Looks at the lives of craftsmen who forged a living by working with iron
he dictionary definition of a blacksmith is quite simply someone who works with iron, as opposed to a whitesmith who works with tin. As such, this can be considered a very old occupation probably dating back to somewhere around 1000 BC, when iron was first smelted from its ore. It is the way in which the ore was smelted that is crucial to the whole story.
We do not need to look as far back as ancient history, but instead can pick up the story in medieval times. The fuel used in the furnaces was charcoal and the end product was a very pure form of iron, which we know as wrought iron. Seen under a microscope, it has a seemingly fibrous texture and this gives it a very special property – it can be bent and shaped without fracturing. Although cast iron was simpler to make and very strong under pressure, it snaps under tension and could never be shaped by a blacksmith.
For centuries, the working of iron took place in forges, and the blacksmith became a vital part of society and local communities. Every town and village relied on him for a whole range of products that could be made from iron, from hinges for a door to cutlery and chains. In small farming communities, the blacksmith was also the farrier responsible for shoeing horses.
From the Middle Ages onwards, the work of the blacksmith changed very little. The forge was always at the heart of every community, a distinctive building, often with an open frontage and with a large chimney over the hearth. Iron can only be worked when it has been heated to a very high temperature, so the hearth was connected to bellows – usually worked by an
Every town and village relied on the blacksmith for a range of iron products