David C Harman FWCB Eminent Master Blacksmith
Upon leaving school in 1978, with the Sir John Burrows Award for metalwork among his achievements, David began a four year apprenticeship with R Durtnell & Sons, a highly regarded building firm and family business first established in 1591.
Each trade within the company offered apprenticeships and, with 20 to 30 applicants for each place, competition was fierce. David won an apprenticeship in the blacksmith’s shop.
In the first two years, his tutor was the late John Probert and when he moved from the area David completed his apprenticeship under Len Hutton FWCB. Both tutors were hard taskmasters but highly respected throughout the trade. David felt privileged not only by being taught by these two but also being part of such a renowned company which had an amazing range of decorative ironwork contracts. Wages in those days were minimal but the value of the experience gained and the wealth of knowledge acquired was priceless.
Towards the end of his apprenticeship David recalls a particular contract won by Durtnells to make decorative balustrades for the Ritz Casino in London. His job was to cut out acanthus leaves by hand – no lasers in those days, just a bandsaw, hammer, chisel and file. Upon questioning the fact that he seemed to be cutting out far more that Len Hutton and the others, he was told “you wan’t to learn the trade don’t you – so get your head down and keep cutting…”
Having completed his time, David worked for two years with a fabrication company to broaden his knowledge and by 1985 he felt ready to start his own business. All was going well until the hurricane of 1987 completely destroyed his workshop. At that point he headed for Australia, returning a year later to set up Brasted Forge.
In the years following David has been awarded numerous civic commissions and carried out notable work for several celebrities. Among the commissions of which he is most proud was the making of a stylised golden eagle placed above the throne for the wedding ceremony of the present King of Jordan. These days his work takes him far and wide and he has recently returned from France where he made decorative gates and railings for a chateau in Limoges. One of his ornamental gates is to be found as far away as Australia.
Many liverymen have visited his forge in Brasted, among them the late Tommy Tucker who was a regular, “Just popping in to see you Dave,” and, some three hours later, “must go, time is the enemy.” David holds such memories of Tommy with great affection.