Toilet, lavatory, loo, WC … we all call it something different, but not many of us tend to call it a ‘Temple of Relief’ these days. Popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras when they were mass produced by iron foundries like Macfarlane’s, cast iron public toilets were once a familiar sight in our city parks. Often decoratively ornate, they were proud architectural statements of a newly improved public sanitation programme. There are still survivors of these ironwork gems in cities like Bath, Bristol and Birmingham, but many are in a poor state of repair.
We were recently called in as specialist ironwork consultants to conduct a survey of the cast iron toilets in Sydney Gardens as part of the Heritage Lottery ‘Parks for People’ bid to understand the former Pleasure Gardens. Andy will be talking about this hidden treasure in Sydney Gardens – and its significance within the context of our precious ironwork heritage – tonight, alongside conservator Sally Strachey and Paul Maggs of Bath College, so do come along to the Gardeners’ Lodge at 6.30pm and find out more. All welcome.
The World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund recently commissioned us to refurbish the cast-iron signposts at the top of Brassknocker Hill, which will be familiar to many stuck in rush-hour traffic queues across the top of Bath. After stripping them down in situ, we took them away for painting, but then came the issue of how to get them across town from workshop to paintshop, with Grosvenor Bridge down to one lane and Bath at more of standstill than usual. Luckily the trusty Ironart Brompton came to the rescue – proving the perfect vehicle (who’d have thought?) for transporting cast-iron signposts about town. The signposts are being painted as we write and will soon be back in place at the top of Brassknocker Hill, gleaming more brightly and ready to point Bath drivers more clearly in the direction of the right traffic queue. Maybe they should get on a bike instead … (Before below, After to follow)
Andy and Jack were in Hereford last month for the AGM of the British Artist Blacksmiths Association as part of Ferrous 2017. There were some fascinating talks and two outstanding exhibitions of work by leading metal artists at the city’s Cathedral and Museum. ‘Transition’ and ‘Forge’ were both curated by Delyth Done, course leader of the Artist Blacksmithing BA at Hereford College, and bring together in one place some of the most exciting contemporary forged metal design around, aiming to ‘represent a paradigm shift from the traditional discourse of the blacksmith and break new ground by synthesising and articulating the practice of creative and conceptual working with forged metal.’ Members of the public had the opportunity to forge ginkgo leaves as part of a sculptural ‘arbour’ designed by Ambrose Burn for St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford.
Andy gave his own talk about the flagship event BathIRON, to be held in June next year, within the context of the National Heritage Ironwork Group’s work. In what many described as an inspiring and thought-provoking talk, he urged fellow BABA members, as the custodians of ancient skills which are at risk of being lost, to keep them alive and pass them on. NHIG are selling hand-forged treble clefs to raise funds for BathIRON and several smiths came forward offering to make batches in their workshops. All in all a great weekend of fun and forging among kindred spirits!
Another Christmas gift idea comes in the form of these beautiful hand-forged treble clefs – perfect for the budding musician or music lover on your list. They would also make a completely original Christmas tree decoration.
Even better, by purchasing one you will help the NHIG to stage a unique event in the centre of Bath which will run from 14th-17th June next year, celebrating heritage skills, promoting the care of historic ironwork and championing the work of the artist blacksmiths who are the custodians of these vital traditional skills.
They were made during a forge-in at Ironart by volunteers who are passionate about their craft and keen to support the BathIRON initiative. So if you want join them in supporting this important grass-roots celebration of our shared heritage, buy a treble clef and help make it happen!
It’s that wonderful time of year again – woodsmoke on the air, brightly coloured leaves, long cosy evenings – when thoughts inevitably turn to Christmas, and soon afterwards to Christmas gifts …
But don’t worry, we have not one but two original gift ideas for you. First off, for those winter get-togethers out in the garden, one of our sturdy fire-pits in a choice of striking designs – the perfect warm focal point for friends and family to gather round: http://ironart.co.uk/product_category/garden-braziers/
Or if you’d rather buy your loved ones an experience to remember, why not book them onto one of our blacksmithing courses http://ironart.co.uk/blacksmithing-workshops/ and let them make their own gift.
Both guaranteed to warm heart and soul! But hurry, before they sell out …
We’re very pleased to be welcoming two new members of staff this summer – Rick and Stacey. A keen horserider, Stacey went into farriery after leaving school but soon branched out into other areas of metalwork including blacksmithing and jewellery, until she discovered a passion for historic pieces and ended up on the metalwork conservation course at West Dean. Stacey spent some time at Ironart a couple of years ago and we were impressed by her work on the Bartlett Street restoration project we had on at the time (read about it here: http://ironart.co.uk/bartlett-street-overthrow-restoration-2/ So as soon as she finished at West Dean we were glad to have her back and are sure she’ll be a great asset to the team.
Although he started off as a chef, Rick quickly made the natural transition (?) to welding and spent many years building boats in Wiltshire. He has a strong background in several areas of metalwork, including a spell in a 2CV restoration workshop so he’s certainly had a good training in the art of dismantling and reassembling intricate component parts. In his spare time, Rick plays the synthesiser he built for himself, enforcing his ‘sonic mayhem’ on his patient family (1 wife 3 daughters).
It’s always good to be out in the garden in June, especially when we’re installing a magnificent gazebo like this – which is just perfect for the spot that’s been lovingly prepared for it. It’s a great feeling when all the component parts that have been carefully crafted in the workshop come together perfectly on-site, particularly when the finished piece looks immediately at home as it does here.
Watch it go up ….