The trade of Blacksmithing mushroomed in the 19th Century as this table shows. Subsequently with the growth of mass production all types of iron-based products became cheaper and the Blacksmiths slowly disappeared. The mechanisation of agriculture also reduced the demand for shoeing horses. This national slide continued during the 20th Century until today when most remaining Blacksmiths concentrate on shoeing horses or producing decorative high value items.
Recently however, there has been a marked upsurge in Blacksmithing apprenticeships to satisfy the burgeoning requirements of the ‘Heritage sector’ which is helping to keep these valuable skills alive.
Information for this study has been obtained from
- The National Archives
- Trade directories at historicaldirectories.org
- Deal Library Local Studies Collection
If you want to see Blacksmiths at work today there several to visit. At Branscombe, Devon there is a forge run by the National Trust prioducing the normal handworked range of items such as candle stick holders, hooks, lanterns etc. Another example is Finch's Foundry at Sticklepath, Okehampton, Devon also run by the National Trust. Thiis later one is unique in having water power assistance and huge hammers and in its heyday produced 400 tools a day, still operating with demonstration workings.
Upper Deal Blacksmith
Researched by Sue Buckman