A former hotel chef has taken another significant step towards being recognised as among the elite of his craft but admits he owes much to the boss of a video gaming company for helping his business through the coronavirus pandemic.

Doug Campbell is a blacksmith in Bushey and has continued his professional rise by being awarded a bronze medal and the right to call himself a master blacksmith and Fellow of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths (FWCB), as well as achieving the Freedom of the City of London.

Having received its Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, the worshipful company is one of the oldest of the 110 livery companies in the City of London that comprise its ancient and modern trade professions and guilds.

The 43-year-old was awarded the bronze medal after submitting a portfolio of his work that was judged by his peers and he admitted: “It’s very exciting. I started smithing about ten years ago and it was a massive goal of mine to become a livery freeman and a Master Blacksmith.

“The next portion of it would become a full liveryman with the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and then to push forward for a silver medal.”

Watford Observer:

Doug Campbell working on a Gustav Klimt inspired side door

Previously an associate of the Worshipful Company, a silver medal would see Mr Campbell become an eminent master blacksmith and the pinnacle is a gold medal and the title of supreme master blacksmith.

With a nod to the legendary Jedi Master in the Star Wars films, Mr Campbell smiled: “You basically have to be Yoda to get a gold, but I’m on the tables now as far as the more senior awards are concerned in the country.”

Mr Campbell is hoping to become a full liveryman early next year, bringing with it extra privileges including a vote in the election of Lord Mayor, but that cannot be achieved without first having the Freedom of the City.

He explained: “To join a livery you first have to become a freeman of the livery, so I became a freeman of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths. You then have to go from there to Mansion House to apply for the Freedom of the City of London.

“I was put forward for the livery, so I had a nominator and a seconder and they recommend your work and as a person to become part of the livery.

“The liveries are involved in all sorts of charity work, supporting the craft itself and supporting students, so you need to show you’re going to be some form of help in that.”

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Robin detail from a candlestick

The Rickmansworth resident has always been an artist, designing tatoos and other work, but was working as a chef at the now demolished Long Island Exchange in the town when the last recession struck. It was at that point he decided to retrain and went to study at Warwickshire College.

“I wouldn’t quite say the clouds parted, the light shone down and the angels sung when it hit the anvil but it wasn’t that far off,” he said. “I just knew when I walked in that was what I was going to do and here I am a decade later.”

Asked about what the attraction is of working with metal, Mr Campbell said: “The material itself is so fluid. If you have the material at the right forging temperature then it has the same plasticity as plasticine.

“The things that you can make are only really limited by your imagination. Obviously you need the skill set as well, but there’s no stopping you really. I can make anything from a straight fire poker to a really detailed bunch of flowers.”

Watford Observer:

This main door lock for Jason Kingsley's manor house project took first place and show champion at the 2018 South of England County Show

Named after the Scots Gaelic version of his surname, Mr Campbell owns and runs Caimbeul’s Forge in Bushey Hall Road, but like so many other small businesses his work has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

He has therefore been thankful to his biggest client, Jason Kingsley, the chief executive of video game developer Rebellion who is also the driving force behind Modern History TV, a YouTube channel about medieval history.

Mr Campbell admitted: “If it wasn’t for him we would have been on a bit of a sticky wicket because of the pandemic, but he’s kept us going.

“I’ve done work for him for last three years. He’s building an old manor house from between the 12th to the 15th century. I’ve done everything from nails to door furniture, I’m just in the middle of completing seven out of 14 sets of stable door furniture, all the hinges and stud work and things like that, then I’m moving on to the main gates, it’s a massive project.”

A sole trader, Mr Campbell continued: “Jason’s kept us going with some steady work and now we’ve got a bit of freedom because the other clients have gone I can continue on his work quite regularly.

“But like all small businesses at the moment you’re beginning to think are we going to pick up? Or is it going to be next year? We just don’t know. But trade has been impacted because of it like everyone else.”