The Blacksmith was an extremely important member of the local community. His skills were always in demand, whether it be making and repairing items for the Farmers and businesses in his area or producing or repairing household goods. A constant stream of work would have come from shoeing horses (acting as a Farrier). His Forge (usually a single storey building) would often be sited near the centre of the village and close to the pub - this description certainly fits the Forge in Upper Deal which occupied a position on Middle Deal Road in the grounds of Devonport House. The ‘Five Ringers’ pub was a few doors down.
The earliest record we have of a blacksmith is Thomas Brett from the 1821 Tithe Apportionment. In the 1841 census he was aged 67. He was owner occupier of the forge and Devonport House (from the 1843 tithe schedule). He was retired by 1851 but still living in Deal. There then appears to be a succession of blacksmiths until the arrival of Henry Harvey around 1900. By 1903 he is the owner occupier of Devonport House but he rents the forge from Maud Long, 21 Sydenham Street, London at £8 per annum. He appears in all the trade directories and Deal Street Directories up to 1939/40 as a blacksmith. He dies in 1941.
Working iron was a difficult task because of the high temperatures needed. The essence of a forge is a furnace which can be loaded with coke and a flue for the waste fumes. A pair of bellows would be used to blow air through the fire to increase its heat. Iron rods were bought in from the smelters for working into the shapes required. The ends of the rods would be buried in the fire and heated until a yellow orange colour which indicated the optimum temperature for working. The softened rods could then be hammered into shape on the anvil. This was the most important tool the Blacksmith possessed and enabled him to produce any shape that he desired – see diagram.
Although Blacksmiths were always busy they do not seem to have accumulated wealth. In fact a lot of their services were paid for in kind, for example keeping the baker’s horse shoed would be paid for in bread deliveries.
Researched by Sue Buckman
Related page: Blacksmiths in Deal