A Mawnan Smith man who moved away to pursue a career has come home to focus on his true passion: Blacksmithing.

Villagers are fired up about Nigel Wills taking over the reins of a historic smithy where he has just lit the forge for the first time.

He was born in Mawnan Smith and moved away as a young man to work as a mechanic and engineer.

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Picture: Courtenay Florence 

Eight years ago, he decided to try his hand at blacksmithing and started making fish sculptures out of his garage.

His work found an audience and he started selling pieces online, and soon enough his creations were being featured in art galleries.

He said: “When I see my work in galleries and windows, I cannot believe it is my stuff, I’m not art trained or anything. Seeing it amongst other artists is amazing.”

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Picture: Courtenay Florence

Two weeks ago, he moved from St Ives to Budock Water, and he says everything fell into place when he was asked to take over the historic blacksmith’s shop.

The smithy, run by charity Anvil Trust, is an incredible piece of living history.

Walking through its doors, visitors are confronted with various spinning belts and cams spanning the whole length of the room, making an impressive cacophony to power a drill and hammer.

Nigel’s wife Linda sits at the desk, in charge of everything from creating designs to running the online shop.

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Picture: Courtenay Florence

The blacksmith was excited, if slightly nervous, to light the forge for the first ever time and perked up when speaking about how he is keen to take his work to the next level by learning how to forge metal.

He says that with help from a network of Cornish smiths he is slowly learning the ropes – describing how different coals are used to achieve different levels of heat and how these variables all ultimately contribute to the final creation.

But the move back to Mawnan is much more than a career opportunity for Nigel. 

He has fond memories of growing up in the village and visiting the old blacksmith, Dryden James, who would sharpen his penknife.

Nigel left at the age of 20 to work as a mechanic before a stint at Falmouth Docks and ten years working as an engineer in Camborne.

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Picture: Courtenay Florence

Moving around and working various different jobs, he picked up blacksmithing as a hobby and found himself living in St Ives where he became something of a “recluse,” not knowing many people in the area.

Now that he’s back, the village is abuzz with enthusiasm.

Even when giving directions to the smithy, locals speak about how glad they are to have Nigel back.

He said: “There is a lot of great characters in the village that are pleased to see me back and I am so grateful.”

To view more of Nigel's work, visit The Old Smithy in Mawnan Smith or nigelwills.com.