Lifelong passion for blacksmith

Independent blacksmith Ron Gilkes invited the Banbury Guardian to his Wroxton forge this week to look back on a career that began more than 60 years ago.

Mr Gilkes began a five-year apprenticeship at Tibbetts, in Brackley, aged 15 in 1950, before working for the firm in Barford St Michael. The 75-year-old said: “I didn’t like school so I was absolutely delighted to start blacksmithing.

Blacksmith Ron Gilkes is pictured at work at Wroxton Forge.

Blacksmith Ron Gilkes is pictured at work at Wroxton Forge.

“I was always interested in this so I felt so alive when I started work.”

Once he finished his apprenticeship, Mr Gilkes set up work at his parents house in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire before they emigrated to the USA.

Mr Gilkes joined his parents in 1961 and spent 18 months working in a car factory in Milwaukee before returning to the UK in 1963.

He spent 25 years working at his business Barford Auto Body before settling in Wroxton in 1995. He also spent one year working with Cotswold Decorative Iron, based in Shipston-on-Stour.

Mr Gilkes said: “I learnt a lot about cars when I was in America, but I was very pleased when I came back and started work in the forge. I love being able to customise different iron gates from scratch.”