A Blacksmith was a key member of society; not only did they provide people with the essential tools of daily life but they sometimes turned their hands to dentistry!
Blacksmithing can be hot work
- A blacksmith works with metal to shape it into useful or decorative objects.
- To shape the metal, it must be heated up, sometimes to temperatures over 1000˚C.
- When blacksmiths hammer and fold the hot iron, they are working in wrought iron. When they pour the molten iron into moulds, they are working in cast iron.
The Victorian Blacksmiths
- Victorian blacksmiths made everything from horseshoes to nails and repaired tools and farm implements.
- The fire would have been kept going in the forge all day.
- Until the eighteenth century, blacksmiths used charcoal as fuel but later coke became more popular because it burned hotter for longer.
- The role of the Blacksmith was very changeable; he was sometimes called upon to act as Dentist, Doctor, Undertaker, Vet and horse dealer.
- He would also usually hold important offices such as magistrate or Church warden and was the obvious choice for these positions as his job demanded a certain level of intellect, numeracy skills and business sense.
- Due to the rapid industrialisation during the Victorian era, blacksmiths became less and less important.
- Since the industrial revolution, the number of blacksmiths continued to decline but it is now being revived as an artistic craft. Mainly due to the public who have shown a genuine interest in buying handcrafted items such as candle holders, garden gates and wrought iron beds
- The techniques and tools used by blacksmiths today have changed very little. Many choose to be as traditional as possible, although some use ‘power hammers’ which are particularly heavy and therefore more powerful than those which were available to the Victorian blacksmith.
*Trading Places Project:
‘Trading Places’ began in October 2013 and is a 4 year project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project provides a unique programme of activities and events in the Nene Valley, working with the villages and towns from Wellingborough to Thrapston.
‘Trading Places’ has a focus on the local trades, skills and lives of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and involves re-enactors, storytellers, crime historians and traditional crafts people to help local communities and schools to connect with, enjoy and understand the history of their local area.
An important element of the project’s work has been to set up a traditional skills training programme for young unemployed people from the area; giving them opportunities and experiences that they can build upon. An oak ‘Training Barn’ was constructed at Stanwick Lakes in early 2014 and is now the venue for a range of traditional skills courses; the programme provides training in Blacksmithing, Shoe Making, Green Woodworking, Basketry and Dry Stone Walling.
Please visit the Trading Places website for details of courses we offer for the public http://tradingplacescrafts.org.uk/