Monthly Archives: March 2016


Blacksmith, wheelwright, plowright, implement maker, cycle agent, machinist, motor engineer, garage proprietor… appears that three generations of the Greenfield family could turn their hands to a myriad of jobs and reinvent themselves. They  adapted the business at their Halfleet forge to move with the ever changing times and they made their mark on the wider community.

Elijah Greenfield (1822-1909) was in business for over 60 years.

Two of his sons, George Arthur (1859-1921) and Walter James  (1867-1927), followed in their father’s footsteps in Halfleet. 

Walter J’s son,  Walter Edgar (1896-1985), was the third generation to display his skills.

Halfleet foundary 1900s

In this picture, taken in the late 19th century, you can see Elijah in his Halfleet yard surrounded by implements. When he died, he was acclaimed as the oldest tradesman in the town.

Starting off as an apprentice blacksmith in Ryhall, he moved to Market Deeping and he reinvented his business as the years passed by – perhaps an example of the Victorian self-made man?

Greenfield advertisement

In this advertisement from an almanac of 1881, he describes himself and his son as implement makers and agents too. They  sold ready-made machinery such as mowing machines and later Rudge-Whitworth bicycles. But father and sons were all real engineers and Elijah is thought to have made the first iron ploughs in the area and later, with his sons, worked out how to build bicycles from a manual.

Incidentally Elijah served for 16 years as one of the two Parish Constables appointed by the Magistrates.

His sons embraced the new technologies…. and some of their pitfalls. In 1882 George Arthur was returning from Nottingham on his bicycle when he was thrown off headlong into the road and on reaching Langtoft, his friend ( Mr William Kisby) was also pitched off. Were they riding “Penny Farthings” ? They were notorious for ejecting their riders and we do have a photograph of one in the yard. Or were they riding the very new safety bicycles? Both plucky riders carried on the journey but they had the foresight to be insured with the Accident Insurance Company!

no detailWalter J. moved into the world of motorcycles and by 1904 he owned a one and a half hp Minerva when he joined other members of the Lincolnshire Automobile Club at Grimsthorpe Castle on his motor bike. His son later described these motorbikes as ” just a strong bicycle”.

This early 20th century  picture appears to show Walter J. at the front of the Halfleet yard admiring a new car?

Walter began to describe himself as a motor engineer and became the first to sell petrol in the town before becoming a R.A.C. repairer by 1914. During the First  World War, Reverend Bell (a Curate at St Guthlac’s Church) described Walter as “the Mechanic”. As part of their war effort the foundry produced tappet guides for aeroplane engines.

Walter E, the third generation of the family, followed on in his father’s and grand father’s  footsteps and set up the first wireless in the Deepings. In April 1912 he even picked up the news of the sinking of the Titanic.

In 1926, a year before Walter J.’s death, Walter Greenfield and Son are advertising as motor engineers, but they have moved to Church Street, Market Deeping. By his death, Walter was described as a garage proprietor. Reinvention complete…….

Was this the garage later taken over by Mr Jarvis and now the car wash?

What a versatile and innovative family whose business influence spanned over 100 years!

Recent Archaeology in the Deepings

At our next meeting on 10th March, we welcome back Tom Lane, former director of Archaeological Project Services, Heckington, to talk about excavations he’s been involved in around the Deepings.

In 1997 he worked with Francis Pryor at Welland Bank quarry (Deeping Lakes) and more recently at other local sites, including Tesco’s.   Tom has also co-authored books about fenland salt-making and the South Holland landscape.   Although he won’t be bringing his guitar and singing this time, he’s sure to be informative and entertaining!


Ancient artefacts have been unearthed in our area over the centuries, and perhaps the largest was “a canoe of extraordinary antiquity” dug up in 1839 on William Whitfield’s farm, close to the North Drain in Deeping Fen near Langtoft.   Found about a metre below the surface, the boat measured 46ft (13.8 metres) long and was 5ft 8ins (1.7 metres) at its widest, narrowing to about 3ft at the bow.   It had a keel along its length and eight ribs inside, each 5ins wide and about 4ft apart.  Mr. Whitfield described it as hewn out of a single oak trunk with axe marks clear  on the inside and outside.  It was filled with clay and in the bottom were about 50 small pebbles, which one report describes as “sling stones”.

At almost 6ft diameter, the oak tree it was made from must have been of considerable age. The Bowthorpe oak near Bourne, estimated at 1,000 years old, is almost twice that diameter and has a girth of over 40ft (12 metres).  Unfortunately, none of the boat remains for modern carbon dating.  Because it “cumbered the ground” and was presumably too heavy to remove, it was destroyed by burning.


The Deeping Fen canoe is thought to date back to the Iron Age (800BC to 43AD) or to the Romano-British era. It was a more sophisticated design than the eight log boats recently excavated from Must Farm quarry near Whittlesey –  the oldest of those reportedly from 1,600BC.

Tom Lane’s talk starts at 7.30pm in the Conference Centre, Deepings School.  Everyone is welcome.  Charge for non-members £2.

(Artefacts pictured include medieval spindle whorl, Roman brooches and 11th century stirrup mount, all found in Lincolnshire)