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!
The BathIRON balustrade is in its final stages of completion before installation in Parade Gardens, Bath this April. It was galvanised in February in Newport, Wales and has been at the Ironart workshops this March, being fettled and painted. We were really happy to host a volunteer Painting Party on Sat 23rd March, where we invited volunteers to come and help us to hand paint the 300 or so musical notes.
This was a great opportunity for volunteers to come and lend a hand and see the multiple layers of process that have gone into making this amazing bespoke artwork a reality. We were delighted that people from all walks of life came down to do join us note painting, at times we had as many as 20 people painting, including three generations of one family! There is still some painting left to do, but it is great to have broken the back of it.
We are really looking forward to seeing it installed in its final resting place in Parade Gardens, Bath. There will be a celebration event called FireFOLK as part of the Bath Festival on the evening of the bank holiday Sunday 26th May 6 -10.30pm. Do come along and join us, you can find out more and buy your tickets here, hope to see you there.
Two years ago the main Rood Screen at St John the Evangelist in Bath was fully restored and re-gilded. Since then we have been asked to quote for the restoration of the side screens and happily we have been commissioned to do the undertake the work to these beautifully made traditional iron folding gates. We are excited to have the opportunity to work on such a stunning piece of local heritage ironwork.
The job involves the removal and restoration of these panels that sit either side of the main alter in St Johns. They were originally made in 1905 and each gate has slightly different designs and motifs. There is some bomb damage with a scattering of shrapnel pock marks from when the neighbouring presbytery was badly damaged by a bomb which fell in 1942.
The gates are covered in an old shellac lacquer which will be removed as will any corrosion as part of the renovation. The one or two missing parts will be hand forged and replaced and it will be repainted in a matt black paint with gilded highlights to reflect similar gilding on the renovated rood screen.
We made this balustrade for a private home near Henley in 2016. We have recently received the final images of it in situ. The balustrade was designed in collaboration with the project architect and was inspired by Sir John Soane’s Moggerhanger House. Whilst it looks beautifully simple it was a deceptively difficult job with fiddly and precise ironwork. It’s great to see it in its completed setting.
We have been increasingly busy making more and more canopy and porch structures. Here are a few from last year. Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like us to come and quote. As you can see they come in all shapes and sizes from lighter weight zinc skinned hoods to five-ton behemoths! Needless to say, suiting a wide range of budgets.
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!
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.
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.
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!