End of an era for blacksmiths' workshop

In the words of the auctioneer it was 200 years of history which went under the hammer in the space of two-and-a-half hours.

In the words of the auctioneer it was 200 years of history which went under the hammer in the space of two-and-a-half hours.

As hundreds of people descended on what is usually one of the quietest villages in Norfolk, thanks to its lack of a through-road and subsequent "dead end" status, 78-year-old Jack Barber watched with quiet reflection as the contents of his blacksmith's workshop were slowly but incessantly dispersed.

The spectacle attracted a mix of people, some with specific buying intentions, general dealers, many of Jack's friends and family and a fair few idle spectators who knew they were watching the end of a unique slice of the county's colourful history.

For more than 60 years Jack had 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.

A blacksmith has operated from the site for even longer than that, with estimates running to 200 years.

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At Saturday's sale gentle Norfolk humour was at the fore as the so-called "feudal" village came to a standstill for the auction.

At one stage, auctioneer Martyn Fox, of Keys in Aylsham, began to call for bids on a four-foot steel garden bench made by Jack, using horseshoes in the back and at the feet.

Realising with a glance there was an elderly lady sitting on the bench he was about to sell, Mr Fox said: "I need a bid for the bench - and contents!"

While boxes of nuts, bolts and tools were sold alongside wooden scythes, boot scrapers, push mowers, scrap metal, a rabbiting spade, anvils, horseshoes, rocking horses and a host of items too long to list, there was an undoubted highlight of the sale.

When the auction finally came to lots 197 and 198, the entire crowd fell silent for the first time in the day.

Made from horseshoes, the lifesize mare and foal, which have stood outside the forge for around 20 years and which are said to be known to tourists around the world, were expected to attract significant attention.

Both lots saw lively bidding, with the mare selling for £2,250 and the foal for £1,700. Different buyers for the two lots mean they will be split up.

Auctioneer Mr Fox said: "Jack is a lovely old boy, the sort which is fast disappearing.

"He is very well liked and it was an incredible sale, so I expected to see a lot of people.

"It is such a heady combination. Not only is it a blacksmith, but it is a working blacksmith. It has also been in the same family since 1912 and then it has been a blacksmith's shop for some 200 years.

"Add to that the fascinating setting of Heydon. You just have to look at all of that and appreciate how unusual a day it has been."

Mr Fox added: "It has been an absolute joy to

be involved in this, although on the other hand we have been witness to 200 years of history disappearing in two-and-a-half hours."

Although apparently enjoying the social side of the auction, Mr Barber himself admitted: "I didn't sleep a wink last night. It's a strange day. It means a huge amount to me.

"To think how many hundreds or thousands of times have I walked in and out of this door."

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