My family

52 Ancestors: Week 24 – Father’s Day

I am taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge for 2021. The challenge is organised by Amy Johnson Crow who provides a weekly writing prompt. I am way behind with my writing but I am working on catching up.

I have chosen to write about father and son Thomas Hopkinson (1837-1913) and (1807-1882). Part of my assessment for the Pharos Employment records course I took last month was to document the records which could tell me more about the employment of an ancestor. These two Thomas Hopkinson’s were blacksmiths in South Wingfield.

I have found them on all censuses from 1841 to 1911, tracing Thomas junior from being the 4 year old second son of a blacksmith in South Wingfield, Derbyshire[1] through being a 13 year old assistant blacksmith[2] to an employed blacksmith in 1891[3] and a blacksmith on his “own account” in 1901.[4] By 1911 he was a widowed farmer living with four of his unmarried daughters, still in South Wingfield.[5]  The blacksmith would have been in the heart of the village and it should be interesting to find out more.

Thomas senior was baptised on 21st March 1807 in Morton near Alfreton in Derbyshire.[6] He married Hannah Purdy on 1st January 1833 in Duffield, Derbyshire.[7]  By 6th June 1841 the couple had four children, Jane, William, Thomas and George. [1] 10 years later they had six children at home, Jane, Thomas, Joseph, Peter, Arlette and Adeliza. [2] Thomas junior was now 13 years old, and his occupation is given as assistant to blacksmith. 

Fast forward another 10 years to the census of 1861 and we find 24-year-old Thomas at home with his parents, and four younger siblings, both father and son are blacksmiths.[8] In November of that year Thomas married Sarah James at Holloway Chapel in Ashover, Derbyshire.[9]  Thomas and Sarah were living with Thomas’ parents Thomas and Hannah in 1871.[10] We find them again on the 1881 census, by which time Thomas senior is widowed, but he still has three unmarried children living with him, his son Harold is now also a blacksmith.[11] A few doors away, on the same census page, we find Thomas and Sarah with three children at home.  Less than a year later Thomas senior died and was buried in All Saints Churchyard, South Wingfield.[12] He did not leave a will, and his eldest son, William Hopkinson, a coal miner, administered his estate.[13]

Thomas junior continued to work as a blacksmith, in 1891 he was employed, and intriguingly had an adopted daughter Ethel Booth. [3] By 1901 he was 64, but still working as a blacksmith, now on his “own account” and working at home. [4] He does appear to have “retired” by 1911 as he moved away to Wingfield Park and was farming. [5]

So, how can I find out more about their lives as blacksmiths? The first thing I wanted to find out is exactly where the smithy (was there more than one?) was within South Wingfield.  I was able to do this using the side by side maps at the National Library of Scotland. [14]

Many directories are now available online, though often not indexed.  The earliest I have found is the 1849 Post Office Directory for Derbyshire. This lists “Hopkins, Thomas, blacksmith” in Oakerthorpe, a hamlet within the parish of South Wingfield.[15] I have been able to find the smithy listed in the 1887 edition of Kelly’s Directory of Derbyshire[16]  and 1895 History, Topography, and Directory of Derbyshire[17] Both of these indicate that is was younger brother Harold Hopkinson who was running the blacksmith at this time. Harold and Thomas’ sister Annie is a shopkeeper and dressmaker. There are many other on Ancestry and in the University of Leicester online collection.  

Newspapers are another fascinating source of information, and I found that a blacksmith‘s shop and cottage were available to let in South Wingfield in April 1899.[18]  I wonder what was happening?

I have to plan a visit to the Modern Records Centre, Warwick where I will be able to examine the Associated Blacksmiths’ Forge and Smithy Workers’ Society (ABFSWS) membership registers as well as their quarterly and annual reports.  Another visit will be to the Bishopsgate Institute Special Collections and Archives to find out if either Thomas joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Millwrights, Smiths and Pattern Makers.

When it reopens I plan the Society of Genealogists library to examine “Apprentice indentures of pauper children in: Derbyshire names in miscellaneous lists”[19]

Another visit will need to be the Derbyshire Record Office in Matlock where I might find one or both Thomas Hopkinson’s in the records of the Oddfellows Society.[20]

While there, I will also be able to look at some other directories which might indicate when Harold took over from Thomas senior.  I would also have a look at the parish council records[21] and tithe records.[22]

Finally to experience something of the life of Thomas Hopkinson father and son I would like to visit a working blacksmith museum.  My first choice would be Beamish, but there are others.

Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, Beamish Museum, Regional Resource Centre, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RG.

Burswell Museum & Windmill, Mill Close,Burwell,Cambs,  CB25 0HL

Chiltern Open Air Museum, Newland Park, Gorelands Lane, Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire HP8 4AB

Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton le Hole, North Yorkshire, YO62 6UA.

Dead ends

I looked at the blacksmiths index ( but Thomas Hopkinson was not included. I have submitted the information I have to date.

The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths state on their website:[23] “Regrettably, the Company does not hold any genealogical information and is unable to assist with family history research. The ancient records of the Company (pre-1828) are held in the London Metropolitan Archives”.

