This is an archived press release
Monday 21 September 2015
The future looks secure for traditional blacksmith skills in the Peak District village of Rowsley.
Bob Brown, who runs Mill Forge at Caudwell’s Mill, took on Daniel Hawker an apprentice two years ago with support from the Peak District National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund. Daniel has now been employed on a permanent basis after completing his apprenticeship.
Mill Forge was awarded a grant of £1,565 when Bob decided to expand the business. He said: “The money was a big help. We needed a new forge and some other tools and equipment, and we also had to update the workshop to accommodate a second person.
“Daniel came in and has done really well, he definitely has a feel for the job. I’m 65 now and I don’t want to be knocking myself out at work for ever!’’
Bob spent most of his working life as a blacksmith at Bentinck Colliery in Nottinghamshire, starting there as an apprentice himself after leaving school at 15. But he says there is quite a difference between his work at the pit and at Mill Forge.
“There it was all engineering based,’’ Bob said. “We can be a bit more creative here, dealing with commissions and trying to produce what the customers ask for.’’
Among the best sellers at Mill Forge are weather vanes, Derbyshire ram door knockers, curtain poles, traditional door hinges and metal window frames.
Bob took voluntary redundancy from the colliery in the early 1990s and decided to make up for the education he never had by gaining a degree as a part-time student at the University of Nottingham.
He had maintained a small workshop in his garage at home but when a chance visit to Caudwell’s Mill in 1996 revealed an empty unit, he set up shop there and has never looked back. “I’ve been really happy here, he says. The business has grown, but in the way I hoped it would. I didn’t want it to become too big, it was important that it was a craft shop.’’
It is a business strategy that suits Daniel, who studied to be a blacksmith and metalworker at college in Warwick. He said: “I have learnt things here they could never teach you in college and it’s great to be able to give the actual craft a go.
“It was really tough to even get interviews when I finished college so I feel very lucky to now have a full-time job doing something I’m passionate about. It’s a nice feeling to be able to listen to the customers and then hopefully create something that they want.’’
Richard Godley, villages and communities officer at the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “It’s great to see Daniel being given a permanent job because this is a rare opportunity for a young person to learn such a traditional skill. We are always looking for ways to promote interest in traditional rural crafts and the forge is proving very popular with visitors, local people and local schools.’’
More information on the Mill Forge website