One Saturday, in late September 2015, two friends and myself went over to the Branscombe Autumn Fayre, and whilst there I also took some photos of the nearby forge. We decided to visit the village on the next day too, to look at the Old Bakery and Manor Mill, which also gave me another opportunity to take some more photos of the forge and a few of Forge Cottages, which can just about be seen on the opposite side of the lane in the photo below.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, these four buildings all belong to the National Trust and can be visited one after the other on a very pleasant walk. The Forge is the first of these.
Originally listed as Smith's Shop at Margels Bridge, this Grade II building is reputed to have been built circa 1580, which makes it the oldest working thatched forge in Devon. However, the British Listings says otherwise; that it is dated to the late 18th to early 19th century. I haven't been able to discover conclusive evidence one way or the other, but the early listings are occasionally inaccurate - often due to rebuilding or extensive renovation. The16th century information comes from the National Trust's own website, therefore it would be nice to assume that they have done more research about the building. However, the A-frame trusses have been dated to the late 18th century, therefore it may well have been rebuilt at that time.
A single-storey building of exposed stone rubble with an iconic thatched roof, the plan comprises an open-fronted shelter to the front and an adjoining former woodshed to the right. The roof is hipped at the left of the building and half-hipped to the right, which continues down over the woodshed and on the shelter. There are two doorways; the left door a replacement one made of plank, the right door being blocked. Each have an unglazed externally shuttered window to the right. The former woodshed now houses the main doorway to the showroom, the left door for the blacksmith's forge and workroom.
A delightful reminder of the past is the circular metal plate set into the cobbled courtyard beneath the overhang. Called a Hooping Plate, it was used to fit the metal rims onto cart wheels. After measuring the wooden wheel around the rim, a strip of tyre iron was cut, heated, rolled into a circle and welded to join the ends. To expand it, the tyre was heated again and slipped around the wheel on the hooping plate, then quickly cooled with a bucket of water to prevent the wheel from catching fire. Cooling also made the metal shrink to fit tightly on the rim.
The central forge has been dated to the 19th century and is still in use. Although this particular forge isn't used to make cart wheels nowadays, there are master wheelwrights & coachmakers in nearby Colyton, who still use the traditional methods.
The current blacksmith is Andrew Hall, much of his work of a more decorative nature, including light fittings, candle holders, and house signs, along with the more practical wrought iron gates and brackets, etc.
Across the lane is Forge Cottages (below), which is the next of the National Trust buildings on the walk. The page can be accessed here.
More photos of The Forge can be seen in the Photo Gallery album, along with these.