The National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) recently held an awards ceremony for graduates of the second and final year of its Heritage Blacksmiths Bursary programme. The training was the first of its kind in the UK and set up by the NHIG as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) Skills for the future. Designed with sustainability in mind, the college-based part of this training will be available as a Heritage Pathway within the new Advanced Apprenticeship scheme that is due to be available in September 2014.
In March 2013, I was asked by Adrian Oliver if I would like to be on the committee organising the float for the Lord Mayor’s Show. My brief was to represent the views of the working Blacksmith. I had a thought that it might be a good idea to make a small piece of Ironwork to take along with us such as a wellhead with a catchy slogan ‘If you want it well made, go to a Blacksmith’. The item could be sold after the Show and the money donated to the Lord Mayors charity thus enabling us to showcase the work of Blacksmiths and also to do our bit for the City. Opinions were canvassed at a judging seminar and after more discussion we decided that a small arch would be an appropriate item in terms of practicality and saleability.
Student blacksmiths from Warwickshire College’s Moreton Morrell centre have excelled at the prestigious Three Counties Show.
The show, which was held at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern earlier in the month, saw student Dan Hawker winning the R10 contemporary class. Classmate Grace Bindings came fourth in the same section.
Simon Grant-Jones - North Somerset Show Champion
Kingston Maurward College’s resident blacksmith and Forgework tutor Simon Grant-Jones, famed for his TV appearance on BBC’s Turn Back Time series in 2010, is champion again, this time at the North Somerset Show.
The winning screen was commissioned for the Kingston Maurward gardens by head gardener Nigel Hewish who wanted a piece of ironwork to reflect the period of the 18th Century mansion house.
Blacksmiths from Herefordshire College of Technology are taking part in a global project to honour the victims of the unimaginable violence in Oslo in July 2011. Founded by Artist Blacksmiths, Tone Mørk Karlsrud and Tobbe Malm, the project came to the College after one of the course’s Norwegian students, Sigbjoern Lundesgaard did his work experience with Tone during his holidays...
This year is set to be an historic year, with the Olympics coming to London and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. However, one man is commemorating the occasion in truly timeless fashion by making a tower clock entirely by hand, as if it were being built in an era before electricity...
Michelle Parker is not only the first working female blacksmith to be admitted to the Livery but she is also the first blacksmith to have been presented with the Company’s bronze medal on the same occasion.
A well made forged scroll is a thing of beauty. It has balance, rhythm and proportion but at the same time, being hand-made, is unique.
One of the most attractive products made by a blacksmith is the village sign. Apart from displaying a village name the signs, usually erected on a post in a prominent position, are emblems depicting local life; indeed it could be said that the village sign is a snapshot of local history and culture, each one unique to a particular village. It can be fascinating trying to discover what these signs are telling us about individual villages: some are easy to interpret while others may need research. Representations of famous local people, events and landmarks, and everyday village life combine to provide a rich seam of inspiration for the sign artist.
As members of the Yorkshire Branch of the Historic Houses Association, my husband and I were privileged to experience a verbal and visual presentation given by Don Barker after a meeting at Kiplin Hall in Richmond, North Yorkshire, in March 2006.
Kevin Boys AWCB has an impressive list of clients including The Tower of London, Hampton Court and Lambeth Palaces, The Clink Museum, Warwick Castle, Paul Smith, Museum of London, Southbank Centre, Horniman Museum and Southwark Borough Council. From his forge on the riverside next to the Surrey Docks Farm, Kevin who says he owes much of his skill and commitment to his grandfather and a great uncle who were brothers working as blacksmiths on the railways, designs and creates a diverse range of ironwork including public and private sculpture.
The aim of this piece is to provide the reader with an insight into the history and significance of ironworking in the Weald. The Weald (Weald is from the Anglo Saxon meaning Forest) lies between the North and South Downs extending East to West through the counties of Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. In the Middle Ages it was known as the Forest of Andredswald. The area has an abundance of iron ore (siderite) in clay deposits containing around 70 % of the iron bearing material. Clay was also used in the construction of furnaces and in brick making.
The National Heritage Ironwork Group’s (NHIG) first eight trainees, selected from applicants from all over the UK, on their Heritage Blacksmiths Bursary training programme started on 23rd May. These semi-skilled blacksmiths, six men and two women, are the first to receive one year of specialised blacksmith conservator training as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) ‘Skills for the Future’ programme.
Blacksmithing students at Warwickshire College’s Moreton Morrell centre showed their spark in a recent competition
8 April 2011 - One Man's Vision - The Camelia Botnar Foundation
The Camelia Botnar Foundation was established in 1979 by Octav Botnar and his wife, Marcela, in memory of their only child, Camelia, who was killed in a car accident at the age of 20.
Arriving in Britain in 1966 and speaking no English, Octav Botnar had within five years set up Nissan UK Limited which was to become one of the most successful private companies in the UK. He was a great philanthropist who, through Nissan UK Limited and The Camelia Botnar Foundation, made donations to charity in excess of £100 million during his lifetime.
The Foundation is situated in the heart of the West Sussex countryside and includes over 500 acres of mixed arable, open grazing and woodlands. It provides residential training and work experience, helping young people to learn a skilled trade, embark on a useful career path and successfully to make their own way in life. It is nothing short of inspirational and is entirely self-funding. In effect, the Foundation provides a second chance to succeed for young people who, for whatever reason, are in special need due to circumstances outside their control.
Trainees, who can choose from metalwork, cabinet-making, joinery, catering, estate and grounds maintenance, garden centre and horticulture, pottery, light building work and painting and decorating, are encouraged to aim for National Vocational qualifications, Key Skills certification and other relevant vocational qualifications. The Foundation has its own Key Skills Tutor on site for tutoring individually or in small groups as required.
