Was this blacksmith the last in a long line in a Hartlepool village
Bill Procter was a man who held an important position in Hartlepool.
And when he retired, so did the smithy which had been a part of Hart Village for 200 years.
Who remembers the man who was the final link in a family tradition.
Back in the 1960s, the Northern Daily Mail first caught up with Bill and reported; “Bill has no sons to take over the forge which five generations of Procters have kept glowing.
“And other male members of the Procter family don’t fancy the hard life of the blacksmith.”
The story described how it was a “little historic smithy in the picture-postcard village of Hart.”
Bill had worked in blacksmiths shops ever since he left Hart Village School when he was only 14 years old.
He then served an eight-year apprenticeship before he stepped into his father’s shoes and.
Our report at the time said: “In those days, Mr Procter did mostly agricultural work.
“He used to start at eight in the morning and finish as late as ten and 11 at night. In that respect, times have not changed much. He still puts in a 14-hour day several times a week.”
By the time he was 25, Bill’s reputation was growing and farmers from all over the county would bring their work to him.
He married when he was 28 years old and his wife, who hailed originally from Wolsingham, soon got used to his long hours.
She saw even less of him when he then expanded into a second business by opening a premises in Thornaby.
The traditional work of horses needing to be shod was dying out and our report said: “At Hart, he still gets a few orders a week, and farm implements find their way to garages and repair shops when they need attention.
“Contract work and the fashioning of wrought iron have in many cases taken the place of the old tasks of the rural blacksmith. But he remains a craftsman.”
His Hart business had become weekend and evenng work while the main employment was at Thornaby.
But Bill was a man with his heart in Hart and he had a great interest in its activities.
He joined Hart Parish Council when it was first formed and was described by the Northern Daily Mail as having a reputation for “lively, outspoken, forceful debate.”
Later, he became the village’s representative on Stockton and District Council.
And when talk turned to the amalgamation of the Hartlepools - and Hart to join with West Hartlepool - Bill had a strong viewpoint.
Hart would do very well on its own, he said.
His only regret, he said, was that the village did not have better facilities for its youth.
At the time of our 1960s report, Bill wasn’t giving up all hope of the smithy continuing. He was hoping to find someone else to continue the tradition.
Did he succeed? Who can tell us more.
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