Bid for a bit of blacksmith's history

It is a genuine piece of Norfolk's living history and next month it will be put up for grabs, bringing to an end a family association of nearly 100 years.

It is a genuine piece of Norfolk's living history and next month it will be put up for grabs, bringing to an end a family association of nearly 100 years.

For more than 60 years Jack Barber has worked out of the blacksmith's forge at the picture postcard village of Heydon, shoeing horses, fixing wagon wheels and making striking ornaments.

Before him, his father Dick was at the helm, having taken on the forge near Aylsham as a business as far back as 1912.

Now the antiquated equipment used by the Barbers, much of it extremely rare simply because of its age, plus many of the items made by Jack, will go under the hammer at auction.


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Jack is retiring at the age of 78, having worked in the forge since the age of 14. Although the forge has been largely inactive for the past six years, Jack has still been there on a regular basis, doing “bits and pieces” and teaching tourists and locals alike about the art of blacksmithing and how it used to be done in times past.

Rows and rows of usable horse shoes in all shapes and sizes, weather vanes, a bench, hand made tools, anvils and binder parts will be joined in the sale by a number of striking one-offs.

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A life size mare and foal made from horse shoes, which have stood at the entrance to the forge for the best part of 20 years and have become an iconic part of the image of the dead-end village, look set to attract a huge amount of interest.

A rocking horse, also made of horse shoes and painted gold, will be a highly unusual lot. And there will also be an old, rare 'dumb jockey' - a device strapped to a horse and loaded with a weight in a sack to help teach a young horse how to carrying a rider.

“It is all going, lock, stock and barrel,” said Mr Barber.

“It will be a very sad day, places like this just don't exist anymore and it means a huge amount to me. I worked here for more than 60 years, learnt the trade here under my father and it's a large part of my life.

“To think how many hundreds or thousands of times have I walked in and out of this door and within the next few weeks it will end.”

During his time at the forge the world has become a very different place, said Mr Barber.

“I used to come in here and watch my father working and help him. He would see a friend go past on a bike and say 'I'm going for a pint, you carry on with this job'.

“That was my training. These days it's all computers and college, I wouldn't be any good at that, I don't even know where the diesel goes in the computer!”

He also spoke of his memories of the job: “You had to be very, very strong, your average horse takes the best out of you, they don't just stand there and pick their feet up!”

What happens next at the forge is unclear, said Mr Barber, as once he has sold his equipment he will move out and the lease with the Heydon estate will cease. But he hopes someone might consider carrying on the blacksmithing tradition in one form or another.

Mr Barber has also run the Duke's Head in Saxthorpe and used to drive the Holt Flyer, a horse drawn cart which ran between the steam railway station near Holt into the town centre.

t The sale is being handled by Keys and will take place at the forge on October 13, starting at 11am, with viewing from 8.30am. Refreshments will be available at the nearby Earle Arms.

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