OM Toby Smith wins the prestigious Frank Day Perpetual Trophy for his handmade chess set

OM Toby Smith wins the prestigious Frank Day Perpetual Trophy for his handmade chess set

The chess set started life as part of Toby’s level 2 end-of-year project at the National School of Blacksmithing in Herefordshire, where he is currently studying this ancient craft, and he completed the chess set outside of college during the summer holidays. The piece was displayed at The Dorset County Show in September this year, where he has amazingly won his first commission despite being only a year 1 student.  

Toby had been interested in metalwork for several years, so he contacted a local blacksmith for some work experience after finishing his A levels before starting college. Medal-winning blacksmith, Doug Campbell, was so impressed with Toby’s hard work ethic and skillset that he took him on as his only student and Toby now works with him on a weekly basis outside of college time. He’s recently contributed to a beautiful handrail commission for Lady Verulam. 

“I was 13 when I started at Millfield (2017-2022; Walton). I was awarded a music scholarship as I played the cello. The music facilities at Millfield are second to none. I was SO lucky to have shared my music journey with Mr Matthew Cook who was Director of Music. I played in every concert available culminating in an amazing concerto concert. What a privilege it was to perform in Wells Cathedral and in contrast, the Johnson Sessions organised by Mr Boyle which were great fun. Although I do miss all the music, I continue to play my cello in a local symphony orchestra. 

“Mr Sawrey-Cookson, Head of Keens Elm in Year 9, encouraged me to take up squash. I’d never played before coming to Millfield but absolutely loved it and was selected for the A team; we competed in the National Schools Competition and made the semi finals. I still play every week at my local club. 

“I really benefitted from the small classes at Millfield. I particularly loved Religious Studies and was supported by all the amazing RS teachers. There was so much written work, that it has set me up for life where any written assignment is involved – nothing could ever be so hard ever again! 

“One fond memory is when Ms Burnett arranged a year 10 concert for the entire year in the Johnson Hall. I’d been given a Yamaha electric cello for my 15th birthday and had agreed to take part. The audience were told to be respectful to the soloists and, by the time the first 8 acts which were all classical pieces had finished, everyone was getting restless. I came on with my electric cello and performed “Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana” which brought the house down! 

“I wanted a change in direction which is why I chose blacksmithing to further enhance my creative skills as I knew university wasn’t for me. Pretty unusual you say but something I’m excelling in. 

“During my first study year at the NSB (National School of Blacksmithing), I won many prizes at County Shows. I was awarded The John Hall Hammer for ‘the up-and-coming blacksmith who has shown a high level of dedication to the ancient craft’. I received the Becca Moult award at the end of term for ‘the Level 2 student who has shown the most commitment and passion for the craft’. Mrs Moult, who represents the Friends of Herefordshire Museums and Arts, came in to meet me recently and has invited me to their AGM in March and has asked if I will play a piece on my cello to show how arts and crafts can work so well together. 

“And now to the highlight of my first year of blacksmithing: I’ve been presented with the Frank Day Perpetual Trophy by the Prime Warden of the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths at their Annual Award Ceremony! This is a competition for blacksmiths with 3 years or less experience. It was a wonderful event and I felt so privileged at such a young age to be part of this great tradition. 

"I’m completing 2 more years at college and then plan to travel and work as a journeyman with blacksmiths around the UK and the world to help expand my skillset before really going it alone.” - Toby Smith. 

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