Living accommodation is initially provided in the main house on the estate with breakfast and evening meals being taken in the main dining room. In due course, trainees will move to the coach house which is close to the main house and, when they are considered capable and ready, independent accommodation is provided in a number of cottages on the estate, where trainees cater entirely for themselves.
No fees or other charges are made for the training. The Foundation is a non-profit making organisation and the income generated by business activities helps to fund the charity. Trainees are paid by the hour, on a monthly basis, with weekly subs to assist with cash management, from which a deduction is made to contribute towards board and lodging costs, and an amount is also deducted for savings with the aim of building up a lump sum for use towards accommodation and other costs when the trainee eventually leaves the Foundation.
No prior experience or knowledge of working with metal is necessary for those who decide to join the ironwork department. Trainees who show an aptitude for the work will, under the watchful eye of their tutor, Tim Clements, soon become competent to make products of increasing difficulty and intricacy, which will subsequently be sold through Camelia Botnar Homes and Gardens. They are given comprehensive hands-on training in the art of welding, gas cutting, fabrication and blacksmithing. The Architectural Wrought Ironwork Department is fully equipped with forges, large power hammer, hydraulic guillotine, ring-roller and large power drill, as well as the traditional hand tools, anvil and other forge equipment.
To see for yourself the splendid work done by the trainees and offered for sale, just visit Camelia Botnar Homes and Gardens near Cowfold, West Sussex, where you can also enjoy a cup of tea or an excellent meal in the Camelia Botnar Bistro. Alternatively, see the pieces made by the trainees and entered for the Young Craftsman of the Year Award at the South of England Show at Ardingly in June 2011.
A special word of thanks is owed to the Chief Executive, Emma Mitchell, and Blacksmith, Tim Clements, for allocating a day to showing Hugh Adams, myself and my wife, Marion, around the Estate.
8 April 2011 - Lord Mayor's Show
On a cold but bright Saturday in mid November, the Father, Peter Rayner, Prime Warden Richard Chellew, Liverymen, families and friends waved and cheered from the stand by St Paul’s as the colourful procession, that makes the Lord Mayor’s Show such an enjoyable event for adults and children alike, made its way from Guildhall towards the Law Courts in the Strand. After the superbly stage-managed event and with the sound of the bands in the parade still ringing in their ears the party was grateful when the moment came to gather in the warmth of the Wine Tun for a convivial lunch.
8 April 2011 - A 'Grand Idea' comes to fruition by Nigel Whitehead
Twenty-two years ago, newly admitted Liveryman and Silver Medal holder, Blacksmith Alan Dawson had an idea: this year, as some of you may have seen on BBC Channel 4’s Grand Designs, he brought his idea to fruition.
Alan’s truly eco-friendly ‘adaptahaus’ prototype was totally prefabricated by his team to his own design, using ideas gathered over his thirty years’ experience of working with metal in the construction industry. Without the need for wet trades on site during construction, the house was up and occupied within four weeks, with Alan’s engineering skills coming to the fore when the steel frame of the house had to be lowered to fit precisely onto the anchor plates, previously accurately set in the minimal foundations. One firm tap was sufficient to bring expressions of relief as the frame settled onto its anchor bolts.
As the name implies the house is adaptable in design and build and during its lifetime can be reconfigured to suit changing family circumstances.
After becoming a blacksmith Alan taught metalwork and art before setting up his own forge in 1972. His company, which is based in Cumbria, produces high quality art and architectural metalwork for clients worldwide.
8 April 2011 - The Foundry Group by Craft Warden, Chris Childs
Two years ago the Prime Warden invited me to identify why young people were not joining the Livery and to suggest changes and events to attract them. I pulled together a group to brainstorm the situation; three Liverymen (Jash Joshi, Dean Hollington and Hugo Sanders), Stuart Davis, who was about to be admitted and our Clerk, Christopher Jeal.
It was important that both the good and bad were aired, whilst retaining the objective to attract the young.
Hugo Sanders said: I love the tradition and formality of the four formal lunches but they are expensive. At this early stage of my career, potential guests and I have similar time constraints of being away from work during the middle of the day.
An event cost is an aggregate thing whereby the meal, loss of earnings or leave allowance and travel costs soon accumulate. A low cost London based evening function allowing the younger Liverymen to bring guests gained favour from all approached, especially on a Thursday evening. Networking and meeting likeminded people was popular and considered a way to form bigger groups to attend a lunch.
Early this year Michael Shepherd joined the group and it was decided that a personal approach to all Liverymen under 45 would be useful. Michael undertook this and produced a database so that e-mail would become the preferred method of communication. The natural progression was for him to take the lead and, supported by Stuart Davis, the group ran an informal evening event at The Wine Tun, Cannon Street on Thursday 4 November, 2010.
Apprentice Ben Oliver commented: The evening started at 6pm and for a very reasonable £12.50 we were given canapés and a few glasses of wine. The informal atmosphere allowed for an opportunity to ask questions about the workings of the Company and to get to know other members. I would thoroughly recommend to those who missed this event that they should come along to the next one and enjoy the friendly, social atmosphere.
A name was needed for the group which had Blacksmith connotations and the Foundry Group was chosen.
The cost of becoming a Liveryman coupled with the unknown advantages of membership has so often been cited as a hurdle to the young joining. The Foundry Group provides a forum to discuss and hopefully dispel these reservations.
While the Foundry Group targets the young, all liverymen are welcome so long as they are accompanied by someone under 45. There will be three meetings a year at the Wine Tun; the third Thursday of September, February and June is in the diary. Two interest group gatherings are planned for April and November starting with either a Magic Circle dinner or a boxing evening.
