“It is not like doing a 9-5 job in the office, it is the only way of life, a 24/7 job.”

It's a skill that dates back hundreds of years but one that has largely died away.

For centuries blacksmiths have slaved next to white-hot fires as they have forged iron and steel into a huge range of creations like weapons, gates and railings.

And in one Norfolk village these traditional methods are still thriving – and soon residents will have a sign to prove it.

Dave Townsend and Wendy Alford have been working on a sign for Haddiscoe for the last six years from their workshop at St Mary's Forge.

They run a business that has helped to restore gates at Regent's Park and ironwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, among a range of other commissions.


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And in between, they have been creating a new village sign using traditional methods.

The sign which features the round-tower of St Mary's Church, an anvil representing the forge, and cows, leaves and a heron showing its rural location by marshes, was originally discussed in 1990, though the parish council did not ask for plans to be submitted until 2006.

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Now after all the painstaking work, it is nearly ready for completion and to be installed near St Mary's Church.

Ms Alford, 54, said: 'We want it to stand as a symbol of good craftsmanship. We've had our ups and downs, with breaks to make a living, but we are now going at it hammer and tongs to get it finished.'

The sign has been a labour of love for the past six years, with hundreds of pieces of metal used to create it. The church alone has taken a month to make due to the layers of metal.

Leaves on top of the sign have also taken three full days of work, as they have been created from a plain piece of steel.

Ms Alford said they do use some modern specialist skills but were committed to traditional methods.

'Blacksmiths are famous for being grumpy, and originally they used to be thought of like shaman and witch acts, as they worked with the four elements to produce something magic from cold metal,' she said.

'They used to be revered and held in high status, but sadly that is no longer the case.'

Mr Townsend, who calls himself an ornamental blacksmith, said that they continue to use traditional skills of medieval smiths in their work.

'It is important to maintain them,' he said. 'We are rigorous defenders of the craft and all the skills.'

Mr Townsend, 68, is so committed to the skill that he has taught people from across the world who have visited him, while he also has two pupils visit every Saturday as he helps to pass the skills on to new generations.

He first started learning about blacksmithing when he was 11 years old, but admits that the craftsmen never stop learning their trade.

'It is a way of life, it is not like doing a 9-5 job in the office, it is the only way of life, a 24/7 job,' he said.

The sign is expected to be completed and unveiled in the autumn.

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