We arrived at Bartington Forge and peered into the workshop to see Peter Wilson hammering two molten pieces of metal together. We waited until the sparks had died down before introducing ourselves.
Peter Wilson is a second generation blacksmith at Bartington forge. He works from a beautiful setting, set back slightly from a canal, overlooking Cheshire’s green fields. The building itself is steeped in history, dating back to the First World War when it was a coal dump. There are reminders dotted around about the age of the building such as the air raid shelter sign which still sits on the wall at the front. Inside it’s dark, but the natural light bursts through the open door and windows, and the warm orange glow rises from the forge like an early morning sunrise. There is a huge selection of tools, mostly handmade, hung up on the walls and a number of industrial machines that catch your eye, but the whole workshop centres around the forge and the classic blacksmith anvil. Peter says “They say the master of all trades is the stone mason but I would say it’s the blacksmith. You have to have tools before you can make anything. We make the tools.”
Peter’s dad, David now retired, bought the place after leaving the army and set up the black smiths forge. Peter took over at the age of 22 but was tinkering away from the age of 11 in his dads workshop. He has always been interested in producing things with his hands and it seemed only right to carry on the business. He now works on various types of blacksmithing from traditional equipment repairs to bespoke pieces. We were introduced to Peter through Hugh Miller, who had worked with him on a project with a church in Chester. Hugh handled the woodwork side of the job and Peter designed and made a metal cross with wheat detailing. Both were quality designs, finished to a highly professional degree. Peter works collaboratively on quite a lot of projects, but states that “as long as I’m stood next to my fire and anvil I’m happy. I just love making things and finding new engineering solutions with traditional blacksmith techniques.”
With all the people we have met so far it is obvious to see that there is a huge satisfaction from producing things by hand. The whole process of blacksmithing…. firing, melting, hammering, shaping and manipulating strong material into brilliant shapes and designs must take that achievement to another level. You would be hard pressed to find an occupation where you work in a darkened room, practically overheat standing next to a fire all day, have to wear protective gear so you don’t go blind or burn your skin, destroy any clothing you have and be covered in black metal dust, but feel completely satisfied and happy with your days work and smile as often as Peter does. His is a labour of love and it was a privilege to be there to witness it.