8 April 2011 - A private tour of the Ironwork galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum
On the July 12, 2010, Members of the Company and their wives joined David and Tessa Brewer for a fascinating hour and a half conducted tour of the Ironwork Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Our tour guides, Dr Tessa Murdoch and colleagues, provided us with an illuminating insight into the history of ironwork as we were shown some of the finest historical and contemporary examples of the blacksmiths’ craft. The evening finished with an enjoyable meal at a nearby restaurant.
8 April 2011 - WCB Award Winners 2010
Stephen Lunn FWCB - Silver Medal Holder
The Tonypandy Cup
Presented by Baroness Boothroyd
The Tonypandy Cup was given in memory of Lord Tonypandy (George Thomas: Speaker of the House of Commons) who was an Honorary Member of the Court of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. The Cup may be awarded annually for a piece which is considered to be an outstanding example of the skill of a blacksmith. The Company welcomes suggestions from any source for work which meets the criteria of ‘outstanding’. A special panel has been set up to assess the pieces nominated.
Stephen Lunn FWCB, Silver Medal holder, was chosen for the award for the burial ground sculptural gates he designed and made for Their Graces’ Duke and Duchess of Northumberland. The gates were to reflect the client’s individual interests; one half love of wildlife the other half flora and fauna. The stones intertwine with the roots to represent sandstone removed to create this site. Sandstone was then used for the dry stone walling. The gates are 12 feet 6 inches in height and 10 feet wide.
Award Winners 2010
Presented by the Craft Warden Christopher Childs
The Stanley Allcard Cup, presented to William Holland
Captions from top to bottom, left to right
The Paul Allen Award, presented to Will Barker
Blacksmiths’ Army Cup, presented to Staff Sergeant Rory Olney
Presented by the Third Warden Sir David Brewer
Diploma of Merit, presented to Paul Dunkley
Diploma of Merit, presented to Alan Perry
Presented by the Renter Warden, Donald Barker
Reserve Champion Blacksmsith, presented to Richard Jones
Champion Blacksmith, presented to James Crossman
Reserve National Champion Blacksmith, presented to Joshua de Lisle
National Champion Blacksmith, presented to Simon Grant Jones
Presented by the Prime Warden, Richard Chellew
Silver Medal, presented to Adam Booth
Silver Medal, presented to Paul Allen
The Requirements for Awards are described on the WCB’s website www.blacksmithscompany.org.uk
Photography by M.O’Sullivan
8 April 2011 - Turning back time for the Blacksmiths Craft by Simon Grant-Jones AWCB
In summer 2009 I received an interesting phone call. A cautious voice on the other end of the line said “Sorry to bother you, but are you a real Blacksmith?”. My immediate thought was that I was about to be asked to shoe a horse as, from my experience, the public perception of a Blacksmith is someone who shoes horses. I replied, equally cautiously, “Yes, I specialise in traditional forged metalwork, mostly tool making”. “Great, that’s just what we are looking for” was the excited, almost relieved response.
This was the beginning of my association with Wall to Wall TV, the production company commissioned by the BBC to make the fascinating historical documentary series Turn Back Time — The High Street, on BBC1.
The series would portray 100 years of British high street shopping between the 1870s and the 1970s and was to be shot in the picturesque market town of Shepton Mallet. It would also include a grocer, a baker, a butcher and a dressmaker. My role was that of an Ironmonger and Blacksmith in 1870s Victorian England through to the 1940s when traditional craftsmen began disappearing from our high streets.
I was obviously intended to be an affluent craftsman being given two businesses to run, the Ironmongers shop and the forge. The shop had been an Ironmonger’s, at least from the early 1900s, as depicted in many period postcards brought in by enthusiastic locals. Over the four periods I ran the shop it took on different guises, starting as an Ironmonger’s in the 1870s and finishing as a hardware shop in the 1940s. It seemed a fitting tribute to the original shopkeepers to reopen these premises for the purpose for which they had originally been used.
The forge was built as a “set” using period equipment sourced mostly by myself and other colleagues. James Crossman, the current Live Champion, supplied an early Alldays and Onions cast iron forge, Hector Cole, the authentic coal it used and Syd Blackmore, a Dorset Smith, the bellows which came from a Devon Forge and date from about 1880. Richard Jones, the current Reserve Live Champion, gave a day of his own time to commission the forge, as I was not allowed to see anything beforehand. We not only had to trade authentically, but also had to live the period, even when the cameras were switched off. It was really one big living history lesson.
The question now most often asked of me is “What did you learn from all of this?” To answer fully would take several pages, so I will mention the most memorable aspects. Virtually living and working as a Blacksmith through several historical periods was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I now have a far greater appreciation of the hardships endured, and the high levels of skill needed, by our forebears to make even the most meagre of livings. The sense of community that was very much alive on the high street in days gone by has sadly been lost not just among traders but also from among the public. There is, however, still a hint of this unity within our ancient craft, noticeable especially at the many public Blacksmithing events staged annually. Most importantly, I have had a huge insight into how blacksmithing and other trades have become devalued by cheap imports and also, as a consequence of living in more affluent times, people now throw things away (even if not broken) and buy new.
I am hoping that my small contribution to this project will go some way towards giving the Blacksmiths’ craft a boost and reaffirm the recognition of high quality craftsmanship that we so rightly deserve.
