St Johns Gates Renovation & Installation

Renovation complete of the beautiful hand-forged side gates at St John the Evangelist in Bath with gold touches.

Two years ago, the main Rood Screen at St John the Evangelist in Bath was fully conserved and re-gilded.  Since then we have been commissioned to undertake the conservation of the beautifully made traditional iron folding gates on either side of the Rood Screen. We have really enjoyed having the opportunity to work on such a stunning piece of local heritage ironwork. The gates were originally made in 1905 and each gate has slightly different designs and motifs. The gates were covered in an old shellac lacquer which has been removed along with minor corrosion and the one or two missing parts were hand-forged and replaced and then repainted in a matt black paint with gilded highlights to reflect similar gilding on the rood screen.

There is a scattering of shrapnel pockmarks from when the neighbouring presbytery was badly damaged by a bomb in the Baedeker raids of 1942.  Because of the bomb damage, one of the gates had lowered which meant we had to extend the hinge journal and heel pivot, allowing the renovated lockboxes and latch to line up nicely and work as they no doubt originally did.  Whilst odd missing parts were replaced, the shrapnel damage was left alone, a historical marker left for future generations to find. 

It was great to discover more about the history of the building and the ironwork through this renovation project. Click to see this film of St John’s the Evangelist Church after being bombed in some rare documentary footage from the BFI library archive that was found by Martin Smith one of the blacksmithing team who worked on the conservation of the gates. Martin was curious to find out more about the bombing that impacted the heritage ironwork they were working to conserve.

Parade Gardens Balustrade

Over the last 3 and a half years, Ironart of Bath has been involved in a project called BathIRON. BathIRON was the brainchild of Andy Thearle, owner of Ironart of Bath and secretary and trustee of the National Heritage Ironwork Group. The NHIG’s aim is to raise awareness of heritage ironwork, the skills involved in creating it and also that enable its protection and conservation. The focal point of the BathIRON project was to create a brand new bespoke, musical themed balustrade for the bandstand in Parade Gardens, Bath, as a means to raise awareness of heritage ironwork to a multitude of audiences. 
 
Last June alongside The British Artist Blacksmith Association, Hereford College of Arts and lots of artist blacksmiths, Ironart of Bath participated in the BathIRON festival of ironwork in Parade Gardens in the centre of the City of Bath. Over the 4 days of the event, all the bespoke panels were forged live by master blacksmiths and their teams.  Following on from that, after a winter of hard work and thousands of hours of forging, galvanising, finishing and painting, this April saw the final installation of the balustrade and it looks amazing! It is now in situ and you can go down anytime to Parade Gardens in Bath and have a look. 
 
This May Ironart joined the final celebrations to mark the project’s completion, at an event called FireFOLK in Parade Gardens, Bath. FireFOLK was an evening of live folk music, forging demonstrations, a silent auction of traditionally, hand-forged pieces, a bar and local food stalls. It was a family-friendly event as part of the Bath Festival and welcomed people of all ages and backgrounds. It was great to be mixing with artist and master blacksmiths, families who had sponsored notes on the balustrade, folk music enthusiasts, regulars to the park and visitors to the city.  We were very lucky with a balmy, sunny evening and much fun was had by all, the mayor came to cut the ribbon and accept this amazing, bespoke gift on behalf of the city of Bath and the evening ended in suitable style with lots of happy folk dancing around the beautiful, newly adorned bandstand. Read more about the project here.

It has been amazing to be part of this project, that leaves a legacy that will be seen and enjoyed for hundreds of years by many thousands of people visiting and living in the city of Bath. The opportunity to be involved in something that allows people to understand the incredible creative possibilities of working with metal was very exciting and a privilege. This kind of bespoke work is something that Ironart of Bath specialises in. Do get in touch if you would like us to come and talk about a creative idea you have for some bespoke ironwork creation!
 

Page Park Gate Renovation

In 2014 we were approached by Gloucestershire County Council to give advice on the existing historic entrance gates to Page Park.  Fast forward 3 years with much to-ing and fro-ing between the Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund and we were fortunate enough to be successful in tendering  for the restoration of the gates, which were originally made in 1904 by Gardiners of Bristol. The gates have served to keep the park secure for over 100 years, however they were in much need of refurbishment especially the lower panels that had in effect been dissolved by dog wee!  Repairs in the past had not been sympathetic to the original metal work, especially the sheeted areas and locking system.

The gates have been repaired with wrought iron, thermal zinc sprayed and finished with a coach enamel system. Overall it has been a huge pleasure to restore these splendid gates to their former original glory.

The project is expected to hoover up nearly 1500 hours of our time, many thanks to Gloucestershire Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund for making this project happen. We are hoping that all the gates will be installed by the end of February 2019. The 1000m of railings also being made for the park’s perimeter are currently being manufactured elsewhere,  not a job for Ironart of Bath, we were unable to take on the sheer volume! P

Sir John Soane Inspired Balustrade

Sir John Soame inspired balustrade 2016

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.

Canopies

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.

 

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