Archive for the ‘blacksmith’ Tag

Story Snippet: The Old Forge

This morning found myself by The Old Forge in Mill Hill (London NW7), my childhood neighbourhood. It sits at the bottom of The Ridgeway, a road running along the crest of a line of hills. It is just beneath the old convent (St Joseph’s) where my mum used to take us for some reason to meet a nun called Sister Theo and where in 2011 we filmed Jamie’s Dream School for Channel 4 with the 3Rs: Rankin, Rolf (Harris) and Robert (Winston). Here’s one of the brilliant pictures Rankin (who hails from adjacent Edgware) took on that shoot:

Rankin Jamie's Dream School Channel 4

As I was explaining to Enfant Terrible No. 2 that this white clapboard building which comes to a point at the junction of The Ridgeway and the road beneath the convent (once famous as a training place for missionaries) was the site of Mill Hill Village’s blacksmith and when I was a boy a tea shop (where I went with my friend Daniel Glinnert). As I was explaining an old fella emerged from round the corner, doing some gardening. He explained the place had been in his wife’s family for generations, that her father (grandfather?) had been the last smithy and asked us to guess what year the forge finally closed. I was miles out – it was 1932. He went on to describe how the focus had been on shoeing, not horses, but oxen. And then he shared a little known fact: oxen cannot stand on three legs (unlike horses). They had to build a special tight pen so that the ox could lean over while being shod. It’s fabulous what stories come to light in everyday life.

There used to be bee hives by the forge at the adjacent cottage (which used to be on the same family’s land, now sold off). They are gone now, the bees caught a disease. That little corner where the forge was is a just-about-hanging-on vestige of a lost age which you can really sense at that spot.

the old forge mill hill london nw7

the old forge mill hill london nw7

the old forge mill hill london nw7

the old forge mill hill london nw7

the old forge mill hill london nw7

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