The medieval blacksmith and his products

The medieval blacksmith and his products

By Ian H. Goodall

Medieval Industry, edited by D.W. Crossley (London: Council for British Archaeology, 1981)

Introduction: The medieval blacksmith produced the many tools and fittings used in everyday life, as well as more specialized items such as church doors and screens, weapons, and armour. These specialist classes are excluded from the following discussion which concentrates on material excavated in Great Britain. The term medieval is restricted to finds of post-Conquest date, earlier material being more specifically described. Pagan Saxon material is not considered.

Smithing slag, incomplete forgings, and tools are the most common forms of evidence for ironworking, and smithing is known at the late Saxon settlement at St Neots, Cambs as well as at a range of medieval sites including Southampton, Hants  and Bramber Castle, W Sussex. Excavated smithies include those at Waltham Abbey, Essex, Netherne, Surrey, and Goltho, Lincs.

The blacksmith’s raw material was bar iron, no doubt with the addition of available scrap which was forged down on an anvil. A piece of iron was first cut from the bar with a chisel or set and then the blacksmith, holding the iron with tongs, used a sledgehammer, lighter hammers, and other tools, including punches and drifts, to complete the forging.

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