After a series of legal battles and planning controversies the Forge has been given a new lease of life. Communications Company Mandarin Kite are thriving in a new office within the walls of the historic building. Co-owner, and local resident, Kevin Davis has relocated the business from Liphook to the village.
Kevin and his business partner Matthew Hampshire are delighted with the new office. Kevin explained to me how the Forge not only had a “certain character” but also “presented an obvious opportunity”. The Forge, which had been in a state of disrepair for many years, has changed hands multiple times in the last decade. Kevin told me that having worked in a number of “uninspiring offices” it was a chance that could not be missed out on. Kevin said that “the Forge coming on the market perfectly coincided with wanting to move our business”. It made the Forge an ideal place to relocate for Mandarin Kite.
The Forge was first documented in 1869. When interviewed by late historian Freddie Standfield, East Meon resident late Clara Fisher remembered the Forge in 1909 as “a hive of activity, with many horses queuing up for shooing, 3 or 4 farriers worked there including Jim Hobbs”. It must have been quite a sight. The building was used as a blacksmiths Forge until 2006 .
The Forge in 1909- source East Meon Forge Cricket Association
In recent years the Forge had been at the centre of a High Court planning battle. With growing concerns the issue would never be resolved Kevin and Matthew stepped in. Kevin, telling me as a resident, “it was a real shame to see the Forge boarded up, broken windows and just really looking very sad”. Saving the building is clearly not only a business decision for Kevin.
After a history of metal work and hard manual labour the building is now being used to help forge a very modern business. Mandarin Kite is an internal communications company. The team helps large corporations convey messages to employees in a way they hope will be compelling and interesting.
Local builder Jerry Silence, who has worked in East Meon for 8 years, was chosen by Kevin to transform the building. He is not only a close friend but also a skilled craftsmen. For Jerry, first impressions weren’t great. He said, “we started getting into it and it was basically falling to pieces”.
Jerry and his son Scott had to “strip the building down to four walls”. In the end the build was finished on time and within 6 months. Jerry said it was a “great project to work on” and although “challenging” he said “it was very satisfying to see done and to have given the Forge a second chance”.
As the evenings get darker, there is a glow once again from inside the Forge, now it is computer screens creating light, a new chapter in the evolving history of the building.