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Red kite




Red kite


By Rita Probert


The actual age of this cottage is unknown but it is believed to be over 200 years old. It received its name much later and it likely relates to the horseshoe shape into which it fits on the corner of what is now Lower Road and Loosley Hill.

Horseshoe Cottage c1950


You can identify Wycombe Road in the centre of this 1820's map - this is now Little Lane and the Westerly end hits what is now the A4010.

Back then the latter did not go straight to Princes Risborough but turned up through Loosley Row continuing on the now Lower Road to Woodway and back down the hill until it joined, as it does to this day, the A4010.

Then it would have been an unmetalled, muddy potholed track in which carriages and carts experienced difficulty negotiating, particularly in winter and inclement weather.

It was also a lonely stretch of highway said to be dangerous for travellers, being frequented by 'footpads' (highwaymen without horses).

So the Wycombe Road at Loosley Row would have been busy with horse drawn carriages, wagons, carts and stagecoaches. Facilities available to them would include wheelwrights, Gommes' Forge and Randall's the Blacksmith. Additionally there were at least two public houses and many Beer houses to accommade travellers requirements, plus, from 1840, a Post Office.

1820 map of Loosley Row

Photo of a section of map held in the County Records Office, Aylesbury, which shows some of the road changes about to be put in place.

Smallden Wood and Common are shown - the area was covered in woodland and it acquired the local nickname - The Grubbin - when the trees were felled and the roots 'grubbed out'.
(See also The Lost Hamlet of 'Coombs' - indicated (on road) in top right corner of map)

During the heyday of horse transport the village wheelwright was an essential member of the community, whose product was expected to provide the user with many years of reliable service.

The wheelwright was a craftsman who possessed great knowledge of the properties of timber and whos workmanship was extremely accurate.

Wagon construction was a lengthy process, six months not uncommon. Various woods were used for different parts of the wagon, all having been seasoned for many years before construction even began.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the country wheelwright found himself in competition with factory made wagons. Few wheelwrights remain at work today, a result of the demise of horsepower.

Tomkins the Wheelwrights

Wlliam Tomkins born 1778 in Westbury, Buckinghamshire and his wife Jane (nee Osborne) relocated from Winslow to the property (now Horseshoe Cottage) in Loosley Row about 1814. By that time they had six children - five more were born here.

The working section was located in the adjoining workshop and yard. A small pond situated in the latter, at the junction of Foundry Lane and Lower Road, was for use in the process of wheelmaking.

The 1821 Census Returns only recorded the head of the household, in this case William Tomkins; his trade as Wheelwright and the total number of residents: 7 males and 1 female.

William's wife, Jane, died at the age of 46 in 1827: her burial service was conducted at St. John's Church, Lacey Green on 13th August.

The 1834 'Register of electors' records William Tomkins with a freehold house and garden.


Part of yard


Part of yard

In the 1841 census all residents were named, along with their approximate ages and occupations. Son Henry had died in 1839 aged 20. Job, named in the census, passed away in 1843 along with a brother named Josiah the same year. (The latter was not recorded in the census}. The eldest son, William, had moved to Downley, along with brother, James, where both set up a Wheelwright's business.


Census 1841

William Tomkins (senior) died in 1850 aged 73. He left a Will and it will be noted that he owned other properties now identified as Steephill Cottages, Foundry Lane, and also land in Loosley Row.

He was buried in St. John's Churchyard, Lacey Green on 27th August. His son Thomas then took over as Head of the family and proprietor of The Wheelwrights.

William Tomkins Snr Last Will & Testament

Their sister, Mary (born 1307 Winslow) had married a Francis Bryant of Saunderton on 10th December 1826 and it was her daughter Ann who eventually went to reside with her Uncles Thomas & Moses at Loosley Row.



A Trade Directory of 1853 lists Thomas Tomkins as Wheelwright.



Census 1851

Census 1851

The next change came sometime between the next two census when Moses is working as a wheelwright and they have a new servant.



Census 1861/71


Four years later batchelor Thomas finally married.

Census 1861/71



In 1886 Moses died at the age of 66 and was buried in St. John's Churchyard, Lacey Green on
4th June.

A year later his brother Thomas passed away aged 72 and was also interred in the
same churchyard.

Eliza Hawes - now Tomkins became a teacher at Loosley Row school seen here in school photo taken circa 1900

School photo

End of an Era and A New Beginning

The property in Loosley Row was bequeathed to their nephew, William Tomkins (born in 1850 at Downley within the Parish of West Wycombe).

William was a Farmer, so after over 70 years in Loosley Row, Tomkins the Wheelwrights finally ceased trading.



Late in 1911, Lydia (known as Lily) married Charles George Pearman and they moved to Hertfordshire

Census 1891 Census 1901 / 11

The Property

Described as a 4 bedroom period home with a wealth of original character throughout.

Set within a large plot, with secluded gardens and stunning countryside views, the premises comprises a large sitting room with exposed wood beams and open fire, a separate dining room, kitchen and studio.






Ouside view

Methodist Church

Many members of the Tomkins' family were strong supporters and members of the Methodist Church, Lacey Green. Thomas and his brother Moses were Trustees.

In 1838 when a Camp Meeting took place in Kiln Lane, Lacey Green witnesses reported 'preachers on a wagon and one ...... Mr Tomkins, Wheelwright of Loosley Row was there preaching, praying and singing".

In the Spring of 1839 their eldest brother William (born 1806) visited Loosley Row to see his brother Henry who was unwell. His visit coincided with Easter and William took the opportunity to preach to the Methodists at Lacey Green on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

His remarks were recorded and included that it was "..... very heavy work ..... the people were so dull and lifeless".

Eleven years later the Rev. William Tomkins emigrated with his third wife and three sons to the United States of America. They settled in Shullsburg, Wisconsin, then a lead mining town, where William set about his duties as Primitive Methodist Minister.

One of his sons, William Mawby Tomkins eventually became a well respected citizen of Ashland, Wisconsin. He was appointed Town Clerk in 1873 and later elected Justice of the Peace and District Attorney.

Over the years, since the Tomkins' occupation, 'Horseshoe Cottage' has had many new owners and was also once named 'Sunnyside'.


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