Nicholson-Harris Blacksmiths @ Pit
Martin Harris and Jayne Nicholson, a Yorkshire based couple, have recently relocated their Blacksmith’s business to the National Coal Mining Museum. Based in the Blacksmith’s Forge on the museum’s Hope Pit site, Martin and Jayne will aim to showcase traditional crafts, as well as producing a range of hand forged items to be sold in the Museum shop. They will also be carrying out important conservation work on the Museum’s collection and running demonstrations for visitors.
Visitors to the Museum can visit the Forge at Hope Pit from Wednesday to Sunday. Drop in for a demonstration of blacksmiths skills in making a toasting fork at 11:30am & 2pm.
Martin has over 25 years experience as a Blacksmith, traditionally taught, serving a 7 year apprenticeship at a Victorian working museum. He is able to work in differing styles from traditional to contemporary on both functional and decorative pieces. Martin says “I started my working life as a litter picker at the Victorian working museum until a blacksmith noticed my genuine interest in the Blacksmith’s work and on one occasion the blacksmith asked me if I would like to have a go. I spent a full day with the blacksmith which I enjoyed very much as I had wanted to study metal work at school but was not given the chance. About a week later the blacksmith approached me to ask if I would be interested in becoming an apprentice blacksmith. I couldn’t believe I had been given this opportunity so I jumped at the chance”
Martin has approximately 10 years’ experience as a conservation blacksmith working for one of the largest conservation companies in Europe. However, he gave up this role to move to Yorkshire so he could be with Jayne, as prior to this they were living 150 miles apart only seeing each other at weekends. With Martin's experience being so specialized, it was known that it would be difficult to find work, and they had both dreamed of creating their own business together, and believed it was time.
Jayne says “When I was at school I was very much into woodwork and metalwork. I was the only female in the class however when I left school I was unable to secure an apprenticeship and I was not taken seriously because I am a female, so when the opportunity presented itself I grasped it with both hands leaving the security of a well-paid job and swapping a desk for an anvil. I know many people thought I was mad but I believe that fortune favours the brave and that the only person standing in the way of achieving our goals is our self.”
Going forward, Martin and Jayne will also be running ‘Be a Blacksmith for the Day’ experiences which will give the public the chance of a hands on blacksmith’s experience to remember.
Conservation and restoration work carried out by Nicholson-Harris Blacksmiths@Pit to the Museum's large object collection is part-funded by The Pilgrim Trust as part of our 'Life in the Old Cogs Yet' project. The Museum is very grateful for this valuable support, as it enables our visitors to see vital conservation work, blacksmithing skills and demonstrations first-hand on site, whilst safeguarding our large objects for the future.