Forge Dam Café

This is an excerpt from my History of Fulwood – a book in the making!

Forge Dam Café

An alternative source of amusement  and refreshment was the café established by the Maxfield family at the Old Forge which offered boating on a large lake, swings, boats and in December 1890 readers of the Telegraph learnt that there was splendid skating to be enjoyed at Forge House which was 10 minutes from the Ranmoor Bus! One would have had to sprint from the bus but fortunately there was accommodation for tea. A further advertisement in January 1891 informed readers that Illumination of the ice by torchlight was in place.

Herbert Maxfield had been a file cutter for much of his adult life but around 1886 he and his family had moved from Brightside to Forge House. In 1891 he was described as a farmer, so it is likely that Mary was running the café. Maxfield’s farming activities were located at Redmires rather than near the old Forge. In 1888 he was advertising ‘Good Pasturing’ there. In 1890 he was able to offer Grouse Shooting at Fair Thorne Farm and indeed on the census night a year later, three of the Maxfield children were at the farm.

The café was proving popular, Mrs Maxfield advertised in 1886 that ‘School parties and visitors [would be] supplied with hot water for tea’ and in yje same year Maxfield applied for a licence to sell beer. In September when the application was considered by the magistrates, amongst whom was Alderman Gainsford of Whiteley Wood Hall, he said that he estimated the value of the property was £20. This proved fatal to his application as the opposing solicitors pointed out that the minimum requirement was property valued at £30. A few days later a letter from James Wing, the solicitor acting for Maxfield, appeared in the Telegraph that stated the rateable value of the property to be £22 and so the value for licencing was £50. A year passed before the application was made again and the question of value was the main contention. The overseers had set the rateable value at just under £35 for the property but this included the dam which covered half the land. The magistrates again refused the licence. Maxfield was certainly tenacious. In 1906 and 1907 he applied for a billiard licence which was refused on both occasions.

An article in the Independent in 1933 about the Sharrow Wesleyan Church noted that the original ‘Tin Cathedral’ was sold in 1900and became the tea room at Forge Dam.

In 1915 Maxfield was accused of poisoning a hen in a field on Brookhouse Hill. The case was that two men who were working on 181 Brookhouse Hill which is at the junction with Whiteley Lane saw Maxfield drop a parcel over a wall into the field. When examined by the public analyst, the parcel was found to have a sufficient quantity of arsenic to kill 50 people. Some of the parcel’s contents were eaten by the hen belonging to Mrs Fox. Maxfield denied the charge and Mrs Fox said she had been on friendly terms with Maxfield for many years and could not offer any reason as to why he should wish act in this way. The defence solicitor pointed out that there was no motive and suggested that the parcel had been on the wall and Maxfield had flicked the parcel with his walking stick. The magistrates said it was serious case and fined him £10. This must have been felt grievously by Maxfield who had an ‘unblemished character.’

Maxfield had tried to sell the business in 1913 without success but was successful in 1917. The advertisement for the sale described a successful venture covering six acres. There was extensive catering facilities and the dam had 13 boats including a motor launch along with fishing. There were also gardens with 1500 rose trees. This sale, caused by Maxfield’s ill health was successful and he and his wife moved to Eastwood Road. His retirement was short-lived as he died a year later ‘in his 80th year’. He was buried in Fulwood graveyard

William Knight was the proprietor in 1919. The café has continued to prosper down to the present time.

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