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Listen to audio by Dr. James Tuck
We're standing in front of the forge, or the blacksmith's shop, that was finished by Captain Wynne and the first settlers in June of 1622. As you look around the forge you can see the stone construction which is the actual forge, the place where this smith heated the iron or whatever other metal he might have been working. Just behind it you can see two posts. They are standing in the original post holes where the bellows supports once stood. In front of the forge and to the left you can see a pair of posts that mark the location of the anvil and the " stumps" that supported it. To the right of these, another support may have held a swage or some other tool. In the left-hand rear corner of the shop there was the fuel pile consisting of charcoal and coal. The workbench must have been up in the front here on the right-hand side. The forge probably had double doors. The recreation by David Webber shows what the forge might have looked like sometime in the middle 1620s.

Artist's depiction of the 17th-century forge at the Colony of Avalon.
This modern painting, by David Webber, shows how the forge appeared during the 1620s.

Reproduced by permission of the Colony of Avalon Foundation, Ferryland, Newfoundland.
Larger Version with more information (60 kb)
David Webber's recreation of 1620s forge

This site is significant not only because it was the location of the original blacksmith's shop. When we dug down below the blacksmith's shop, we came upon a couple of layers of very roughly laid cobbles, not a cobblestone street or a walkway, but more likely stone platforms where people dried fish. On those stone fish drying platforms we found pottery from West Country England, from the North Devon towns of Biddeford and Barnstaple. There were no tobacco pipes, and from these facts we can deduce that the people who were using those stone flakes were English and that they were here before about 1580, because after that time white clay tobacco pipes become very common on English sites.

As we dug down even further, about 1.2 metres (four feet) below the present surface, we found the original beach as it was some time around the year 1500. On that beach, which was only a short way removed from an active beach, we found a collection of small fireplaces made of fire–cracked stone containing charcoal, bits of burnt bone and the flakes and stone tools — arrow points and knives — that were made by the Beothuk Indians.

In that same layer there were European ceramics and a rectangular European fireplace. Not much of the fireplace remained, but there was enough to see that it had been built up against the bank and very much in European fashion. The pottery associated with that fireplace dates from the very early 1500s and came from Northern France (Normandy or Brittany), Portugal, the Basque Country in Spain, and probably from West Country England.

So all those very early migratory fishers who worked the waters of the North Atlantic were here at Ferryland probably between June and September, beginning very early in the 1500s. They were succeeded then beginning in the 1560s, by the West country fishermen and finally by the Colony of Avalon, the first permanent settlement begun in 1621.

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