3 February 2011 - National Heritage Ironwork Group
Heritage Blacksmiths Bursary
The training plan for the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) 'Skills for the Future' project has been approved and students and workshops are being recruited. In brief, 16 students will benefit from workshop-based training over the next two years, combined with a block release course in Heritage Blacksmith work, leading to the National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) Award for Blacksmithing Conservation. This is a competency work-based qualification with standards derived from Construction Skills National Occupational Standards (see below NOS). The intention is that the Hereford course will be continued after the expiry of the HLF scheme, and NHIG is asking for expressions of interest from experienced smiths who would like to apply for the block release course alone. For full details of the bursary scheme, including application forms, visit the bursaries page of the NHIG website http://www.nhig.org.uk/bursaries.html
National Occupational Standards (NOS)
The National Occupational Standards for Heritage Blacksmithing have been completed and are published on NHIG's website and www.ukstandards.org.uk. This represents a major achievement for the group and the first real box to be ticked. There is now a structure on which to build a qualification in the sector, which will start to put it on a par with other heritage building craft skills.
Conservation Policy Forum
On 10 July 2010 the group convened a forum at Rowhurst Forge (thanks to Dick Quinnell) to discuss the way forward as regards the Conservation Principles which will underpin NHIG policy and training for years to come. There is a lot of work to be done before the group can publish its principles and guidelines, and as a vital next step Rory Cullen of the National Trust has agreed to organise and chair a peer review of the draft document. This review will ensure recognition and respect of conservation professionals and is under way.
Tuesday the 20 July 2010 saw the official launch of the National Heritage Ironwork Group. It was hosted by Historic Royal Palaces at Hampton Court Palace and Adrian Phillips, Surveyor of the Fabric for Historic Royal Palaces, welcomed the delegates and introduced the programme, which brought the ironwork of the palace to life with short talks, a tour and exhibition and then an enlightening and engaging repoussé demonstration by Paul Allen.
To get a real feel for the day, you can view a short video produced by ‘Projectbook’ of the day’s events and the delegates’ handout, including the programme and delegates list, on the events page of NHIG's website http://www.nhig.org.uk/events.html
This special event not only raised awareness of the need for developing and promoting good practice, but also outlined how NHIG plans to move forward in achieving its aims including the NHIG Heritage Lottery Fund Blacksmith Bursary project.
Addy Taylor Cup
Bethan Griffiths and Chris Topp were awarded the Addy Taylor Cup for the efforts they have put into NHIG. The Addy Taylor Cup is awarded each year by the British Artist Blacksmiths Association to someone that their council feel has done something special for blacksmithing in the preceding year. The cup is on permanent loan from the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and its name comes from Addy Taylor, prime warden of the WCB from 1967/68.
As a result of pressure brought to bear from within the industry, funding has been found to carry the Hereford NETS course until July 2011, until which date the roll is full. Please consult Paul Allen for further details. firstname.lastname@example.org
3 February 2011 - College training fired-up for the future
New forgework training facilities at Kingston Maurward College have been officially opened by the campus’ very own celebrity. Lecturer Simon Grant-Jones, who starred as the blacksmith in the BBC’s autumn flagship series 'The High Street: Turn Back Time', was on hand to fire up the college’s new forges.
The new forgework department has 10 forges and will double the number of students able to study this subject at any one time.
The new forges were designed by The Blacksmith Guild in Devon and built by the college's forgework students as part of their course.
The eight new modern bottom blast forges join the college’s two former ones in a converted barn on campus, which had previously been used for storage.
Simon says he thoroughly enjoyed his time on the BBC show and says he hopes it will inspire a new generation of blacksmiths.
The Blacksmithing craft course offers a hands-on approach to the blacksmith’s craft, and caters for the complete beginner as well as those with moderate metalworking experience. For more details call 01305 215215.
Simon Grant-Jones with college principal Clare Davison and students in the college's new forgework department.
3 February 2011 - Devastated Blacksmith gets a helping hand
A HCT trained blacksmith who recently had equipment worth more than £1000 stolen from her forge, has had replacement equipment donated to her from The Rural Crafts Centre at Herefordshire College of Technology’s Holme Lacy Campus.
Lucille Scott described herself to the local press as ‘absolutely devastated’ by the theft from her home in Eastney. Having trained for a year with HCT, Lucille had returned to her home to start up her own business, ‘The Little Duck Forge’.
Blacksmith tutor Adrian Legge commented, 'We were saddened and angry to hear that the forge hearth that she had made as part of her Foundation Course last year had been stolen. Happily, we had a spare part-finished forge in our stores, and it gave us great pleasure to be able to help Lucy out by donating this forge to her so that she could continue to develop her business.'
Lucille is a talented and hard working blacksmith and we have no doubt that the forge is now in a good home and will soon be getting metal hot in the construction of fantastic forged ironwork.
Blacksmith Lucille Scott (left) being given equipment from Rural Craft Technician Glynn Rudge (right)
3 February 2011 - The Heritage Crafts Association Year in Brief - 2010
2010 was a fantastic year for traditional crafts and for the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA) in particular. Here, Robin Wood, chairman of HCA shares a few of the highlights.
We started the year with the prediction on our blog that 2010 would be the year that traditional crafts became recognised as part of our heritage and ended with John Penrose the Heritage Minister giving us a statement recognising 'crafts which are valuable parts of our heritage'.
In January we became a registered charity. That month we also sent out an online survey for traditional craftspeople, which resulted in valuable information about the state of the industry. This was later used in a BBC news item.
In March we held our official Launch and Heritage Forum at the V&A museum in London, at which many craft guilds and societies came together to discuss how we could work together for a vibrant future for traditional crafts. If you missed it, details, results of everyone's input and transcripts of speeches are all online http://www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/forum.html
Crafts were in the limelight on TV with Monty Don fronting 'Mastercrafts' and HCA Patron Alex Langlands copresenting 'Edwardian Farm'. Direct HCA successes included helping the country’s last sievemaker find a successor before he retired, thus saving the craft from extinction and, working with others, saving the respected NETS course at Hereford.
In June we launched our 'Craft Map', a free service that allows craftspeople to input their data, and customers to find local craftspeople. This will soon be updated with a searchable database to make it more accessible for people wanting to find the best traditional crafts online.
