Selection of blacksmith's tools

Iron Age/Roman, 100 BC-AD 100
From the River Lea at Waltham Abbey, Essex, England

This is a selection of the type of tools used to make iron objects in Iron Age and Roman Britain. Any blacksmith's forge of this time would have these objects. It includes an anvil, tongs, sledge hammer, chisel and poker. Many of the tools, from a hoard of iron working tools, had been bent or broken before they were placed in the River Lea at Waltham Abbey. Were the tools 'killed' before they were offered to Gods or spirits?

Iron was obtained from many natural sources in Britain, but the iron ores always needed to be smelted to produce workable iron metal. The ore was heated with large amounts of charcoal and the resulting red hot metal was hammered into ingots in the form of long bars, sometimes called currency bars. Iron ingots were often traded over great distances.

To make swords, knifes, brooches, nails or other tools, the blacksmith would heat iron ingots in a fire and cut and hammer them into shape. The smith used the tongs to hold the heated iron on the anvil. Large files, like the one shown, would have been used for cold-shaping and finishing. Both tools and forging techniques changed little from the pre-Roman Iron Age until the early years of the twentieth century.

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More information


S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

I.M. Stead, Celtic art in Britain before t (London, The British Museum Press, 1987, revised edition 1997)


Length: 232.000 mm (file)

Museum number

On loan from Epping Forest District Council .


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