This building is typical of many village smithies. It was built in the mid 19th century using inexpensive but sturdy construction. The smith’s work included making and repairing tools and equipment for farmers and craftsmen, as well as shoeing horses.
The smithy was given to the Museum in 1970 by Mr. Piper, the son of the last practising smith and wheelwright to work in it. It was built about 1850, the forge being of local stone and brick. The bellows installed in the reconstructed building are of the early heart-shaped type, and are identical in size with those original to the forge which are now in Horsham Museum. The original front floor has been relaid, but the area between this and the forge, where the shoeing was done and where the bricks were badly cracked and broken, has been laid with paving bricks of a cream colour from Booty’s Forge (now demolished) in Horsham, which appears to have been built about the same time.
Like many buildings used for crafts and workshops, the Southwater Forge is a very rough and simple structure using materials which came easiest to hand — timber from the sawmills across the road, and tiles and bricks from the brickyard situated within a couple of hundred yards. Rough offcuts were used to finish off the outside cladding, and the tiles are an assortment of ‘seconds’.
The building was constructed entirely of timber, with a screen wall of brick providing protection where the forge was nearest the wooden wall. A good deal of the timber was evidently re-used, and most of the wall cladding has had to be replaced. This consisted of oak and elm off-cuts fixed vertically over the joints of wide planks, a technique common in simple buildings of the 19th century.
Smithing was an essential craft in the economy of even the smallest community, second in importance only to agriculture. Manuscript drawings of the 12th century show that there has been very little change up to the present century, either in the construction of a forge or in the tools used.