The Wards of Wolston - a Family History

Joseph M. Ward’s now derelict home and smithy, 1994
Image courtesy of John Shakespear

My mother was born and brought up in Wolston and as a child, I was frequently taken to visit my grandfather, Joseph Henry Ward and various aunts and uncles who lived there so I became familiar with the village in the late 1940s and ’50s.  I was told that my great grandfather Joseph Maycock Ward (1835-1916) was a blacksmith who lived and had a smithy near the old post office.  He was the third generation of Wards who had a smithy in Wolston.  I have often wondered whether his father John Sanders Ward, and grandfather Thomas Ward, had lived and worked in the same building before him.  My grandfather learned from him some of his skills and I believe continued with the business.  The family gave up the lease of the smithy with its adjoining house on Lady Day, March 25th, 1923, just after my great grandmother had died.

Boarding with neighbours

As a child, my mother lived in one of a pair of two bedroomed cottages attached to the old Red Lion pub. They had no name or number, their address being “Main Street, Wolston”. I was told that my mother’s elder brothers boarded with neighbours as the family expanded. The cottage had no proper sanitation and baths were taken in front of the cooking range in the living kitchen or in the scullery. There was an outside “standby water tap” shared with the other cottage but I recall going with my grandfather up to the village pump on the “Derry” to fetch water.  I also recall  going with him with a jug to buy milk from a dairy at a local farm and to a village bakery to buy bread.

The living room was lit by a paraffin lamp and the wireless was powered by a lead/acid battery which was recharged at the village garage. To the rear of the cottages there was a garden shared by both cottages. In the 1970s the cottages were demolished and the garden was used by the Red Lion until it was also demolished and rebuilt as a house with the same pub frontage.

Working as a cook

My mother told me that my grandmother worked for a short while as a cook in a “young gentlemen’s school” called Priory Hill. She said that the boys were walked down to the church for Sunday worship. She also told me that whenever there was a death in the village, the church bell ringer was allowed to leave the Bluemels factory to toll the bell.

One bonfire night, some of the boys took some wood from a wood yard to put on the fire when it was rather low. As the fire flared up, the yard owner encouraged the boys to get more wood until he realised, to his horror, where it was from.


At one time one of my uncles had some ducks and he provided a ladder or ramp next to the bridge down to the brook, so that they could spend the day swimming up and down the water. They would return and be locked up safely overnight.

I remember that my grandfather and uncles had allotments along the Warwick Road.  Occasionally I would go up there and help them sometimes.  We often caught the bus home to Coventry with a bag full of vegetables for the following week.

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