After an unfortunate driving incident, The Sunflower sculpture created by Ironart and situated at the bottom of Bathwick Hill in Bath has been damaged by a direct hit during the Christmas break. Fortunately, the driver was ok but sadly the level of damage means that it is looking like it is beyond economical repair. We are currently in negotiations with the council as to whether we will rebuild it for a potentially new home in the city. Watch this space…
We have been working on some different Georgian canopy projects. The first is an unusual project. We’ve had parts of a Georgian Canopy in store for a few years, they had been languishing in the basement of a local charity The St John’s Trust and Ironart agreed to store it with a view to selling it on behalf of the charity to anyone that might have a use for it. A client in Devizes who is building a new house using all reclaimed materials is now using the columns and balustrading to create a feature balcony, we are adapting these lovely old pieces to fit this new project. The original pieces are in amazing condition with virtually no corrosion or rust, no doubt having been previously well maintained and then being stored at St John’s. There have also been debates in the workshop about how the Georgian ironworkers created such beautifully neat leaded half-lap joints with invisible seams.
The second project is from Sion Hill, Clifton in Bristol. We are repairing and restoring a large mid-Victorian balcony and canopy from this property. The original ironwork was created between 1845 and 1873. The canopy was in varying states of degradation because of its location with a perfect view overlooking Clifton suspension bridge but in full receipt of the weather from Clifton Gorge for the last 170 years. Now it has been removed and taken back to our workshop, all the paint has been stripped off revealing stamps of Abadaire Ironworks where it was originally fabricated.
It is a beautifully constructed piece, immaculately created and with perfectly fitting joints. The tenons that fit into the stanchion uprights have an incredibly accurate tight fit which impressed the team working on them. Many of the lead flower details and the cross-sections they sit on need replacing necessitating the creation of moulds of the original flowers in order to make perfect copies. Foot details have also needed replacing, this has been done using reclaimed wrought iron forged to match the originals.
And the third canopy project that we have just completed after 2 years in storage is a beautiful Georgian porch structure that we removed and restored in Bristol in 2018. This is the same property that we created an enormous new canopy structure for in the same year. It is great to see this wonderful project finally complete!
We continue to support young blacksmiths in developing their skills. Over the last couple of months, we have been happy to have Matthias Kuhn, a German Journeyman continuing our tradition of placements. Matthias is in his 6th year of training. During January he has been using the workshop a couple of days a week to get his portfolio ready for applying to study at Steneby Institute of Craft and Design. Steneby is host to Europe’s largest academic metal/blacksmithing workspace and is a brilliant place to study for anyone interested in a career in ironwork.
Matthias tells how in Germany the traditional Journeyman is a familiar sight. Journeymen traditionally don’t use any technology including a smartphone. They cannot spend money on transport and rely on lifts, mainly hitchhiking. This means they meet many people on their travels and get jobs along the way. Exploring different workshops means they learn a wide variety of skills by seeing how smiths work differently across many settings. Journeymen have to remain 50km away from their hometown and they travel and work this way for 3 years and 1 day. Interestingly, Matthais has chosen not to do it the traditional way as he wants to travel beyond Germany and as people don’t recognise the tradition outside Germany it makes things difficult. Matthias is doing his own modern version! We wish him much luck with his plans for studying at Steneby and for the future, it has been a pleasure to have him at Ironart.
Following on from this we also have local, 16-year-old Loris Sarkissian on a work placement in the workshop, 2 days a week. Loris started studying at Hereford College this September, 3 days a week. He came looking for a work placement for the two days a week he is not at college, to get even more experience. We are happy to welcome Loris into the workshop.
We are fortunate enough to have been commissioned to undertake another job for the World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund (WHSEF) which is a partnership between Bath and North East Somerset Council and the Bath Preservation Trust. The WHSEF aim is to initiate and organise minor enhancements to Bath’s heritage that might otherwise fall through the gaps!
This most recent job involved the repair and refurbishment of two sets of railings and 3 cast iron bollards that had deteriorated over the centuries at the top of the tall flight of steps joining Walcot Street to the Paragon. As with much of this type of work this is a collaborative project and it is great to be working with our friend Andrew Ziminski and his crew from Minerva Stone Conservation. The majority of the work was undertaken on site as you can see by the images. Having been exposed to the vagaries of the weather, endless pedestrian traffic and centuries of dog messages, the work involved stabilising loose and wasted material as well as a complete overhaul of the paintwork. Wasted material was replaced with genuine wrought iron, in the spirit of using like for like material, which was fire welded onto the end of the bars. Our dog friends had significantly changed the shape of the bottom of the cast-iron posts but thankfully with such thick-walled castings, there was still plenty of sound material under the rust crust.
As with a lot of the railing repairs we undertake in Bath the paint layers reveal the many different colours the railings have been painted. Rarely do we find black layers except for the last layer on the top.
Another WHSEF project that you may have noticed if you are around the city of Bath is a programme of conservation of the carved street names on the Georgian buildings around the city. This street sign restoration project has just been awarded the Georgian Group Architectural Award for Streetscape Initiatives. Well done! What a lovely project! Visit their website to find out more.
Gareth Cryer, one of the newest blacksmiths to join our team has been lucky enough to be part of the Princes Foundation Building Craft Programme over the last 8 months. The programme involved a 3-month live-build at Dumfries House in Scotland with a team of other craftspeople including stonemasons, carpenters, bricklayers, thatchers and blacksmiths who were all developing their heritage skills. As part of the programme, Gareth had placements at forges across the UK including his time with us at Ironart. We are as active as we can be in fostering these types of placement supporting and developing people with the craft. In running this programme, The Princes Foundation is doing great work to develop crafts professional’s skills in the UK and enable better building practice and conservation of heritage sites across the country. We are really keen to support this kind of enterprise. Congratulations, to Gareth for completing this inspirational programme. We look forward to welcoming Jeremy Cash, our latest placement from the foundation, this November. See below some images of the projects Gareth worked on the programme.
