Shropshire Star

Blacksmith Albert's skills won him first prize

Here comes the judge – and it's time for blacksmith Albert Davies to demonstrate his traditional skills.

Blacksmith Albert Davies tries to impress the judge – and succeeds

And thank you to readers who have got in touch to tell us more about this photo from our archives, including Albert's widow, Iris, who is now 88.

"My husband Albert Davies is the smith, and the chap with glasses on the left is Bert Hughes, Albert's uncle, who he used to work for," says Mrs Davies, from Newport.

Iris said Albert worked at Bert Hughes' smithy in Great Chatwell, but when he was about 27 gave it up and went to work in a factory, first at Sankey's and then to Audco in Newport.

He died 10 years ago this year. She says the photo was taken at the Royal Show in Shrewsbury in 1949 – that is the information she has with the copy of the picture she has – which was attended by the then Princess Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh.

Peter Handley senior at work at the Knighton smithy – that's Knighton in Staffordshire – in 1972

Peter Handley, of Moreton Wood Forge, between Tern Hill and Whitchurch, has also been in touch.

"I'm retired now, but I did 50 years as a blacksmith and farrier," he said.

"The gentleman in the suit with the glasses is Eric Webb, who was the man in charge of the Rural Industries Bureau, which later became Cosira – the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas. They used to have an office in Market Drayton.

"I would think the picture was taken probably in the late 1940s, or possibly early 1950s.

"The gentleman standing next to him, slightly bent over, is the judge of the day, Charles Perkin, who was my grandmother's brother. He resided at Endon, which is the other side of the Potteries, heading towards Leek.

"He was a farrier-blacksmith and a Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Farriers. I recognised those two straight away, but I don't recognise anybody else."

He leans towards the picture having been taken at the Shropshire and West Midland Show in Shrewsbury, at which there used to be an annual shoeing competition.

Peter added: "My father, whose name was also Peter Handley, served his apprenticeship under Charles Perkin and then in 1962 my father came from Endon to Knighton, near Woore. Then I started my apprenticeship with him in 1968 and then eventually after my time there my brother Michael Handley joined, and still operates at the smithy with his son Fred.

"I left there in 1986 and came and started at Moreton Wood Forge.

"I still do a bit of blacksmithing. I had to retire from horseshoeing. My son James Peter Handley took the business over and still operates from Moreton Wood Forge.

"When I started my apprenticeship a blacksmith-farrier did all blacksmith work as regards agricultural work and general blacksmithing which could involve all sorts of iron working things. As years have gone by there came a separation where today there are lots of farriers about, who shoe horses for a living, but blacksmiths are becoming less – the term blacksmith got separated years ago and now most people refer to those who shoe horses as a farrier."

Step forward too 73-year-old Michael Dean of Church Aston, who told us: "The photograph was taken in 1949 at the Royal Show in Shrewsbury. It shows Albert Davies competing in the horse shoeing competition. He won the first prize.

"The other people pictured are, from the left, with glasses and peaked hat, Bert Hughes – who was my grandfather – Mr Webb, judge Mr Perkin, Joe Griffiths, and Tom Pemberton.

"They were all Shropshire blacksmiths or farriers, within a 10-mile radius of Newport.

"Bert Hughes was a farrier at Weston-under-Lizard in the 1920s to 1930s and then moved to Great Chatwell.

"Albert Davies was my mum and dad's best man at their wedding in 1947, I think it might have been at Sheriffhales. Mum and dad were Beryl and George Dean. Beryl was my grandfather's daughter who was was brought up in Great Chatwell at the farrier's shop. I was born there as well."

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