Supporting Heritage Skills with the Princes Trust

Gareth Cryer developing his Heritage Skills with The Princes Foundation Building Craft Programme.

Gareth Cryer, one of the newest blacksmiths to join our team has been lucky enough to be part of the Princes Foundation Building Craft Programme over the last 8 months. The programme involved a 3-month live-build at Dumfries House in Scotland with a team of other craftspeople including stonemasons, carpenters, bricklayers, thatchers and blacksmiths who were all developing their heritage skills. As part of the programme, Gareth had placements at forges across the UK including his time with us at Ironart. We are as active as we can be in fostering these types of placement supporting and developing people with the craft. In running this programme, The Princes Foundation is doing great work to develop crafts professional’s skills in the UK and enable better building practice and conservation of heritage sites across the country. We are really keen to support this kind of enterprise.  Congratulations, to Gareth for completing this inspirational programme. We look forward to welcoming Jeremy Cash, our latest placement from the foundation, this November. See below some images of the projects Gareth worked on the programme.

Floral Garden Arch

Malvern Arch at the Eden Project

In 2012 we designed and created a decorative floral arch for the Eden Project in Cornwall. We were approached this year by 3 sisters who wanted to give their mum a unique present for a special birthday. They were inspired by the arch that we had created for the Eden project and commissioned us to create a similar one for their mum. Cecily Robinson has worked on this lovely arch over the summer. It has just been installed and is looking glorious! Talking with Cecily about working on the arch she mentioned the challenges of creating consistent tapers from 40mm round bar at the bottom through to a point at the top. She also enjoyed the contrast of working with solid uprights that form the main structure of the arch alongside creating the fine flowery details that adorn the arch from top to bottom!  See here the original arch at the Eden Project and the newly created arch installed in situ. If you are interested in commissioning something like this or similar do get in touch to discuss your idea.

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

BathIRON Balustrade Painting Party

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.

Side Gates to the Rood Screen at St John’s Bath

Side Gates  in situ at St Johns in Bath

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.

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.

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!