Although they were not able to hold their normal annual exhibition in September, members of Syston Local History Group are currently working with Felicity Austin on a book about Syston in the 20th century. Yes, that is the WHOLE 20th century! It’s an ambitious project, but actually one that needs doing. We will not be able to organise publication yet, but feel we’d like to give readers of Syston Town News a taste of what the town was like in the past. We hope readers will enjoy this new regular feature.Frank Payne and Sons, Syston, Blacksmiths
Frank Payne was a blacksmith, who lived and worked at his forge on in Syston, from 1901. His sons John and Sid joined the business before WW2 and post war they operated the family smithy on the Melton Road where Forge Court now stands.
In Peter Ecker’s memoirs of life on the Fosse in the early 1920s, when there was still a lot of horse drawn traffic about, he remembered that they were catered for by Payne’s blacksmiths shop and stealing a few minutes on our way to and from school watching the skilled shaping of red-hot iron and relishing the acrid tang of burning hoof under the iron. Near here was Mehew’s saddler’s shop with half-doors like a stable, the open top letting out the most glorious smell of leather, the like of which there is none other in the world. Both of these establishments were near what we called the ‘Top 0’ the Town’, (the junction of Melton Road, High Street and Barkby Road)
During WW2 John Payne was sent to work in Market Harborough to train women in a factory making plane parts engineering skills. Sid stayed in Syston working at the forge during the war years.
On returning to Syston after the war, John went back to work at the forge, and together he and his brother Sid put £100 into the business, which was then known as Frank Payne and Sons, and started to bring the business up to date. Soon after this they moved the business to Melton Road and a Leicester Mercury article of 1978 reported that ‘they now run a rapidly expanding sheet metal, specialist welding and general engineering business’. The firm also produced metal battery boxes, grass cutters, aircraft industry components and textile trade accessories such as metal racking for department stores, along with traditional items like wrought iron gates.
In 1954 the brothers built a pair of semi-detached houses next door to the growing factory for themselves and their families. The works and these houses were bought out by a property developer in 1999, and Forge Court retirement flats were built on the site shortly afterwards.