After an unfortunate driving incident, The Sunflower sculpture created by Ironart and situated at the bottom of Bathwick Hill in Bath was damaged by a direct hit during the Christmas break. Fortunately, the driver was ok but sadly the level of damage means that it is beyond economical repair.
Very early last Sunday, to avoid the weekend traffic, the dismantling team assembled on the roundabout at the bottom of Bathwick Hill, Bath to remove the damaged Sunflower. Even though it was sad to see The Sunflower come down in these circumstances, the process of taking it apart went well and within two hours The Sunflower and it’s 4 large concrete counterweights had all been removed successfully. A few residents assembled to watch the process and were sad to see it go too. See images below of the process.
We are currently in negotiations with Bath and North East Somerset Council as to whether we will rebuild it for a potential new home in the city. Watch this space…
We have been working on some different Georgian canopy projects. The first is an unusual project. We’ve had parts of a Georgian Canopy in store for a few years, they had been languishing in the basement of a local charity The St John’s Trust and Ironart agreed to store it with a view to selling it on behalf of the charity to anyone that might have a use for it. A client in Devizes who is building a new house using all reclaimed materials is now using the columns and balustrading to create a feature balcony, we are adapting these lovely old pieces to fit this new project. The original pieces are in amazing condition with virtually no corrosion or rust, no doubt having been previously well maintained and then being stored at St John’s. There have also been debates in the workshop about how the Georgian ironworkers created such beautifully neat leaded half-lap joints with invisible seams.
The second project is from Sion Hill, Clifton in Bristol. We are repairing and restoring a large mid-Victorian balcony and canopy from this property. The original ironwork was created between 1845 and 1873. The canopy was in varying states of degradation because of its location with a perfect view overlooking Clifton suspension bridge but in full receipt of the weather from Clifton Gorge for the last 170 years. Now it has been removed and taken back to our workshop, all the paint has been stripped off revealing stamps of Abadaire Ironworks where it was originally fabricated.
It is a beautifully constructed piece, immaculately created and with perfectly fitting joints. The tenons that fit into the stanchion uprights have an incredibly accurate tight fit which impressed the team working on them. Many of the lead flower details and the cross-sections they sit on need replacing necessitating the creation of moulds of the original flowers in order to make perfect copies. Foot details have also needed replacing, this has been done using reclaimed wrought iron forged to match the originals.
And the third canopy project that we have just completed after 2 years in storage is a beautiful Georgian porch structure that we removed and restored in Bristol in 2018. This is the same property that we created an enormous new canopy structure for in the same year. It is great to see this wonderful project finally complete!
We continue to support young blacksmiths in developing their skills. Over the last couple of months, we have been happy to have Matthias Kuhn, a German Journeyman continuing our tradition of placements. Matthias is in his 6th year of training. During January he has been using the workshop a couple of days a week to get his portfolio ready for applying to study at Steneby Institute of Craft and Design. Steneby is host to Europe’s largest academic metal/blacksmithing workspace and is a brilliant place to study for anyone interested in a career in ironwork.
Matthias tells how in Germany the traditional Journeyman is a familiar sight. Journeymen traditionally don’t use any technology including a smartphone. They cannot spend money on transport and rely on lifts, mainly hitchhiking. This means they meet many people on their travels and get jobs along the way. Exploring different workshops means they learn a wide variety of skills by seeing how smiths work differently across many settings. Journeymen have to remain 50km away from their hometown and they travel and work this way for 3 years and 1 day. Interestingly, Matthais has chosen not to do it the traditional way as he wants to travel beyond Germany and as people don’t recognise the tradition outside Germany it makes things difficult. Matthias is doing his own modern version! We wish him much luck with his plans for studying at Steneby and for the future, it has been a pleasure to have him at Ironart.
Following on from this we also have local, 16-year-old Loris Sarkissian on a work placement in the workshop, 2 days a week. Loris started studying at Hereford College this September, 3 days a week. He came looking for a work placement for the two days a week he is not at college, to get even more experience. We are happy to welcome Loris into the workshop.
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 filmof 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.
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!
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!
This lovely gate was commissioned by keen gardeners in Holt who brought in a drawing of some bull-rushes. Andy developed the theme to arrive at this delightful gate which Jack really enjoyed making, and which we hope will give great pleasure to its owners for many years to come.
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!
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/