In 2012 we designed and created a decorative floral arch for the Eden Project in Cornwall. We were approached this year by 3 sisters who wanted to give their mum a unique present for a special birthday. They were inspired by the arch that we had created for the Eden project and commissioned us to create a similar one for their mum. Cecily Robinson has worked on this lovely arch over the summer. It has just been installed and is looking glorious! Talking with Cecily about working on the arch she mentioned the challenges of creating consistent tapers from 40mm round bar at the bottom through to a point at the top. She also enjoyed the contrast of working with solid uprights that form the main structure of the arch alongside creating the fine flowery details that adorn the arch from top to bottom! See here the original arch at the Eden Project and the newly created arch installed in situ. If you are interested in commissioning something like this or similar do get in touch to discuss your idea.
Two years ago, the main Rood Screen at St John the Evangelist in Bath was fully conserved and re-gilded. Since then we have been commissioned to undertake the conservation of the beautifully made traditional iron folding gates on either side of the Rood Screen. We have really enjoyed having the opportunity to work on such a stunning piece of local heritage ironwork. The gates were originally made in 1905 and each gate has slightly different designs and motifs. The gates were covered in an old shellac lacquer which has been removed along with minor corrosion and the one or two missing parts were hand-forged and replaced and then repainted in a matt black paint with gilded highlights to reflect similar gilding on the rood screen.
There is a scattering of shrapnel pockmarks from when the neighbouring presbytery was badly damaged by a bomb in the Baedeker raids of 1942. Because of the bomb damage, one of the gates had lowered which meant we had to extend the hinge journal and heel pivot, allowing the renovated lockboxes and latch to line up nicely and work as they no doubt originally did. Whilst odd missing parts were replaced, the shrapnel damage was left alone, a historical marker left for future generations to find.
It was great to discover more about the history of the building and the ironwork through this renovation project. Click to see this film of St John’s the Evangelist Church after being bombed in some rare documentary footage from the BFI library archive that was found by Martin Smith one of the blacksmithing team who worked on the conservation of the gates. Martin was curious to find out more about the bombing that impacted the heritage ironwork they were working to conserve.
|Over the last 3 and a half years, Ironart of Bath has been involved in a project called BathIRON. BathIRON was the brainchild of Andy Thearle, owner of Ironart of Bath and secretary and trustee of the National Heritage Ironwork Group. The NHIG’s aim is to raise awareness of heritage ironwork, the skills involved in creating it and also that enable its protection and conservation. The focal point of the BathIRON project was to create a brand new bespoke, musical themed balustrade for the bandstand in Parade Gardens, Bath, as a means to raise awareness of heritage ironwork to a multitude of audiences. |
Last June alongside The British Artist Blacksmith Association, Hereford College of Arts and lots of artist blacksmiths, Ironart of Bath participated in the BathIRON festival of ironwork in Parade Gardens in the centre of the City of Bath. Over the 4 days of the event, all the bespoke panels were forged live by master blacksmiths and their teams. Following on from that, after a winter of hard work and thousands of hours of forging, galvanising, finishing and painting, this April saw the final installation of the balustrade and it looks amazing! It is now in situ and you can go down anytime to Parade Gardens in Bath and have a look.
|This May Ironart joined the final celebrations to mark the project’s completion, at an event called FireFOLK in Parade Gardens, Bath. FireFOLK was an evening of live folk music, forging demonstrations, a silent auction of traditionally, hand-forged pieces, a bar and local food stalls. It was a family-friendly event as part of the Bath Festival and welcomed people of all ages and backgrounds. It was great to be mixing with artist and master blacksmiths, families who had sponsored notes on the balustrade, folk music enthusiasts, regulars to the park and visitors to the city. We were very lucky with a balmy, sunny evening and much fun was had by all, the mayor came to cut the ribbon and accept this amazing, bespoke gift on behalf of the city of Bath and the evening ended in suitable style with lots of happy folk dancing around the beautiful, newly adorned bandstand. Read more about the project here.|
It has been amazing to be part of this project, that leaves a legacy that will be seen and enjoyed for hundreds of years by many thousands of people visiting and living in the city of Bath. The opportunity to be involved in something that allows people to understand the incredible creative possibilities of working with metal was very exciting and a privilege. This kind of bespoke work is something that Ironart of Bath specialises in. Do get in touch if you would like us to come and talk about a creative idea you have for some bespoke ironwork creation!
In 2014 we were approached by Gloucestershire County Council to give advice on the existing historic entrance gates to Page Park. Fast forward 3 years with much to-ing and fro-ing between the Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund and we were fortunate enough to be successful in tendering for the restoration of the gates, which were originally made in 1904 by Gardiners of Bristol. The gates have served to keep the park secure for over 100 years, however they were in much need of refurbishment especially the lower panels that had in effect been dissolved by dog wee! Repairs in the past had not been sympathetic to the original metal work, especially the sheeted areas and locking system.
The gates have been repaired with wrought iron, thermal zinc sprayed and finished with a coach enamel system. Overall it has been a huge pleasure to restore these splendid gates to their former original glory.
The project is expected to hoover up nearly 1500 hours of our time, many thanks to Gloucestershire Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this project happen. We are hoping that all the gates will be installed by the end of February 2019. The 1000m of railings also being made for the park’s perimeter are currently being manufactured elsewhere, not a job for Ironart of Bath, we were unable to take on the sheer volume! P
We have just completed installation of this balustrade in a private house in Cambridge. It was no mean feat getting all those bars to line up with so much going on with all those angles and curves going on!