I was unable to find Quarter Session records, fire insurance, title deeds or any possible business records but only 40% of Derbyshire Record Office holdings have been catalogued.[24] It is possible that more could be found by speaking to the archivists.  The most recent documents for South Wingfield Manor appear to be from 1760.[25]


Emm, Adéle (2015) Tracing Your Trade and Craftsmen Ancestors. [Kindle version] Barnsley: Pen & Sword Family History. : accessed 04 August 2021.

Scott, Jonathan (n.d.) Are there metalworkers in your family tree? Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. : accessed 04 August 2021.

Waller, Ian (2021) My Ancestor was a Blacksmith. [online]. Society of Genealogists. accessed 01 August 2021.

[1] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 06 June 1841. HOPKINSON, Thomas [head]. PN HO 107/196. Bk18. EN10. FL 28. p. 15. : accessed 04 April 2009.

[2] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 30 March 1851. HOPKINSON, Thomas (head). PN HO 107/2145. EN5a. FL294. p. 25. SN 101. : accessed 24 October 2020.

[3] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 05 April 1891. HOPKINSON, Thomas (head). PN RG12/2747. EN16a. FL92. p. 23. SN 137. : accessed 28 July 2021.

[4] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 01 April 1901. HOPKINSON, Thomas (head). PN RG13/3231. EN17. FL111. p. 21. : accessed 28 July 2021.

[5] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 02 April 1911. HOPKINSON, Thomas (head). RD 436. PN 20981. EN10. SN90. : accessed 04 April 2009.

[6] Baptisms (PR) England. Morton, Derbyshire. 21 June 1807. HOPKINSON, Thomas. Image 95 of 100. Collection: Derbyshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. : accessed 20 August 2021.

[7] Marriages (PR) England. Duffield, Derbyshire. 01 January 1833. HOPKINSON, Thomas and PURDY, Hannah. Image 144 of 586. Collection: Derbyshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932. : accessed 24 October 2020.

[8] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 02 April 1861. HOPKINSON, Thomas (head).  PN RG9/2513. FL80. p. 3 SN. 15. 1861 Derbyshire Census CD.

[9] Marriages (CR) England. Holloway Chapel, Ashover, Derbyshire. 05 November 1861. HOPKINSON, Thomas and JAMES, Sarah. RD Belper, Derbyshire.

[10] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 02 April 1871. HOPKINSON, Thomas (Head). PN RG10/3589. FL 31. p. 12. UK Census Collection. : accessed 03 April 2005.

 [11] Census records. England. South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 03 April 1881. HOPKINSON, Thomas (Head).  PN RG11/3415 FL147 p. 5. FHL Film 1341817.

[12] Monumental inscriptions. England. All Saints, South Wingfield, Derbyshire. 19 February 1882. HOPKINSON, Thomas. Transcribed by Ruth Willmore, 24 October 2020. From a picture John Jeffery originally shared on 18 May 2019. : accessed 24 October 2020.

[13] Testamentary records. England. 14 April 1882. HOPKINSON, Thomas. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the grants of probate. p. 406. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966. : accessed 31 January 2015.

[14] Ordnance Survey. (1897) Chesterfield Outline. One-inch Revised new series, England and Wales, 1892-1908. Sheet 112. 1:63600. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. : accessed 04 August 2021.

[15] Post Office (1849) Post Office Directory Derbyshire. P.2494. Collection: U.K., City and County Directories, 1600s-1900s. : accessed 21 August 2021.

[16] Kelly (1887) Kelly’s Directory of Derbyshire. London: Kelly & Co. accessed 21 August 21.

[17] T Bulmer & Co. (1895) History, Topography, and Directory of Derbyshire.  Littleover, Derby: T Bulmer & Co. accessed 21 August 21.

[18] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald (1899) To Let – South Wingfield-  Blacksmith Shop and Cottage. Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald. 29 April. p. 4b. accessed 08 August 2021.

[19] Derbyshire FHS (comp.) (1999) Poor law unions, Basford, Nottingham. Apprentice indentures of pauper children in: Derbyshire names in miscellaneous lists, vol. 3, 1472-1888 accession 96533u

[20] Loyal Faithful Shepherd Lodge of Oddfellows Society (1842-1944) Contribution cards including cards for the Loyal Lamb Lodge (the junior branch) D6496/2/1/1-11 and Loyal Faithful Shepherd Lodge of Oddfellows Society (1910-1913) Declaration book of members D6496/2/2

[21] South Wingfield Parish Council (1894-1935) Annual parish meetings minute book. D1569/A/PC/5

[22] Parish of South Wingfield All Saints (1845) Tithe Rent charge apportionment award for South Wingfield.
D639/A/PI/91 and Parish of South Wingfield All Saints (c1920) Tithe rent charge register showing name of present landowner, the plot numbers of the lands subject to rent charge and the amount due for each parcel. D639/A/PI/92

[23] The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. Genealogy/Family History.  : accessed 07 August 2021

[24]   Derbyshire County Council Record Office catalogue. : accessed 08 August 2021.

[25] National Archives (Great Britain) : accessed 08 August 2021.

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