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

 

Sinuous internal balustrade

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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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Allium Gates in Summer

Well, June has come and gone and we did manage to get back to a few of the gardens where we’ve recently installed ironwork – just to see how it’s all looking with the gardens in full flower.  In Doynton, the Allium Gates are settling in particularly well – a fitting reflection of the idea of ‘bounteousness’ that inspired them – and hopefully fulfilling their chief purpose of keeping that muntjac out …

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Perfect Spot for a Gazebo

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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 ….

Happy 50th Ironart!

June 1967Sgt Pepper had just been released, Aretha Franklin’s Respect was at number one, protests against the Vietnam War were at their height … and as the first cash machine appeared on the streets of London, over in Bath a metal workshop called Ironart opened its doors for business.

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Sam Chantry, the original owner, made some of the classic Bath ironwork that you see around you today, including railings, gates and balconies at the likes of the Royal Crescent, the Theatre Royal and further afield at Bowood House.  Our very own Luke worked for Chantry as a teenager and sometimes finds himself revisiting the ironwork he helped to install all those years ago.

 

And 50 years later in June 2017 here will still are, on the same site in Larkhall, doing what we do best – making beautiful bespoke ironwork that will adorn your homes and gardens for another 50 years – at least…

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Lansdown bench

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Allium Gates – from concept to completion

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From the initial design brief – based on the concept of ‘bounteousness’ – to final installation, these ‘allium’ gates for a vegetable garden in Doynton have proved a challenge and delight in equal measure.  Our client wanted the design to reflect the bounty of nature which immediately prompted the idea of a swelling onion bulb. Once the design had been refined in collaboration with the clients, each aspect was hand-crafted in our workshop, where the onion leaves were forged in the fire in the traditional manner and bent into shape. We were thrilled to receive this message a few days after installation:

“I finally got to see the gates properly yesterday and we are absolutely delighted with them. You and the team have put a huge amount of ingenuity and creativity into producing an amazing feature and talking point for our garden.  We wait to see what the muntjac will make of it – they are resourceful little critters!”

As ever, we left site without being able to capture the gates in their full glory when the garden is at its most bounteous, but we look forward to sharing more images in the summer months.

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Burwalls Gates

We were recently asked to restore the original gates to Burwalls, an impressive 19th Century listed mansion perched on the edge of the Avon Gorge in Leigh Wood, Bristol. Originally built as a private house in 1872 the property has passed through media and tobacco families before being requisitioned in 1939 by the War Office and then acquired in 1948 by the University of Bristol. The gates, which are likely to have been made by Singers of Frome, were in need of restoration and widening to fit their new setting at the entrance to a development of private luxury apartments within the grounds.

A beautiful pair of 19th century gates brought back to life

A beautiful pair of 19th century gates brought back to life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The restoration process included straightening crash-damaged sections, the reversal of previous poor repair work, replacement of missing parts, treatment of corrosion, and new extensions to both gate leaves to complement the original gates. We were also asked remove the original acanthus leaves and make new copper Tudor Roses to replace those that were missing, as well as restore and repair the remaining roses. Finally, new lockboxes were made and the gates sandblasted and re-painted prior to fitting.

You can read more about the intricate process of making a Tudor Rose here …

Original condition of lockbox

poor repair work 2

Previous poor repair work

Tudor Rose before

Original Tudor Rose