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Blacksmiths show off their art for annual festival

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 27, 2012

Finch Foundry – a working 19th century forge on Dartmoor – provides the backdrop to the annual St Clement's Day gathering Picture: Ian Snell

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Elite blacksmiths from across the UK converged on a Westcountry village to celebrate their patron saint with a ringing of anvils and a shower of sparks.

Finch Foundry – a working 19th century forge at Sticklepath, on Dartmoor – provided the backdrop to the annual St Clement's Day gathering.

Traditionally, "Old Clem's Night" is celebrated on November 23 with a firing of the anvil, where smiths pack gunpowder into a small hole then ignite it with a hammer blow.

Catherine Maddern, visitor services manager, said: "It is the main highlight in our calendar and a fantastic opportunity to see blacksmiths demonstrating their craft in such a unique historical setting."

Metalworkers and blacksmiths have long enjoyed an annual feast day in honour of their saint, Pope Clement I.

The spectacular firing ritual also dates back centuries as a test of the strength of the anvil.

Modern-day practitioners including some of the country's top craftsmen demonstrated their art on Saturday,

Some demonstrated the unique water-powered trip hammers in the foundry, to help recreate the atmosphere of a Victorian working forge.

There was also a rerun of the Great Snail Race, in which the blacksmiths compete to forge a Sticklepath snail in the shortest possible time.

Entrance was free for the day and entertainment was provided by a troop of traditional Morris dancers.

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