They say a craftsman is only as good as his tools and some of the tools in our workshop can boast over a century of service in the trade. The silversmithing workshops of Sheffield have always traded secondhand tools and equipment amongst themselves and much of what is passed between modern workshops can be traced back to the large scale silversmithing firms of the 19th century. As well as being famed as the national centre for steel manufacturing and the birthplace of silver plate, Sheffield was also home to the world’s most famous anvil forge.
By the end of the 18th century, Mousehole Forge, situated in the Rivelin Valley, was one of the leading exporters of anvils to the USA, where their anvils are now highly sought-after collector’s items.
Three of the anvils in our workshop bear their distinctive corporate mark – a mouse followed by the word ‘hole’. They are arranged in the middle of the workshop floor and are at the heart of everything we do.
Mousehole Anvils come with quite a formidable reputation and pop up in some interesting and unexpected places. They were awarded a Gold Medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace – an achievement the management were keen to display in all their advertising!
The Old Smithy at Gretna Green plays host to a Mousehole anvil, used not only for smithing but also as a ‘marriage anvil’ upon which eloping couples could be married under Scottish Law without their families’ consent. All that was required was a declaration before two witnesses and almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. Gretna Green was the first village a runaway couple would come to after crossing the border and as a result the local blacksmiths began combining the ‘heat of the forge’ with ‘heat of the moment’ marriages and became known as ‘anvil priests’. The anvil remains a local symbol of romance and marriage to this day.
As far as we are aware no nuptuals have ever been performed on any of our anvils but plenty of wedding and anniversary gifts have been forged on them and we hope there will be many more such celebrations to come!
If you would like to ask us about our anvils or the silversmithing techniques we use, you can catch us at The Game Fair at Ragley Hall from 27th – 29th July, or at Craft In Focus at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge from 17th- 19th August. For a full list of forthcoming shows and exhibitions, visit our Events page.