We’re delighted to introduce Thomas Coffe. Thomas is from Beaumont-sur-Leze in the South of France. He is a journeyman blacksmith apprenticed to the Compagnon-du-devoir, also know as the Compagnons du Tour de France. (NB Only follow that link if your French is up to scratch…. and it’s nothing to do with the famous cycle race!)
The Compagnons du Tour de France is a French organization of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages. The aim of the Compagnon guild is to train young men and women in traditional trades by acquiring experience trough travelling in various workshops throughout France and internationally too. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour doing apprenticeships with masters. A quick search on Wikipedia reveals this explanation…
“The word compagnon (companion) is derived from the Old French compaignon, a person with whom one breaks bread. For a young man or young woman today, the compagnonnage is a traditional way to learn a trade while developing character by experiencing community life and travelling. Until recently, the compagnons were all male. Today, they can be found in 49 countries across five continents, practising many different trades.”
We are delighted that Thomas has been chosen to come and spend some time learning under the expert guidance of the Ironart team. He’ll be here in Bath for one year, and we’ll track his progress and projects here on the blog, so watch this space for more news!
More pics from our work on the Evesham Abbey weathervanes – follow this link to our recent post about this interesting restoration project.
Martin Smith and James Cuthbertson went to Evesham last week to dismantle the first of the four weathervanes. Working high on the scaffolding, they started with hand tools – thankfully the first one came apart easily, apart from the bottom section of the spindle which was very well secured and had possibly been cast into bronze assembly. James and Martin unbolted the cardinal points and the crown from the top of the spindle, which then allowed them to remove the griffon detail. 65 years of weather had corroded and sealed this firmly on, so the two men winched up a gas set and heated the socket at the base to loosen it up. This was a bit nervewracking because the base of spindle also forms the clamps around the delicate stone pinnacles (see pictures on our previous blog post).Thankfully they eventually came free without damage to any part of the weathervane or pinnacle. The vanes were then winched down on two ‘gin wheel’ hand pulleys.
Having studied the weathervanes in detail, James is of the view that the vanes were made at the same time as the clamp assemblies. Although the iron has weathered and looks old, the bronze has weathered better. Looking at the flames on the forged griffon they appear to have been flame cut from sheet – identifiable by the distinctive edge quality. James comes from Evesham and was contacted by several people who apparently know the provenance and history of the weathervanes, we’ll update you when we know more.
James said of this project: “It’s good to be involved in a restoration project that has a connection with the place I grew up, and it’s satisfying to know that once the restoration is complete these weathervanes will be here for another long period of time.”
The four vanes are now here in our workshop in Larkhall, Bath. They will now be flame cleaned and minor repairs will be carried out by our restoration team before they are re-gilded and returned to Evesham.
We’ve been commissioned by Sally Strachey Conservation to carry out the restoration of four weathervanes on Evesham Abbey Bell Tower. This beautiful structure is all that remains of a large Abbey complex which was demolished by townsfolk when it was surrendered to the King in 1590 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The gilded crown weather vanes are generally in good condition although there is surface corrosion to the frame, and the gilding and paintwork need to be renewed. Our brief is also to redesign the bearing system which has corroded to the point where the weather vanes no longer rotate in the wind. Our solution will need to ensure that minimal maintenance is required in future, as you can see from the pictures the weathervanes are extremely tricky to access! The last restoration was carried out in the 1950’s, and the restorers mark was helpfully stamped into the bronze.
Ironart’s Martin Smith and James Cuthbertson will be travelling up to Evesham later this week to dismantle the weathervanes and bring them back to the Ironart workshops in Larkhall. We’ll post more pics and update you as this project evolves.
The bespoke timber for the handrail was supplied by Staffordshire based timber specialists Clive Durose. The finished stair rail has a really satisfying, intrinsic beauty, and the feedback we received from them put a big smile on our faces too… “We were very impressed with the quality of the metalwork, as was our fitter”
If you have a similar staircase project in mind and would like some advice, please give us a call because we’d love to help.
Andy and James took some time out of the busy Ironart schedule, packed up one of the vans and headed north to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Wakefield for the annual AGM and conference of the British Artist Blacksmith Association last weekend. Sounds like they had a great time. James took some pics and talked to me about his experience:
“It was really good to put faces to the names I read about in the BABA magazine and blacksmiths I’d heard about during my days at Hereford College. The AGM gave me the opportunity to meet some of the people who have written books that I’ve read, and whose work has inspired me. I got to chat to other UK blacksmiths who are in a similar stage of their career as me, we discussed ideas and future plans; and I talked to a French compagnons-du-devoir journeyman who shared his experience of this well-established infrastructure and learning model, which seems much more integrated than ours. BABA had organised some really interesting debates and discussions about the future of blacksmithing in general. Peter Parkinson’s drawing lecture was a particular highlight, along with meeting Alan Dawson, founder of Adaptahaus and the collaborative artist blacksmith Henry Pomfret. I’d definitely go again and recommend it to others – there were so many ways you can get something out of an experience like this.”
This pretty Georgian canopy was reclaimed and restored on behalf of a client who lives on Lansdown in Bath. Martin Smith carried out this restoration in the Ironart workshops in Larkhall. He started by stripping it apart, straightening all the sections and making moulds for the lead cast ball detailing. Martin had to make a new mould for the larger ball detail on the sides (which were new additions). We think it really enhances the back door to their garden.
We blogged about this project two weeks ago. The team are continuing to restore the Bartlett Street sign overthrow here in the Ironart workshop. These pictures tell the story of the restoration work as it progresses under the expert eye of Martin Smith. For more information about Ironart’s Restoration services follow this link to that area of our website. If you have a project in mind and would like some advice about where to start, please get in touch.
These pictures tell the story of an intriguing restoration project we have in the workshop at the moment.We have been commissioned by the Bartlett Street Antiques Centre in Bath to survey, dismantle and restore this beautiful 6m wide overthrow which has, for many years been hanging high over Bartlett Street, a picturesque pedestrian side street in Georgian Bath’s main shopping district.
We are still not sure exactly how old this lovely wrought iron overthrow is but probably late 19th Century. Martin Smith is overseeing the restoration of the whole piece, carefully cataloguing each section and ensuring the appropriate repairs are made at each stage of the process. Stacey Hibberd, Cecilie Robinson and Adrian Booth are all assisting Martin in the restoration. It’s such a beautiful piece of original wrought ironwork and our whole team appreciate the level of craftsmanship and care that went into it’s making. We can only wonder how many million people have strolled underneath this overthrow without even noticing it! When restored and back in situ the gantry will incorporate some new, bold lettering to catch the eye – “Bartlett St Quarter” – more pics to follow as work progresses…
Not a big project, but great to have the chance to work inside Bath’s beautiful Abbey repairing the foot of their historic lectern – here are some pics of Luke fitting new heavy-duty casters to the base. The inscription on the lectern reads…“Presented to the Bath Abbey Church on its restoration by Ann G Bligh as a memorial to her late beloved husband Richard Bligh who died Aug 19, 1869”
Martin made these bespoke brass shutter bars for a large Georgian house in Scotland. This was a fiddly project – but the finished results look amazing.
We don’t have any photos of them in situ, but will blog them when they come through our client. If you are interested in talking to us about shutter bars we have made plenty over the years, so please get in touch.