Wells Cathedral Handrails

In 2018 we were fortunate enough to be selected to make new handrails for four of the towers at Wells Cathedral.
The Ironart of Bath van was a regular site at Wells Cathedral during the installation phase.

In 2018 we were fortunate enough to be selected to make new handrails for four of the towers at Wells Cathedral. The Bell Ringers Tower and the North, Central and South Towers. We had to create nearly 200 metres of 25mm and 30mm diameter pure iron handrail.

It was very exciting to be working on such a historic building that has stood in that place and seen a lot of things in its 850 years. In all that time no one had considered that they needed handrails and  to be the ones to put them in was a huge privilege.

Being a Scheduled Monument and a building of such historic and national importance, things had to be done to a rigorously high standard. With the architect having selected pure iron as the material of choice, matters were then slightly complicated by the fact that the structural engineer was unable to sign off a traditional approach to construction due to the lack of technical data on the material. After destructive testing of various types of  connection details for the handrail brackets, it was deemed that a traditional approach to construction, using riveted tenons, rather than modern electric welding could be used. This was a relief to all involved. It was a real challenge to then fit all the opposing fittings precisely into the stonework and handrail, so we came up with some ingenious jigs that meant we could do the job with certainty.

You can see here images of Jason working on handrails which were premade in the workshop on bespoke formers, no mean feat in itself! Once at Wells the need for methodical working and the complexity of fitting corkscrew pieces of handrail to ancient stonework with all its variations was quite exacting, it was deceptive, that such a simple looking structure was so hugely technically challenging but with the team’s combined skills and knowledge we are very happy with the final result which will be in the cathedral for many more hundreds of years!

 Whilst the fitting team of Rik, Stacey, Martin and Alan loved the atmosphere of the place and to be working on a job like that, they were all glad to be back working on a flat floor. Rik and Alan became a lot closer having worked in the confined spaces of the central tower!

Maid of the Bridge

MOTB installation

In December 2018 we were pleased to finally see the installation and unveiling of a project that has taken 3 years to reach completion. Maid of the Bridge, a unique piece of public art conceived by Anna Gillespie, Bath based sculptor, and commissioned by developer Crest Nicholson was installed on the newly developed Riverside site in Bath to the great pleasure of the team who had worked on the project and of the local residents.

The sculpture was created from the puddled wrought iron bars from the original chains of the old adjacent Victoria Bridge which had been through a process of conservation and reconstruction in 2015.  The bridge was originally constructed in 1836, designed and built by local entrepreneur, James Dredge who was a brewer in Bath and designed the bridge to carry beer from his brewery across the river without using a ferry or having to detour through the city centre!

Local Council, Bath and North East Somerset and the developers were keen to use the original wrought iron in some way to show their recognition of the historical importance of this Grade II Listed structure and of the history of local industry in the area. Local sculptor Anna Gillespie has used much found metal in her previous works and she seemed a perfect choice to work with this idea.

The resulting piece of public art steeped in the site history was created by a collaborative of local companies from the city, bringing together art, history, heritage skills and engineering.  The  team included art consultant and curator, Peter Dickinson; international engineering company, Buro Happold, Ironart of Bath and Sculptor, Anna Gillespie. We all enormously enjoyed and respected the different skills each member of the team brought to the project and ultimately, our challenge was to find a way to use this old wrought iron to make a safe and durable piece of public art that was true to Anna’s original idea and drawings.

Maid of the Bridge is comprised of 172 sections of old wrought iron bar each carefully marked, drilled and tapped with 1398 spacers and 1116 fasteners, there had to be a trial assembly and then a final assembly once everything was correct. It was finally fitted to a very modern galvanised box section steel plinth, all coated with an HMG coach enamel system.

We were very proud to have worked on such a great project which celebrates heritage skills, respecting historical engineering and the industrial heritage of our city whilst also connecting the past to the future, embracing modern engineering skills and skilled hand-crafted work.

 Maid of the Bridge flows in the same direction as the flow of the river which is a nice touch as it has spent the last 182 years spanning the river and now she flows with it! If you fancy a visit to see her you will find her here.

  

Temples of Relief

1 GENTSToilet, 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.

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Birmingham MacFarlane urinal

 

Brompton on Brassknocker

Brompton signpostThe 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)

Oct 17 signpost Brassknocker Hill

Ironart at BABA AGM

Ferrous2017-main-image-smallAndy 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! 

Ideal Christmas Gift for the Music Lover in your Life!

Treble Clef Score Bath IRON

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! 

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Seasonal gift ideas

Boys around the brazierIMG_1215

 

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 … 

Blacksmithing Course - Jan 15 (10)Blacksmithing Course - Jan 15 (7)

New Arrivals

Stacey 2017 cropped

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.

Rick

 

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).

 

Sinuous internal balustrade

Wroath web 1

Our clients in Blagdon were looking for a unique balustrade to complement their new staircase, something dynamic and contemporary in design but with solid, firmly traditional construction, emulating the sinuous quality of the staircase.  We think the final piece is a striking addition to what will be a beautiful home once finished.

 

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