HCA also worked with CCSkills to write the National Occupational Standards for craft, and are helping them to take these forward. This is the first stage in a long process towards getting funding for accredited training and apprenticeships.
In July we publicised the book by Matt Crawford Shop Class as Soul Class later published in the UK as 'the case for working with your hands'. This book has since been mentioned by no less than four government ministers. John Hayes of the Department for Business innovation and Skills went as far as calling for a new Arts and Crafts movement. He agreed to meet with HCA early in 2011.
In November The UNESCO world heritage list was in the news, despite there being no examples of living heritage from the UK included. This again highlighted that UK heritage policy is lagging behind world heritage policy. Lord Cormack has taken up the HCA cause, and arranged a meeting at the Athenaeum in February to discuss heritage crafts with key invited guests.
We also received generous and welcome donations from the Association of Pole Lathe Turners and Green Woodworkers, The Fletchers Trust and the Dorset Coppice Group as well as many individuals. Since March individuals and groups have been able to join the HCA Friends scheme and have been very generous in their support for our work, which has been much appreciated. See our friends here http://www.heritagecrafts.org.uk/friends.html
We continue to gather examples of crafts under threat such as the historic boatyard at Faversham where the buildings are listed but the boatbuilding skills are not http://traditionalcraftsblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/end-of-line-for-historic-boatbuilding.html to wonderful examples of vibrant traditional crafts, such as saddle making in Walsall or riving slate at Honister in Cumbria.http://traditionalcraftsblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/riving-slate-in-westmorland.html
In September following an HCA initiative Sheffield Council set aside funds and staff time to research into the skills of the City metal trades; this is a six month project with results due in spring 2011. The more evidence we can gather, the stronger case we can make to government.
So 2010 has been quite a journey, and 2011 promises even more progress. We have exciting things planned, such as our spring conference at the V&A on Saturday, March 19, and there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes. We continue to look for day-to-day funding, as the lack of this greatly restricts what we are able to do.
Further details are available from www.heritagecrafts.org.uk
8 December 2010 - Tribute to Isambard Kingdom Brunel - Master Engineer (1806-1859)
By Maurice Greenberg
After some four years planning a tribute to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and making a metre high model of the proposed memorial, the design by Kevin Boys AWCB has been approved by the London Borough of Southwark. Kevin will now begin forging the structure, which is to stand at the Southwark end of Brunel’s pedestrian Thames tunnel in Rotherhithe.
The final structure standing around 15 metres high will be made from double bullnose bar having the same cross section as Brunel’s broad-gauge rails and assembled with hot rivets made from the same section bar. It will have a skeletal outline of Brunel, himself, complete with signatory top-hat, and holding aloft a ring attached to the circumference of which are representations of some of his achievements – the SS Great Eastern, the Tamar Bridge, a locomotive (representing his broad-gauge railway), and the entrance to the pedestrian tunnel beneath the Thames.
I would like to thank Kevin Boys for helping me compile the information for this article.
8 December 2010 - The Gum Tree Memorial Project
By the 12th June the Australian Blacksmiths’ Association had counted over 3000 leaves for the Tree to be constructed as a memorial to those who lost their lives in the horrifying bush fires of 2009. Members of the Association say they are almost at the final count with just a few more leaves to come. The leaves, which have been forged by blacksmiths from over 20 countries across the world including Australia, will all be photographed.
The next stage of the project will be the making of the trunk and the larger branches for which it is hoped sponsorship will be found. Recently, more than 20 Australian blacksmiths gathered at The Branch Forging Workshop to make the many branches and twigs for the tree.
On completion the tree will be installed in a public place in one of the townships affected by the bush fires.
To follow the progress of this amazing project there is now a websitewww.treeproject.abavic.org.au
promoted by The Australian Blacksmiths’ Association.
8 December 2010 - A Floating Forge
When choosing a place to set up a smithy, a canal boat would probably not be most blacksmiths’ first choice; in fact from almost any angle it is not a good choice at all, so what drove Brian Greaves to embark on this path? Brian had run the Craven Forge near Skipton, Yorkshire from 1982 and in 1989 moved onto a narrow boat, Emily, with his wife, Jane. In 1990 he gave up the forge and travelled the English canal network. Brian really loved life on the canal; its interesting characters, the countryside and the wildlife, ever changing views through the windows and exploring new places. After working as a boat builder in a canal boat yard and as a machinist in an engineering factory, he decided he wanted to return to blacksmithing and become self-employed without having to give up his idyllic life travelling the canals. In 1992 he designed the steel, canal tug, Bronte, creating the first ever push tug equipped with a forge. A marine insurance company, befuddled by the prospect of insuring a boat with a forge onboard, made their inspection equipped with a thermometer. They then insisted on the provision of two fire extinguishers, a fire blanket, and doors on the front of the forge.
Brian built Bronte outside Craven Forge. That winter the rains were relentless, flooding the valley floor below the smithy, and Brian was asked whether Bronte was to be the second Noah’s Ark or whether he had been reading too much into the prophecies of Nostradamus. The forge was built into the bow of the boat alongside a hundred-weight anvil, all the tools used by a blacksmith, and a traditional hand-driven bellows which Brian soon discovered was very time consuming to use. With child labour in short supply, he fitted a fan driven by a bank of 12 volt batteries charged by solar panels, or by Bronte’s engine. The workshop is tiny by most standards at seven by nine feet, but has the advantage of everything being close to hand. The smithy’s steel rack accommodates only a third of a standard 20-foot length of steel, which might seem inconvenient, but little is wasted and by halving again a convenient length for working in the forge is produced.
