arthur & george

Blacksmiths don't shoe horses (farriers do that), and may give you a hard stare if you enquire about a pony in need of a set of shoes... However, when asked to shoe the single fake leg of a dead Victorian horse for ITV's drama 'Arthur & George', how could we resist? I absolutely love doing small TV and film jobs, so we set about creating an authentic 'Victorian' horse shoe, stamped with the TV blacksmith's name (and a clue in the drama) - BROOKES. 'Arthur & George' tells the true story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's involvement in clearing the name of an Anglo-Indian man - George Edalji - who had been accused of maiming local horses. Martin Clunes stars as Conan Doyle, and the lovely Art Malik (who once visited Fire and Iron and made us all giddy) plays George's father. So, here's the serendipitous bit: we are artist blacksmiths because my Anglo-Indian, romantic (and yes, Victorian!) great-grandfather Cecil Watson Quinnell freelanced as a portrait artist when he arrived in London in the 1890s, having experienced racial discrimination when trying to find other work. He co-founded the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Gravers in 1896 with his friend Alyn Williams. He had a British surname from his grandfather who had left England in 1822, but no contact with any British Quinnell family and therefore no relatives here. He traced his ancestry and discovered that the Quinnells were Surrey/Sussex blacksmiths from the 1500s onwards. We were thus condemned to self-employment and picking up where the ironworking ancestors left off! Also, Conan Doyle keeps popping up in our work - when we designed the arch for Neate's Alley in Leatherhead, I discovered that Mr. Neate (a butcher who had an abattoir on one side of the alley - known in his day as 'Dog Alley' because the stray dogs would wait all day for the pig scraps to be thrown over the wall at close of business) had a brother who drove a Hansom cab and inspired the fictitious Hansom cab ride from Leatherhead station in Conan Doyle's 'The Adventure of the Speckled Band'. When I was designing the Allen Court Arch for Dorking, I found out that my chosen subject, Grant Allen, was a great friend of Conan Doyle, and that Conan Doyle wrote down the final chapter of Allen's last book 'Hilda Wade' as Allen dictated it to him from his deathbed. Grant Allen was responsible for Conan Doyle building his house 'Undershaw' at Hindhead, having recovered from tuberculosis and having therefore recommended the Surrey air as a cure for Conan Doyle's wife Louise ('Touie'). 'Undershaw' was where Conan Doyle lived as he fought to clear the name of George Edalji. 

Final horseshoe.JPG