Branscombe blacksmith forges ahead to be crowned national champion

PUBLISHED: 11:42 04 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:42 04 February 2020

Sending sparks flying in the anvil. Picture; Eric McDonald, National Trust Images

Sending sparks flying in the anvil. Picture; Eric McDonald, National Trust Images

Eric McDonald, National Trust Images

The tenant blacksmith at the National Trust’s Branscombe Forge has been crowned both British static and live forging champion.

A metal gate made by Simon Hall. Picture: Lorna SherriffA metal gate made by Simon Hall. Picture: Lorna Sherriff

Simon Hall's craftsmanship saw off competition from 22 other blacksmiths.

The National Blacksmiths Competition has been held annually since 1986 and the heats take place at several different county shows throughout the spring and summer, including the Devon County Show.

The competition is divided into a 'live' class, where the metalwork is made there and then at one of the county shows, and a 'static' section, in which the piece can be made previously and brought to the county show for judging.

Companion set by Simon Hall. Picture: Lorna SherriffCompanion set by Simon Hall. Picture: Lorna Sherriff

These events also serve to promote the craft of blacksmithing and showcase it to the public.

Mr Hall said: "Competing at the county shows is a fantastic way to meet blacksmiths from across the country.

"It's a good opportunity to talk about new design ideas and techniques.

"Most of the shows now have a visitor vote - this helps us find out what the public like to see and gives us new ideas, some of which have developed into stock items available in the showroom."

Day to day, Simon works at Branscombe Forge, which is cared for by the National Trust. The forge was built in around 1580 and is believed to be the oldest thatched working forge in England.

Blacksmiths would have made ploughs, fishing hooks, metal tyres, axe heads and pig rings, as well as shoeing horses.

Mr Hall said: "Working at Branscombe Forge is pretty amazing and it's an honour to keep the traditional skills of the blacksmith alive inside a building with so much history.

"Blacksmiths have been in my family for generations with my grandad, father and uncle all blacksmiths, and my interest was ignited when I was eight, watching my father at work in the forge.

"I then took it up as a hobby in my teens and became a full time blacksmith about seven years ago."

Lorna Sherriff, National Trust visitor experience manager said: "It's wonderful to be able to keep this traditional craft alive and flourishing in this beautiful thatched building.

"It really brings the history of the place and craft alive to see Simon working there and producing these amazing pieces.

"Visitors love to come and have a look round the small forge shop, and if they are lucky they can see Simon working the forge producing his next piece of metal work."

For more information visit the Branscombe Forge website or the National Trust's Branscombe Forge website

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