Being surrounded by nature, Brian finds the location on the canal inspiring, bringing out his artistic side. While some of his work is purely traditional, for other pieces he uses a mix of modern and traditional methods for which he has developed his own tools for manipulating the steel into the flowing waves and sinuous curves synonymous with his work.
Brian, his wife and two teenage children live all year round onboard Emily and last winter was the coldest since they moved aboard 21 years ago. Emily is heated by a solid fuel Rayburn Regent. In January, when Emily was stuck in thick ice for three weeks, the Lock Inn Cottage Café in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire, kindly let them fill their water tanks. Water and electricity are finite resources on a narrow boat, so the Greaves family had to learn to be environmentally friendly from day one. The children attend St Laurence comprehensive school in Bradford on Avon, which is within walking distance and when Emily is moored further from town they cycle to school. During the summer holidays Emily and Bronte travel further afield along the River Thames to London or upstream to Oxford and beyond. The children’s school friends love spending a few days on the boat.
So, perhaps not the obvious choice and certainly not one that would appeal to many, but as a lifestyle it suits Brian and his family down to the ground.
The majority of the blacksmithing articles were originally published in the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths Newsletter, 36th Issue, July 2010, and are reprinted here with the kind permission of the editor Nigel Whitehead, email email@example.com
8 December 2010 - Dover Castle - The Great Castle
By Nigel Whitehead
During the latter part of his reign, King Henry II – one of the most powerful rulers in Europe – wanted a palace where he could welcome foreign dignitaries, rulers and ambassadors visiting England at that time. He chose to rebuild Dover Castle, which commanded the shortest sea crossing between England and the Continent, where the first castle had been built by Duke William of Normandy in 1066 and where centuries before an Iron Age hill fort had stood.
The castle was to be a symbol of kingly power and authority guarding the gateway to the realm. Between 1179 and 1188 the castle was completely rebuilt with the grandest of the keeps built during the 11th and 12th centuries, the Great Tower, standing at its heart. It was here within this splendid palace designed for royal ceremony that Henry would greet distinguished visitors to England. For ten consecutive years Henry spent more on Dover than on any other castle in England.
Dover Castle retained a military role for nine centuries until 1958. Responsibility for its upkeep now rests with the owner, English Heritage, which in 2009 began one of its most ambitious projects for many years – the recreation of the entire interior of Henry’s Great Tower as it might have appeared when newly completed, and ready to receive Count Philip of Flanders in 1184.
The project involved historians, designers, artists and craftspeople from across the UK. Some 140 craftsmen, working with a variety of materials, were employed on the project.
In February 2009, N E J Stevenson Ltd, Cabinet Makers to Her Majesty the Queen, contracted Cold Hanworth Forge in Lincolnshire to manufacture, using traditional techniques and materials and paying great attention to historical accuracy and detail, the ironwork required for a large consignment of medieval furniture destined for the Great Tower of Dover Castle. Wyvern Forge from Warwickshire helped with the project, manufacturing the locks and sharing the huge workload, which had to be completed by the end of July.
Pic 1: King’s Chapel grilles & screens made using traditional forge-work techniques
Pic 2: Painted oak chest with hand forged decorative hinges & straps in pig iron
Pic 3: Close-up details of hinge terminations on the Dragon’s chest
Pic 4: Detail of door bolt & hinges of King’s Armoir
Pic 5: Detail view of Ante- chamber grille
8 December 2010 - Profile - Terence Michael Clark FWCB
Thirty-five years ago Terry Clark set up his own workshop to create original functional art as an artist blacksmith. In 1981, he moved to Wildfields Farm near Guildford, a listed building set in rolling grassland, which provides him with times of silence and satisfies his need to be close to nature, and where his large workshop is tucked away in a barn.
Terry feels strongly that all the work he undertakes – from initial design through to completion and installation – should be done by him and his team of smiths. Initial inspiration sometimes develops in conversation with a client, but the design will be seen in conjunction with its location to blend with the environment. Builders and architects are consulted throughout when it comes to gateways and architectural embellishments. Precise drawings and measurements ensure correct proportions with details such as locks and hinges being given equal importance. Terry’s signature is a tiny snail affixed to each of his works.
He edited British Blacksmith magazine between 1980 and 1984 then took up the editorship again in 1999 until 2008, during which time he relaunched the magazine as Artist Blacksmith. He has provided practical demonstrations including one in 1982 for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s ‘Towards a New Iron Age’, in the USA in 2002 and 2004 and at Sotheby’s. In 1991 he was Forgemaster at the first International Forge-in in Ireland and is recognised as one of the leading smiths in Europe. In 1986 he was the first artsmith to have a gate accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in the sculpture category. Having won competitions and prizes for his work, he organised and chaired the International Blacksmithing Conference at Ironbridge, Shropshire in 1985 and 2007.
In 1995, Terry was awarded the Silver Medal of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and in the same year became a Freeman of the City of London. In 2009, he was made Chairman of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association (BABA) and in the same year, together with Alan Dawson, was awarded the Tonypandy Cup by the Company for the International Pillar of Friendship. Also, in 2009, he and his wife, Sally, made history by becoming the first husband and wife to be admitted to the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths on the same day.
As a keen conservationist, Terry enjoys restoring antique metal work, endeavouring to meld restorations into the exact style of the original smiths. These days more of his work is done using stainless steel and some bronze.
As a founder member of BABA Terry believes that he would not have achieved his level of success without the sharing of knowledge and skills of blacksmithing, which the Association offers. His belief is that you should never think of yourself as being more important than your work.
8 December 2010 - Lecturer Forges Timely TV Career
His travels through time have left him missing his Victorian life, especially his period clothing and mutton pie. Kingston Maurward College lecturer, Simon Grant-Jones, is one of the stars of BBC One’s new series ‘Turn Back Time - The High Street’, which was aired at the beginning of November.
