'There were great lads there, lots of stories…and that big old hammer pounding away'

Although every workshop had its own, important part to play in the work of Gilfach Ddu, in many senses the forge was at the heart of the work. Various components produced in other parts of the yard came together here in the form of sprockets or chains, axles and wheels. At one time twelve fires burned in twelve hearths as a team of smiths struck and forged the metal pieces produced by the other workshops into equipment of all kinds.

These were industrial smiths, then, not farriers. The quarryman's tools were essential to him in his work, and a good quarry smith understood the differing needs of various quarrymen. This meant that he could make tools that met the needs of different men and different kinds of rock. One of the first tasks for an apprentice smith would be to forge his own tongs, pincers and swages.


The great double doors between the forge and the cropping shed were a convenient way to get large items into the forge, and an easy way too to get at the cokes that fed the fires. In the yard's heyday the heat of the flames must have been sweltering, and the clamour of the hammers as they struck the anvils almost deafening.

Like the forging hammer, which dates from 1900, the pneumatic hammer of 1924-5 which can be seen here is powered by energy from the water wheel. So too is the big grindstone which stands at one end of the workshops. The wooden benches and vices used by the smiths to hold the equipment still stand against the walls of the forge.

Now there are four hearths here, and two smiths, who still do much repair work on the Museum's equipment. They also make beautiful objects of steel, like the daffodil seen here, on sale in the Museum shop.