Blacksmiths in the past & today

Almost every town and village in England has houses and streets name after forges, blacksmiths or farriers.

Blacksmiths were needed at one time or another by homes, farmers and businesses to make and repair gates, hinges, fire pokers and many metal tools and objects. Those objects where often very practical, but sometimes would have ornamentation to bring some joy to their use.

Do we still need blacksmiths today, when something is broken or doesn’t work properly, don’t we just replace it?

It seems that a growing number of British people are deciding to do what they can to repair, rather than replace, as shown by the appearance of repair sheds, seemstresses and the increasing popularity of tv programmes like The Repair Shop.

If a metal part is broken, rusty, or bent out of shape, rather than dumping it, a blacksmith may be able to make a new part or repair the breakage, extending the life of a useful tool or beautiful object.

Blacksmiths can also make practical objects for houses or gardens – every blacksmith forged item is unique and can demonstrate a rustic beauty that would be hard to achieve in something that is mass produced.

If you’re looking for something unique to add beauty to your home or garden, such as a gate, railing, pagoda, fire poker or companion set, a creative blacksmith will work with you making suggestions and do drawings that will show what’s possible with ancient and modern, forging methods. They will then go on to make a metalworked item that will bring joy for years to come.

Peter Williamson blacksmith

Peter Williamson of Petefire Artist Blacksmith had his first forge in Bushey for six years. He has now been in his new purpose built forge in Hanrox Meadow, Chiswell Green, on the outskirts of St Albans from late 2020.

Peter trained at Hereford College of Art, doing the hands-on and creative Artist Blacksmithing degree. The college has stuck to its arts and crafts base, the blacksmithing students spend at least two days a week working on forges at the nearby Centre for Rural Crafts, the largest training based forge in Europe – where 60 individual forges are housed.

Peter’s parents are originally from Shetland, and this Scandinavian heritage drives his sword and axe making, he carves Viking inspired designs into the handles of some of his decorative weapons.

Peter was born in Watford General Hospital and spent his first years in Watford, before moving to Abbots Langley. He will keep the forge’s connections with Bushey and Watford, but is looking forward to continuing to develop a long relationship with Chiswell Green and St Albans.

Chiswell Green & forge street names

Chiswell Green follows the tradition of other English villages, there’s the Three Hammers pub* and streets with forge in their name. Petefire Artist Blacksmith has leafleted the village and is part of a Chiswell Green community Facebook group. It’s been great to already had enquiries about Blacksmith Forging Experiences and taken on forging commissions from people in the village, St Albans and the local area.

* You can find out more about Pubs in England named Blacksmiths Arms here.

Reasons to contact a blacksmith

Experience days are really popular – and their popularity seems to be increasing. Peter has done blacksmith forging experiences over the last five years, encouraged by the Forged in Fire tv series, Peter intends to develop the forging experiences in the new forge, offering them for larger groups and more in-depth options.

If you have a metalwork commission, refurbishment, repair or commission for a house in a conservation area that you’d like to discuss, please email or phone 01923 350596. You can find more options on our contact page.