The show features a group of modern-day shop keepers - a baker, a butcher, an ironmonger and a grocer – who set up shop in the picturesque market square of Shepton Mallet in Somerset.
Simon Grant-Jones – the show’s ironmonger - and his fellow traders completely immersed themselves in the lives of their trades, living and working exactly how they would have done during the last century, charting how their lifestyles and shops change.
Beginning in the Victorian era the show passes through Edwardian and war-time, before concluding in the retail frenzy of the 1970s.
“I loved every single minute of it,” said Simon, who teaches forge work at the Dorchester land-based campus.
Simon spent four weeks filming the show in five-day segments, returning briefly to his 21st Century life while the programme makers dressed the ‘High Street’ set for the next historical period. “If I could have stayed in the Victorian era I would have, even though it was a hard life,” he said. For him the best part of the experience was discovering a long lost sense of community spirit. “We were all like one big family. That feeling of community had been lost in this day and age and that’s very sad.”
Simon appears in the first four episodes, as by the 1960s blacksmiths had disappeared from British high streets, but Simon stresses his is not a profession under threat.
“People are under the illusion these arts are dying out. But I specialise in things like making tools for traditional craftsmen and we have to be good at what we do.”
Simon has his own forge at his home in Sutton Poyntz and this year became the National Champion Blacksmith after putting his work before judges in qualifying agricultural shows.
8 December 2010 - Ironwork Judging Seminar
During March, Hereford College of Technology hosted an Ironwork Judging Seminar under the direction of Adrian Legge. A series of presentations were made on the Holme Lacy campus covering the role of the National Blacksmithing Competition Committee (NBCC) and its website; the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and the National Champion awards; opportunities for blacksmiths to compete and market their craft; the role of the judge and how the marking criteria work; the role of the show societies and stewards and how the show schedules work.
Later, three examples of each of four categories of ironwork were displayed and visitors were invited to test their judging skills using an official, Judge’s scorecard. The categories comprised ‘live’ items made on the day of the show including examples of a scroll, a door handle and a structural element – overseen by Richard Jones; ‘traditional’ examples including a light, a toast-rack and a candlestick – overseen by Steve Rook FWCB; ‘contemporary’ examples of a candlestick, flowers and an insignia – overseen by Hector Cole FWCB, and ‘blades’, displaying examples of a hunting Bowie knife, a duelling sword and a fighting sword – overseen by Chezz Chescoe.
After much deliberation Adrian conducted a poll on the order of merit in which the ironwork should be placed. The result showed only slight variation in marks awarded for first and second places in each category, which, considering there will be a degree of subjectivity in any judging, was quite satisfying. Then the blacksmiths, who had overseen the individual categories placed the pieces in the order of merit in which they considered them to be giving their reasons. Overall there was fairly close agreement between the amateurs and the professionals.
Members of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths attending included Past Prime Warden Hugh Adams, Adrian Oliver, Steve Rook FWCB and his apprentice Callum Dingwall, Michelle Parker FWCB, Wendy Alford (Secretary to the WCB Judging Committee), Michael Roberts FWCB, Gold Medallist, Robert Hobbs FWCB and Maurice Greenberg. Also present were Melissa Cole, students from the National School of Blacksmithing and other blacksmiths.
Our thanks go to Adrian Legge and his team for organising the event.
8 December 2010 - A marketplace for blacksmiths
By Keith Mahoney (National Championship Blacksmith – 2009)
Having recently left Hereford College (New Entrants Training Scheme) I needed to promote and broaden my business, widen my customer base and establish contacts with smiths in the working environment. My tutors had often spoken about the National Blacksmith Competition held at County Shows throughout the country so I found all the information online (www.blacksmithscompetition.co.uk) but had left it late. The first show began in four days but, reassuringly, tickets and passes were left for me at the showground gate.
So it was with some trepidation I arrived and entered the craft tent cradling my ironwork. Other competitors were already busy labelling and arranging displays of their work. Any nervousness soon evaporated as I was swept into the pre-show build up, and I was to experience a similar atmosphere at all the shows I attended over the summer of 2009. Outside the craft tent the live competitions were attracting large groups of onlookers and with the static displays within there was much to see.
The craft show had provided a wonderful platform for me to meet other smiths who encouraged me with hints and tips. The blacksmith’s craft can be quite solitary at times, but here was an opportunity to share experiences, promote myself, distribute business cards and sell my ironwork.
It was rewarding meeting the public and explaining how items could be forged and joined without the use of a mig welder, thus keeping the craft of the Blacksmith alive. Attending the shows is a commitment, but the rewards outweighed any concerns I previously had.
Returning home after attending my first show, I knew the next day would not only be spent following up enquires and contacts made but also arranging the schedule for the next show, as I did not want to leave matters to the last minute. Also - I had in my mind a project for next year.
8 December 2010 - Surrey Docks Farm Forge
By Maurice Greenberg
On a fine but chilly morning in March members of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths visited the Forge of Kevin Boys AWCB at Surrey Docks Farm, Rotherhithe. Their purpose was to watch cadets from the Southwark sea cadet force and Westminster NW Sector 232 ACF having their first experience of working in a blacksmith’s shop.
The cadets elected to fabricate copies of their cap badge. Before any work began Kevin explained the workings of the forge, the need to wear protective gloves and goggles, and the use of the correct tools. He also stressed that metal being used was hot even if it was not glowing.
Large scale sketches of the badges to be used as working drawings were made then, under the expert and eagle eye of Kevin and his assistant, Josh Smellin and with help from four apprentices, work began. The cadets’ enthusiasm was very evident as each attempted part of the fabrication.
The material used was steel bar and sheet, which was cut, bent, twisted, riveted and hammered. By the end of the day a very creditable result had been achieved.
