Hector Cole is one of Britain's last remaining master arrowsmiths – a craft which lies at the heart of many moments which have shaped our history and national identity.
Lots of little boys – and, indeed, girls – make bows and arrows from sticks and pieces of string. Not all of them turn it into a lifetime’s work.
For Hector Cole, it led him to fashion his own longbows from pieces of yew and, eventually, arrowheads at his forge in Little Somerford, Wiltshire.
‘When I started forging, I spent about four years researching and examining arrowheads, trying to work out the techniques that the original smiths used,’ recounts Mr Cole.
At first, he explains, it was very much a case of trial and error. Over time, he has honed his technique to such a degree that he is now regularly asked to produce arrowheads for museums hoping to get it right.
Consistency and quality are right at the heart of a process in which every single hammer blow affects the way the final product turns out. ‘The main criterion is that, if you get the same results as the originals, you must be doing it the same way,’ he explains.
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Mr Cole is now a celebrated master arrowsmith who has been awarded an MBE for his efforts and takes on commissions for museums, historical societies, collectors and re-enactors determined to get it right.
‘The whole essence of the heads I make is that they’re historically correct. I will even forge with the iron of the period, if I can,’ says Mr Cole.
It’s clear that his research is an ongoing labour of love. ‘I’m preserving a craft that really is a very important part of our heritage,’ he explains, drawing an explicit link between archery and the history of Britain.
‘Without arrowsmiths, there wouldn’t have been the Battle of Agincourt, in which the English archer reigned supreme.’