightly lit microfilm screens in libraries, searching for that one missing name they are keen to find in one of the census returns.

I am sure that followers of this booming interest in family history will have noticed that when searching through these old census returns in most villages the same family names appear time after time.

Some of these old family members were highly respected members of the village community. They could have been the village doctor, church minister, the major employer, local policeman, the corner shop keeper, head teacher at the village school and the landlord of the village pub. There were others of course: the lady who delivered babies and it was probably the same lady who helped to lay out the dead, and the village blacksmith. Bailiff Bridge is a typical example that had all these a century ago.

In this week’s featured photograph is the Bailiff Bridge blacksmith’s shop with Tom Greaves on the right of the two men. A veritable hive of activity back in the days of the horse drawn method of transport. Even with the arrival of the first tramcar from Brighouse in 1904 horse power was still leading the way for many people and workplaces.

In Bailiff Bridge the village blacksmith was Thomas (Tom) Greaves, someone who was as well known in the village as the Bellman (this was a man who would walk past houses clanging his bell in a village at moonrise and was known by everyone and is often used as a reference to anyone who is well known in a community).

Tom Greaves was born in 1848 at Doncaster. In 1880 he successfully applied to join the West Riding Constabulary and on August 20 he was sworn in as PC858.

His first posting was to the Morley Division which in those days included the Brighouse area.

He had barely been in the job a few months when he was upgraded to a second grade constable. Following this appointment he was posted to Brighouse.

Whether it was the effects of the Brighouse Irish Riots of 1882 we will never know but I understand he did leave before completing his twenty-five year’s service. Having left the service he opened a business as the village blacksmith in Bailiff Bridge.

On the Bailiff Bridge War Memorial is reference to Acting Sergt-Major Arthur Tom Greaves, 43 years, R.A.M.C., who was living at 21, Allan Royd, Bailiff Bridge, died of smallpox on October 2 while serving with the East Africa Expeditionary Force in 1918.

He was one of the many youngmen who went to war and never fired a shot in battle and died on a hospital ship that was bringing him and many others back home.

Tom expected his eldest son to take over the firm after his retirement but when the family was informed of his death there seemed little need to carry on with the business.

On October 3, 1917 he sold his business which made him £228.5s, which in those days would have taken care of him and his family very nicely.

Tom Greaves died not long after the First World War and even long after he had left the police service he was still often referred to as ‘Bobby Greaves’.