Representing the Company were The Clerk, Christopher Jeal, Past Prime Warden Hugh Adams, Adrian Oliver and Maurice Greenberg and Freeman Stuart Davis.
8 December 2010 - Doll's House Doorstop
By Nigel Whitehead
Whilst serving as Lord Mayor, Sir David Brewer considered it inelegant having to scrabble around using wooden wedges to hold open the massive doors of the Lord Mayor’s office in Mansion House. To overcome the problem two blacksmiths were invited to produce designs for doorstops. The design by Gold Medallist Bob Hobbs was chosen and the finished doorstops were displayed at the Company’s Banquet in 2007.
At this year’s Banquet a miniature paperweight, in the style of the doorstops and made by Bob Hobbs, was presented to The Lord Mayor, Alderman Nick Anstey by the Prime Warden, Sir David Brewer.
We were very grateful that the Lord Mayor, Lady Mayoress and Sheriffs, with their escorts, were able to attend the Banquet. We hope that the paperweight will remind the Lord Mayor of an enjoyable and successful year in office and his evening with the Blacksmiths Company as his papers remain firmly anchored to his desk.
14 October 2010 - Heritage Blacksmith 'skills for the future' launch
At Hampton Court Palace on July 20, the National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) proudly announced a new initiative to address the lack of craft training in the historic ironwork sector, made possible by a £350,200 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant awarded under its ‘Skills for the Future’ programme. The NHIG Bursary Project is the first specialised course for Blacksmiths Conservators providing heritage-specific training for advanced students of blacksmithing. The project is widely supported in the cultural heritage sector. Currently heritage ironwork, which is a specialist arm of our built heritage, is under-represented in both education and standards and the NHIG bursary project directly addresses this need.
Kevin McCloud, author, broadcaster and designer said:
'I’m delighted that the National Heritage Ironwork Group exists to promote the conservation of historic forged metal. As a former forge-owner, I know the value of training and traditional skills in this most specialised of disciplines and have often marvelled at the ability of a talented smith to form a penny-end from a bar of iron or the wriggling, fluid shape of a water-leaf or acanthus from a piece of plate. When the traditions of a craft are not taught, it instantly dies. The NHIG bursaries project keeps the torch of learning alive, through study of historical metalwork and the teaching of the craft.'
Bill Martin, Conservation Director for English Heritage, said:
'The field of architectural metals conservation has for too long awaited a framework to successfully bind together the essential skills of the metals conservator and the conservation blacksmith; the aims of the National Heritage Ironwork Group will go a long way to deliver this. English Heritage fully support these aims and we intend to contribute in every way that we can to ensure their successful development.'
Adrian Phillips, Surveyor of the Fabric for Historic Royal Palaces said:
'With further conservation work to do on the Tijou Screen at Hampton Court Palace over a number of years, we are keenly aware not only of the philosophical complexities involved but of the scarcity of appropriately skilled crafts people to carry out the work. We believe that this project will make a difference to us and to the heritage sector as a whole, by making those skills more widely available.'
The Tijou Screen at Hampton Court, made in 1690 by smith Jean Tijou and acknowledged as one of the finest examples of the work of the artist blacksmith, provided the perfect backdrop for the day and will continue to provide an invaluable learning resource for the new training project.
Sixteen experienced students will benefit from one year’s full-time practical skill based training delivered in specialist workshops around the UK. This will be enhanced by a dedicated six week course of intensive study in heritage blacksmith skills to deliver underpinning knowledge at Hereford College of Technology. Anyone interested in applying for a placement will find more information at www.nhig.org.uk. The launch raised awareness of the need for developing and promoting good practice and was well attended by a wide range of representatives from the built heritage sector.
14 October 2010 - Securing the future of our rich heritage of wrought ironwork
The National Heritage Ironwork Group is seeking students and workshops to participate in its Heritage Blacksmith Bursary project, which it is running thanks to a £350,200 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant awarded under its ‘Skills for the Future’ programme, subject to approval of the NHIG training plan.
Are you interested in learning the advanced skills of restoration work? If so the NHIG’s Heritage Blacksmith Bursaries project will offer practical skill based training in the conservation of historic ironwork to semi-skilled blacksmiths over the age of 19 years delivered in a workshop environment. This will be enhanced by underpinning knowledge delivered by block release at Herefordshire College of Technology. Bursaries will last for 12 months with each student receiving £15,000 to cover all their costs for the duration of the project. The first eight students will start their course in February 2011, and application is open to all UK resident candidates with some forge work experience.
Student expressions of interest for the 2011/12 placements must be received by 26 November, following which an application form will be sent out with interviews starting in December 2010. The project's final eight places, starting February 2012, will be advertised in 2011.
Lack of formal qualifications should not be seen a bar to entry on to the programme, and all are welcome to apply. Selection will be in the form of personal interview supported by portfolio.
The bursaries are intended to encourage those with a keen interest in our ironwork heritage to submit applications who might otherwise have been unable to access other training provision.
Although previous smithing experience is preferred, applicants with relevant experience in general metalwork and/or conservation skills are welcome.
Is your workshop undertaking any interesting restoration projects in the next 12 months? If so, the NHIG is seeking Heritage Blacksmith Bursary student placements in workshops competent in the restoration of wrought ironwork. If your workshop is able to offer work-based training and experience in practical heritage smithwork then please let us know if you could host students. The timing and length of placements is flexible and will be agreed on an individual basis with each workshop with the initial selection of workshops taking their first students in February 2011.
To express your interest please register with the NHIG secretary sending your full contact details (name, email, postal address and telephone numbers) to Bethan Griffiths, NHIG, 7 Tillingbourne Mews, The Street, Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9AG, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit www.nhig.org.uk for more information
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