THE Cornish Blacksmith has been a formidable figure throughout history — from Michael Joseph, one of the prominent leaders of the Cornish rebellion in 1497, to the blacksmiths who helped build Trevithick’s first steam locomotive — there has been a long succession of skilled smiths, who have helped to shape the fortunes and prosperity of their beloved county.
Modern day blacksmith, Brian Hill, first picked up a hammer at the tender age of seven, when he started working with his father, Ronald ‘Docker’ Hill, the resident blacksmith and engineer at the Delabole slate quarry, earning the nickname, ‘young Docker’.
Brian continued to work evenings and weekends for his father until he was 15, when, in his own words, he started out on his own, securing an apprenticeship with Camel engineering and attending Camborne technical college.
He has worked ever since, and, now into his seventh decade, proudly boasts that he has never been out of work since leaving school.
His skill and dedication has been acknowledged with him being recommended to become a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths of London — an ancient organisation set up at the end of the 13th century to regulate the trade of the blacksmith in the city of London.
Part of that process involved receiving the freedom of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, which then made him eligible to apply for the freedom of the city of London. He will then be free to join the company as a fully-fledged liveryman.
Brian received his freedom of the city at a ceremony at the Guildhall in London in early April, and was presented with his certificate by deputy clerk to the Lord Chamberlain, Laura Miller.
Brian said: “Although my mother and father are no longer with us, I feel that they would have been extremely proud; my mum was a true cockney, brought up in London within the sound of Bow Bells, and my dad was the one who introduced me to the trade and gave me the inspiration to become a blacksmith.”
An avid champion of the craft of the blacksmith, Brian supports the National Blacksmiths competition by stewarding at several of the participating agricultural shows, and even ran the competition at the Royal Cornwall Show in 2013 with his son, Jason, saving the event from closure that year.
He now works from his forge in the pretty Dorset village of Rhyme Intrinseca and although extremely busy still manages to find time to run an after-school club once a week for students at a secondary school in Yeovil, where he previously worked as a part-time technician for 15 years, until his first attempt at retiring, which lasted a few weeks.
Retirement was not for him and he was soon snapped up by Kingston Maurward College in Dorset, where he became a part-time lecturer in blacksmithing and welding and has taught there for the past six years.
Although no longer living in Cornwall, his roots are very firmly planted in the county of his birth. He is proud to be a Cornishman and still spends a great deal of his time visiting family and friends at every opportunity.
He will join the livery of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths in October this year at a ceremony at their awards lunch, held in London.