Thursday, 1 January 2015

My Amazing Dad Hector Cole Awarded an MBE 1st January 2015

I thought it would be a good idea to post here about the great news that my father Hector Cole has been awarded an MBE for Services to Heritage Crafts in the 2015 New Year's Honours!

He is really thrilled to get recognition for the 45 years of dedicated work specifically for his arrow-smithing and also within the broad spectrum of iron-working but, as many people will know, there is a lot more behind the award than is ever printed in the press.  I would like to share some of this information with you.

My sister Rebecca first brought up the idea of nominating Dad for an award, she thought he would be a great candidate for an honour and started to look into it.  There is a lot of work behind the scenes to make it happen and we were too late for that year so put it on the back burner. 

In 2014 I saw a tweet from www.heritagecrafts.org.uk asking if anyone knew a suitable crafts person to nominate for an honour.  I immediately tweeted back suggesting my Dad, Hector and it snowballed from there!  The Heritage Crafts Association have championed Hector though the nomination process, they helped us fine tune the application and make it successful.

My other sister Charlotte started to compile a list of people we could approach to support the nomination which we had to give  a snappy name!  That was the hardest part as how do you condense all that Dad has achieved into a couple of words?  We finally settled with 'Arrow Smith - Services to Heritage Cratfs' as this is the field of specialised forging that he has researched and developed over such a long time and is the area that most people now know him for.

I hope that this award will help to raise the profile of the heritage crafts and specifiacally blacksmithing in the UK as well as shine a light on a very special and talented perosn

Hector Cole MBE

Since the age of four when he was old enough to be allowed into the village smithy in his home village in Lincolnshire in the 1940’s, Gordon “Hector” Cole has had a passion for ironwork.
Hector trained as a metalwork teacher at Dudley Teacher Training College and subsequently moved to Wiltshire where he taught at secondary schools in Bristol and Malmesbury. Hector’s love for designing and working with metal was transmitted to his students who held him in high esteem.

Many past pupils have remained in contact with him long after leaving school and see him as a role model for their own careers as blacksmiths and engineers.  Hector has informally mentored and encouraged budding metalworkers by allowing them to work alongside him in his personal workshop, giving them free access to tools and working space that they would never have found elsewhere.  He continues to do this with work-placement students from school and Higher & Further Education Colleges.

Throughout his formal career Hector has enthusiastically shared his skills and knowledge in his over-riding passion for iron-work; traditional blacksmithing, blade-smithing, fencing and archery.

Hector is a dedicated educator, he has throughout his life thrived on the pleasure of sharing his knowledge and educating those interested in his craft.  He welcomes students, of all ages into his workshop and encourages the development of their skills and creativity.  Teenagers are frequently to be found in the workshop on work placements from the surrounding secondary schools, and Hector runs ‘master classes’ in his workshop for experienced blacksmiths who wish to hone or develop their skills.

During his teaching career at Malmesbury School, Hector also worked from his home forge developing his skills as an iron-worker.  Since taking voluntary redundancy in 1991 he has become increasingly specialised in archaeological and historical iron-working and blade-smithing methods and is regarded as a world authority in this specialist area, developing a successful small business from his newly built forge in Wiltshire and exporting his work to enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

Hector has also produced beautiful traditional forge work for members of the Royal Household, notably the impressive main gates for Highgrove House (actually, these gates were designed by my Mum, Maris), home of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.  He also made the intricately forged entrance gates and heraldic overthrow at Charlton Park in Wiltshire for Lord Suffolk and was responsible for the complex restoration of a 17th C Austrian Buttery Bracket for Waddesdon Manor.

He has a worldwide client-base, including museums, collectors and private enthusiasts.  He has carried out extensive research into medieval metalworking techniques, and has worked on many prestigious projects including commissions for The Mary Rose museum project, The Royal Armouries, and The Museum of London. The research Hector has undertaken into the traditional methods of smelting iron ore, and forging blades and arrowheads has been documented in numerous television programmes, notably for the BBC and the History Channel.

Hector was awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 2002 and subsequently became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company Of Blacksmiths, where he also holds the prestigious Silver Medal. These awards were based on his service to and excellence in his craft.  An applicant for this award is expected to have completed commissions of prestigious importance. It is considered that the range of commissions undertaken should be very broad compared with those for a Diploma or a Bronze Medal, a larger proportion of them being of outstanding quality both private and in the public sector.”(The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths guidelines)


Hector serves on the Craft Committee of The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths where he works to promote the craft and encourage excellence among other blacksmiths, assessing them at county shows and for awards.

Hector’s expertise has proved an invaluable asset to the heritage of British ironwork, his use of authentic materials, is exemplary.   He sources wrought iron of the relevant period where possible for his restoration work, thus ensuring continuity in the tradition and authenticity of the original piece.


Inevitably the passions for fencing, archery and historical metalwork combined in Hector’s repertoire as an ironworker. His expertise in the ancient techniques of blade-smithing and medieval arms and armour, have gained him international recognition. 

Hector Cole and his dedication to teaching Archery and Fencing.

Since 1968, Hector has run the weekly Malmesbury School archery (summer) and fencing (winter) clubs on a voluntary basis in his own personal time.  The children who take part in these activities have been those who find it harder to participate in team sports, but fencing and archery has allowed them to develop a sporting skill, often despite emotional or educational difficulties. Hector accepts all-comers to his clubs and will do all he can to find a ‘niche’ for children who may need a little more support than others..

He has often become a true mentor to these children, allowing them to build their self-esteem and confidence. The members of the Malmesbury School Fencing Club have achieved success at county level due to the dedicated teaching and encouragement provided by Hector.  He transports children to competitions, and has raised funds for the provision of approved equipment for the clubs.

Malmesbury School is one of very few comprehensive schools able to offer it’s pupils fencing and archery activities and is very often the only state school represented in fencing competitions due to funding constraints.  Due to the un-tiring dedication that Hector gives to his pupils and the club over the 45 years that he has run this after school clubs, hundreds of children have benefited from his knowledge and teaching skills.
He has worked voluntarily for the pure joy of transmitting his enthusiasm for these sports and their traditions and this sharing of skills keeps Hector there, rain or shine, every week to nurture and encourage these pupils.

Hector’s contribution to the continuing traditions and craft of forge work cannot be overestimated, he has brought a heartfelt enthusiasm for his subject to a wide audience, through public demonstrations of his craft, often for a nominal fee, or voluntarily, he encourages new craftsmen and women to further their skills, he imparts invaluable information gleaned from a lifetime’s work and dedication to his profession as a master blacksmith

My sisters and I would like to thank many people for their support of Hector, we could not have done this without your help!

Maurice Thompson, Blacksmith, Street Farm Forge
Lord Suffolk
William Evans
Alex Hildred at The Mary Rose
Malmesbury School

And of course all the people that have been customers of Hector's over the years and supported his work.

Thank You!!