Levi Archer set up trade in Ashdon as a saddler and harness maker in about 1850. One of the village’s blacksmith’s forges was just opposite, so the location was perfect to get all your horse and cart servicing done in one stop!
Levi Archer was also Clerk to the Parish Burial Board. This was an interesting role at the time. In the 1850s, because of the rapidly increasing population, church graveyards were becoming full. The Government enacted legislation which created cemeteries and for the first time removed the near monopoly the Anglican church had on how people were buried, whether they were cremated, and the style of the service and memorial. The Burial Board was a group of people who oversaw burials in any of the new cemeteries that had been created outside the church’s control.
Mr Archer was also an enumerator for the Census Returns. Just as in 2021, in 1851 each household was given a schedule – a form to complete describing the people that lived in their household. The Enumerator then collected these individual schedules and copied them into a book which was then submitted to the authorities. Although the schedules were all destroyed many years ago, the original enumerators census books are still held in the Public Records Office.
Sadly, although Levi had four sons, they all died before he did, and so it was his last apprentice, Albert Bassett who carried on the trade. He moved to Radwinter in 1906 after Levi died.
In the photograph, which was taken in about 1910, Albert Bassett is the man wearing the apron, standing near the shop door. You can se e horse collars leaning against the wall and a row of hooks where the harnesses would have been hung.
The house with the steps in the centre of the picture was the home of Harry Smith, a bootmaker. His son William Smith was a photographer and took all these wonderful pictures of Ashdon Village life at the turn of the 20th century.