Pictured Above: Apprentice farrier Ben Tanner, left, and blacksmith James Dean perform a forging demonstration at the opening of the newly restored Forge in the Moor. Photo: Western Morning News
The sound of hammer on anvil returned to a Westcountry village recently after an absence of 60 years.
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all can get their horses — including that grey mare — shod in Widecombe-in-the-Moor after farrier Nick Rule restored a 300-year-old forge.
Rule, who says he felt “driven” to bring back the ancient craft to the moorland village, was joined for the official opening of the Forge in the Moor by some of Britain’s best-known equestrians whose horses he shoes.
Devon gold-medal-winning Olympian Mary King cut the ribbon as her daughter Emily, also an international eventer, looked on.
A crowd gathered to watch him shoe Jimmy, a colored cob, who pulled a carriage driven by British champion Rosanna Walters-Symons.
“It feels amazing to reopen the forge,” says Rule, as the sound of church bells mixed with the ring of blacksmith James Dean’s hammer on the anvil. “It brings more life to the village and that ancient craft, another dimension. I think it will be popular with tourists. It’s another attraction.”
The building was in use for at least 250 years until the mid-1950s when the flames died in the forge and the smithy fell silent.
Rule says he always wanted to have a forge on Dartmoor and that ambition was realized in 2015 when he bought the empty shell, saving the building from being converted into a home.
He invested tens of thousands of pounds rebuilding the forge and hearth, replacing the lintel, putting in a new floor and adding a viewing area with an oak screen. There is also a gallery selling Dean’s work, and Rule has taken on an apprentice farrier, Ben Tanner.
Rule, who rents the house adjoining the forge, says the smithy had been well received by the village.
“It is a noise that travels, but it’s not an imposing sound,” he says. “The old forges are disappearing. Every village used to have one. There used to be two others within a mile of here. When I bought the forge it looked like it was going to be converted into a home. Quite lot of had been done for that. When the previous owner heard what I was doing he said he was delighted.”