Will Pegram is hoping that he can inspire a new generation.
In fact, his specific wish is that, in a couple of years’ time, a young person will say, ‘I once knew a guy who made a coat hook for me’.
He’s only 23, so quite young to be thinking of the next generation, but Will is passionate about keeping a traditional skill alive – that of the blacksmith.
He is the new smithy at Chain Bridge Forge in Spalding, his first job since leaving university in Hereford with a BA Honours degree in Artist Blacksmithing.
Will says: “It’s one of the only places in England you can do a degree in blacksmithing. Nowhere else does it and there has to be somewhere to keep it alive otherwise it will just fall out of circulation completely, like thatching.
“It was once a family trade or you would go and get an apprenticeship and learn on the job with a working blacksmith. You can still do that now, but there aren’t many jobs because it’s quite a difficult time for blacksmiths.”
Will’s four-year degree course, which followed a two-year college course, encouraged him to develop the design side and artistry of his work, so that he’s not restricted to making railings.
“There’s nothing wrong with railings,” Will adds hurriedly, because as well as making items for the forge’s gift shop he will be making bespoke items on commission – and that might be gates or railings.
Will says: “I prefer using completely traditional skills but with modern design, so keeping the old skill of blacksmith but in a modern context, whether in furniture or sculpture.”
Will, who lives with his parents on their smallholding near Holbeach, particularly enjoys working with the public in his new role, and demonstrating “what’s usually done behind closed doors”.
He gets regular visits from schools and Will might work with children to create a coat hook.
That experience goes full circle back to his own childhood when he saw someone at a country fair take a piece of steel and turn it into a spoon.
“After that, it was all I ever wanted to do,” he says. “I’ve never done anything else and nor do I want to.”