Sunday, January 30, 2011

Not Just Any Old Iron.......

Over the years I must have opened and closed hundreds of gates during country walks and I've always been intrigued by the wide range of traditional latches and fastenings, many made locally by blacksmiths. These are now being replaced by modern, mass-produced galvanished versions, which I doubt will be anywhere near as durable as the rusty iron originals. This hook for a chain fastening is on a gatepost on the footpath to Aydon Castle, near Corbridge.

One of things I like about the originals is that, many years after they were made, you can still see the marks where the blacksmiths hammer crashed into red-hot iron, sending out a shower of sparks. Every piece is unique.
















There was once a substantial rural industry in small iron objects like this made in local smithies. Chains, forged a link at a time ....



... sometime with a distinctive twist.


Not all of these objects are hand-made - I suspect this lovely nail, with its spiral twist that would make it very difficult to pull out, must have been made by some mass-production process - but rust adds a lovely patina to the surface.

Here's a combination of cast iron and wrought iron, at the entrance to a bridge over the River Tees downstream from High Force.

I particularly like this chain and swivel hook, forged from thick wire, that dangles from a gate on the fells above St. John's Chapel in Weardale.


Generations of hands that have pushed aside this iron gate latch have polished the surface smooth.


Time takes its toll and eventually they'll all rust away - the last vestiges of the small, everyday objects that were once turned out in slack periods by rural blacksmiths, until a bigger job came along.


 

14 comments:

  1. These are works of art and being made from wrought iron are very corrosion resistant. The nail with the twist could well be hand forged. Square section bar would be used then headed in a die.
    PS thanks for the Corbridge information. No harm in knocking on the door and asking. Northumberland is not the friendliest place to visit so I will probably be sent packing.

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  2. Great examples of a dying art Phil. One problem is that those few who still hand make such things now charge an arm and a leg for the simplest job - round here anyway.

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  3. Wonderfully made and beautiful items that have really stood the test of time. Lovely photographs!

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  4. Beautiful objects.... wonder where they will end up when they are replaced by the galvanized? They'd make an amazing historical collection, or a great supply pile for a mixed-media sculptor.

    I love the angle from which you shot the top photo, at first glance, I thought it was a post in an earthwork/labyrinth or something, but now I see the mossy, very weathered tree rings. Another beautiful thing.

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  5. Not everyone appreciates these relics. It's nice to see them. :)

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  6. Like Adrian says, works of art.
    If only they could speak......

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  7. What an uplifting posting, looking at the everyday and realising the everyday, often overlooked were once, made by craftsmen for a purpose, all of which took thought and deed.

    I feel the same about stones in a building, someday in the past someone put that there; who were they and what were they thinking at the time.

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  8. Hi Adrian, definitely works of art, made by people who had an eye for an elegant curve...

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  9. Hi John, I think a lot of their charm lies in their simplicity - beauty and functionality roled into one..

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  10. Thanks Lesley, they all have their own sounds too - the snick of catches, jangling chains...

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  11. Simple beauty Valerianna - I guess archaeologists of the future will excavate them from the soil and appreciate the craftsmanship...

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  12. Hi Ellen, I'd certainly miss them if they disappeared...

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  13. I know what you mean Keith, I'd love to meet the people who made them...

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  14. Hi Wessex Reiver, it's good to think that the care and skill that went into making them, by people who have long gone, is still appreciated - even though we don't know who they were

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