Obituary: Blacksmith who began career in abandoned cowshed dies at 74

William "Bill" Cordaroy leaves a legacy of blacksmithing skill

William "Bill" Cordaroy leaves a legacy of blacksmithing skill - Credit: Supplied by family

A respected member of the blacksmithing community who began his trade in a disused cowshed has died at the age of 74. 

William Arthur Cordaroy, known by all as “Bill”, left a legacy of work that will continue to inspire others following his death. 

The youngest of seven, Mr Cordaroy was born on February 12, 1948, in the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Bulbeck.

This was the same birth place as his wife, Jan, and the pair attended the same schools. 

Bill Cordaroy and his wife Jan pictured on their Golden Wedding anniversary

Bill Cordaroy and his wife Jan pictured on their Golden Wedding anniversary - Credit: Supplied by family

With his six older sisters, he grew up with his Liverpudlian father, who moved to Newmarket to work at the racing stables, and his mother, a local woman. 

After leaving school aged 15, he went on to complete a five-year engineering apprenticeship with McKays of Cambridge. At 21, he married Jan. 

Five years later, he decided to become a blacksmith. To fulfil this ambition the couple moved into a more affordable cottage in the Norfolk Broads area in 1977.

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Here, he set up his forge in the cowshed and started learning his trade. 

He had what he would call his "lucky break" when he was asked to make a set of three gates for St John's College in Cambridge - a major undertaking for a one-man-band. This commission was followed by another for St John’s. 

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the gates at St John's College, Cambridge

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the gates at St John's College, Cambridge - Credit: Supplied by family

Around this time, he was joined in the forge by Jason Greenberry who worked with Mr Cordaroy for more than 30 years.

Together, they produced work for architects, builders, local businesses, and private clients around the country. 

Mrs Cordaroy said: “There was a constant stream of varied work over the years with gates being something of a speciality. All this while still making thousands of thatching irons for local reed thatchers. 

“It was important to him to also be a village blacksmith mending a broken hoe or spade. It was all part of his work.

“He was always happy when he was at his anvil and enjoyed passing on his skills to others and over the years, we played host to many students from both home and abroad.” 

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the Peace Globe at Norwich Cathedral

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the Peace Globe at Norwich Cathedral - Credit: Supplied by family

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the welcoming entrance at St George's Park, Great Yarmouth

Bill Cordaroy was commissioned to do the welcoming entrance at St George's Park, Great Yarmouth - Credit: Supplied by family

Bill Cordaroy also did the gates at How Hill in Norfolk

Bill Cordaroy also did the gates at How Hill in Norfolk - Credit: Supplied by family

Mr Cordaroy also worked as a blacksmith for Norwich Cathedral - following in the footsteps of craftsmen over many centuries who had worked on this great building - Norwich Castle, How Hill, and St George's Park in Great Yarmouth. 

His sculptural work was also important to him and he was often moved by a subject, saying he “just had to get it out of his system".

The Paper Lady: A sculpture inspired by Bill Cordaroy's mother

The Paper Lady: A sculpture inspired by Bill Cordaroy's mother - Credit: Supplied by family

In 1980 he became a member of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association, taking part in conferences and gatherings in this country and abroad.

He served on the council in 1990 and again in 2009. He was chair from 2011 to 2013. 

In 1987 he was awarded a bronze medal by the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths and became a Liveryman in 1990 when he served on the craft committee.

For many years, he organised the Worshipful Company stand at the Norfolk Show. 

Fittingly, his last big commission for gates came from Magdalene College in Cambridge, thus completing the circle. 

Mrs Cordaroy added: “Bill worked for over 40 years making beautiful ironwork which will last long into the future, but I think his legacy is in the skills and knowledge he has passed on to others. 

"He was also a very sociable person and loved nothing more than sitting with a pint talking to others about their lives.” 

Bill Cordaroy working on scrolls for Norwich Castle

Bill Cordaroy working on scrolls for Norwich Castle - Credit: Supplied by family

Mr Cordaroy also enjoyed playing football “until his knees would not let him”, cricket, and golf.

Other interests included art, crafts, music, poetry, theatre, dance, and sailing – in particular, the Lord Nelson, belonging to the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a charity involving both able-bodied and disabled people sailing and crewing the ship. 

Mr Cordaroy died on April 2 and his funeral took place on April 27.

Donations in his memory for the Nancy Oldfield Trust via Murrell Cork Funerals, 57a Mundesley Road, North Walsham, NR28 0DB.