Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The city blacksmith

click photo to enlarge
During my lifetime I've lived in the country, in towns and in a city. I've always been grateful for that breadth of experience because it taught me that all locations have their advantages, disadvantages and interest. Moreover, I came to realise that the supposed antipathy and incomprehension that separates urban and rural dwellers is something dreamed up by slightly unhinged individuals and interest groups such as the so-called "Countryside Alliance".

When, as a child and youth, I lived in the country I was familiar with the work of the blacksmith. One of my early memories is standing watching the Kirkby Lonsdale smith, Jonty Wilson, at his work in his smithy on Fairbank mending some agricultural implements. Those premises are a smithy still. I also have a number of memories of Alf Limmer on Castlebergh Lane in Settle, shoeing horses, making gates, and fashioning some sledge runners for me. This smithy still exists today too.

But, despite the longevity of these particular premises, there are certainly fewer blacksmiths now than when I was young. However, they can still be found, usually in large villages or small towns, fashioning and repairing metal for domestic and agricultural customers and sometimes shoeing horses too, though mobile farriers seem to do most of this work now. Blacksmiths have always found work in cities and a few still do. Recently, on a short visit to London, I came across one in Rotherhithe. He was working at his forge in Surrey Docks City Farm, a place that aims to give London children a taste of farming, food production and farm animals. We'd been there before with our grand-daughter, but on this occasion I went in by a different entrance and passed the open door of the forge, allowing me to grab this shot as the blacksmith heated the metal he was working on. I added a touch of dark vignetting to my photograph to give emphasis to the figure, his forge and the glow from the flames.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 105mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 2000
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On