A smithy from yesteryear

It felt like stepping into a chiarusco painting. Dark rooms, blackened by a century of dirty work, layered with dust taking the edges off everything. All pierced by a shaft of sunlight.

It is a smithy in Fulpmes, a survivor from another age of metalworking. Fulpmes is an overgrown village in a valley not too far from Innsbruck. Small factories used to line both sides of the brook that tumbles down through the village. It might have been one of the towns in the hills north of Manchester where the industrial revolution started. Even now, Fulpmes remains at the centre of regional metalworking because of its specialist college that is training the next generation in these skills.

The smithy used to employ some 20 people until the ascent of cheap industrial competition reduced demand for high-quality, hand-forged knives and tools.

Now it is just the owner who works there, and who generously showed us round. Once he retires, having noboy to carry on, the smithy will close. I just hope the village will take the chance of making this place and its machinery into a museum to showcase 400 years of history. And if they do I hope they will retain some of the cobwebbed charm of the past that is there in spades.

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