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Barnsley blacksmith celebrates ancient craft on special day with a bang


Thursday 16th November 2017

A Barnsley blacksmith will celebrate St Clements Day with a bang this year.

Nigel Tyas Ironwork, based in Millhouse Green, will pay homage to the patron saint of blacksmiths by carrying out an ancient ritual known as ‘firing the anvil’ on Thursday November 23.

The Mayor of Barnsley Councillor Jeff Ennis and a group of local schoolchildren will be guests of honour at the forge for this ceremony.

Business owner Nigel Tyas said: “November 23rd is St Clement’s Day when we remember the patron saint of blacksmiths, Old Clem, and take a moment to celebrate our ancient craft.”

The tradition of ‘firing the anvil’ dates back to medieval times when village blacksmiths used to pour a little gunpowder into the small ‘hardy hole’ on their anvils and ignite it. This created a bang for dramatic effect, and also to serve the useful purpose of annually testing the integrity of the anvil – if it survived the explosion, it proved it was still sound with no hidden cracks. The firing of the anvil was, naturally, followed by a tour of the local pubs for apples and ale.

Nigel said: “We are passionate about the metalworking craft here at Nigel Tyas Ironwork; and the fact that blacksmithing has really changed so little in centuries, and that we still work on the anvil every day, is worth celebrating I think.

“We’ve invited the Mayor of Barnsley to join us along with some children from Millhouse Primary School, which is just down the lane from the forge. We’d like them to see that we are still making things by hand using many traditional techniques and tools right here in their village. It’s a celebration of Yorkshire manufacturing.”

The Nigel Tyas Ironwork team hand-forges iron lights, lamps, chandeliers, curtain poles and fireside irons and sells them direct to customers across the UK and abroad.

Designer-maker Nigel started his career as a blacksmithing apprentice with the National Coal Board at Elsecar workshops in the 1970s. He then worked for several industrial engineering companies in South Yorkshire before setting up Nigel Tyas Ironwork with his wife Elizabeth in 2000. The business is built on their commitment to keeping traditional ironworking skills alive in the UK.

St Clements has been held up as the champion of the blacksmithing craft for centuries, and is at the heart of a great deal of folklore attached to the trade.

Legend has it that ‘Old Clem’ stood beside the blacksmith when King Arthur was assessing which trade was the best. Arthur crowned blacksmithing the ‘King of Trades’ passing over the tailor, baker, shoemaker, carpenter, butcher and mason for the title. The blacksmith secured his honour because none of the others could pursue their craft without a tool made in the blacksmith’s forge! The others were none too pleased about this, but had to concede it to be true when their shears, knives, pans and chisels needed replacement or repair.

Nigel said: “We like and respect all those other trades but can’t deny we are very proud to hold the title ‘King of Trades’ to this day!”

Nigel will ‘fire the anvil’ and recite St Clement’s ‘Jolly Blacksmith’ song in celebration of his craft at 1.30pm on Thursday November 23rd.

Neighbouring businesses will also be invited to the ceremony. Donations will be collected for the Mayor’s charities the Cure Myeloma Appeal and Barnsley Riding for the Disabled.

Nigel Tyas Ironwork is based at Bullhouse Mill, Lee Lane, Millhouse Green, near Penistone, S36 9NN.



Notes to editor

Attached photograph shows Nigel at work in the forge.

All Nigel Tyas’ products carry the ‘Made in Sheffield’ mark which recognises the quality of the manufactured products and celebrates the company’s close association with the city’s unique metalworking heritage.

For further information, please contact Steph Pollard on 01226 766618 / 0776 196 4492 or steph@nigeltyas.co.uk .

[ click here to download PDF ]

Nigel Tyas working at the anvil

Nigel Tyas working at the anvil


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Nigel Tyas ironwork - Designers of wrought iron lighting curtain poles & fire irons - inspired by the creative & rural heritage of Yorkshire - Established in 2000.

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