Forging ahead with tradition

This Is Wiltshire: Former accountant turned blacksmith Marc Hart at the family forge which was last used in 1982 Former accountant turned blacksmith Marc Hart at the family forge which was last used in 1982

A dream has come true for accountant Marc Hart, who is forging a new career in the Aldbourne village smithy which had been shut for 30 years since the death of his great uncle Alan Liddiard.

After Mr Liddiard, 66, died from a brain tumour in 1982, his parents, who lived next door to the Old Forge in The Square at Aldbourne, let the furnace go out and locked the door. It remained that way until a few months ago, when Mr Hart decided on his career change.

Len and Elsie Liddiard both died last year knowing that their grandson Marc, who they had helped raise, had a dream of re-opening the forge and giving up his career as a building society accountant. Some redundancies in his department at the Nationwide head offices in Swindon earlier this year gave Mr Hart, 47, the spur to follow his dream and unlock the blacksmith’s shop frozen in time.

His friends, time-served blacksmith Eddie Payne and former metalwork teacher Malcolm Rouse, who both live in Aldbourne are helping him with his new career.

Amazingly, although the fire had gone out in the forge three decades ago it took just one match, some paper and kindling, to get it going again.

Mr Hart has the full support of his wife Kate, and his three sons, Lloyd, 13, Noah, seven, and Lachlan, six, love popping into the forge next door to the village library. Noah is already showing he has blacksmithing in his blood, said his father, and this year when the family was preparing to re-open the blacksmith’s shop he made his mum an iron poker for Mothers’ Day.

At the same age as his sons are now, Mr Hart said he used to call round to the forge from his grandparents’ house next door and watch his Uncle Alan working at the anvil.

Now, instead of sitting at a desk all day with a computer, Mr Hart can be found pounding steel bars on the anvil that was last used by his great uncle, heating iron bars in the glowing forge, or carrying out small repairs for people bringing in their lawnmowers and garden tools.

The blacksmith’s shop, with its interior walls blackened by years of smoke from the forge, is also a curiosity shop, with scores of items made by not only Alan Liddiard but his father and grandfather before him, and fascinating reminders of the days with the village smithy made or mended virtually all everyday metal items.

Mr Hart said: “I was asked to open up the forge for the village festival in 2010 by villager Chris Warrington – who died earlier this year.

“His grandson Ted, who is a farrier, came to help together with Malcolm Rouse.

“I was still working at the time but that inspired me to follow my dream and open it again.

“My wife always knew it was my dream and she has been right behind me since I discovered in March that there were to be some redundancies in my section at Nationwide, and I decided to literally follow my dream.”

With the help of Mr Payne and Mr Rouse, Mr Hart is already taking commissions for decorative work.

He is planning to invite a farrier to work with him two or three days a week shoeing horses.

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