This oil painting by Benjamin Williams Leader (1831 – 1923) from the Worcester City collection was completed in 1871, and shows the Old Blacksmith Shop at Great Malvern.

Leader was born in Worcester as Benjamin Leader Williams, the son of notable civil engineer Edward Leader Williams (1802–79). Educated at the Royal Grammar School in Worcester, Leader worked at his father's office as a draughtsman while studying art in the evenings at the Worcester School of Design.

In 1854, at the age of 23, he was admitted as a student to the Royal Academy Schools in London and went on to become one of the most successful artists of the time.

This small blacksmithing business, run from a half-timbered house at the foot of the Malvern Hills, speaks of centuries of traditional blacksmithing. In the nineteenth century, small family-run blacksmiths were still a part of every town and village, but huge industrial forges had also sprung up across the country making everything from horseshoes to cannons.

Author Janetta Condon’s research suggests that the premises as it is seen in Leader’s painting was situated just a stone’s throw away from The Unicorn, and previous researchers have established that there was a smithy here as early as the mid-sixteenth century.

Throughout his life Leader retained a strong attachment for his birthplace and home of many years, and as such he returned time and again to the Worcestershire countryside for inspiration.

His treatment of this subject matter changed very little throughout his career, and so we are left with a view of Worcestershire untouched by progress and technological advances.

Discover more of the county’s blacksmithing history at Worcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury Castle, where you can step into an original Victorian forge for a one-day course in blacksmithing.

To book a course, purchase a gift voucher or find out more, please visit or call 01299 250416.