ARMISTICE 100: Amble blacksmith’s memorial bench for the fallen of the Great War

Blacksmith Ashlee Donaldson with her Remembrance bench under construction. Picture by Keith Newman
Blacksmith Ashlee Donaldson with her Remembrance bench under construction. Picture by Keith Newman

A blacksmith from Amble has completed her first major commission and it’s literally one to remember both for her local community and her family.

Ashlee Donaldson has just put the finishing touches to a galvanised mild steel four-seat bench, which was designed and made by the 27-year-old to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War.

Blacksmith Ashlee Donaldson with her dad Stephen Lunn, a blacksmith from Red Row. Picture by Keith Newman

Blacksmith Ashlee Donaldson with her dad Stephen Lunn, a blacksmith from Red Row. Picture by Keith Newman

The bench was commissioned by Broomhill Detachment (W Company Northumbria ACF) with funding from the Coop Community Fund for Remembrance Sunday and has many interesting art features including a metal Tommy hat, a Northumberland Fusiliers cap badge and a metal tin mug with which every soldier would have been issued.

A representation of barbed wire has also been included in the design, a reminder of the harshness of war.

In all, Ashlee spent more than 10 weeks working on the design and construction of the bench, which will be situated in Hadston.

A former pupil of Coquet High School and mum of two toddlers, Ashlee, originally started her working career as a marketing assistant in a jewellery company but the pull of the family business beckoned her and the rest is history. Indeed, history is important to her as she has four generations of blacksmiths to thank for her natural ability to design, shape and bend metal into both practical pieces and works of art.

Dad is award-winning Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn, whose work can be seen throughout the country. The family forge in Red Row was originally bought by her great-grandfather, Jack Smith in 1921 after he left the Army where he spent his war years as a farrier.

“I’ve a lot to thank my great-grandfather for and it’s appropriate that the bench I’ve made is dedicated to those who fought in the First World War, just like him,” said Ashlee.

“This is the biggest project I’ve done in the five years that I’ve worked with my dad in the forge and it’s perhaps the moist poignant and special to me too.”

The main business at the forge, ironically named JS Lunn and Sons, originally came from shoeing farm horses and general blacksmithing. However as the years passed, the business has evolved and both Ashlee and her dad work on art commissions as well as the more traditional type of blacksmith work with animals and farms.

“It’s a great job working in the forge, except in winter when even the heat from the furnace doesn’t keep you warm. I seem to have inherited my dad and great-grandfather’s flair for design and craftsmanship and I hope that comes out in this very special memorial bench,” she said.