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.

  

Cast iron furniture restoration service

We are frequently contacted by people who own an antique cast iron bench or item of furniture and are interested in having it restored. These pieces are becoming increasingly collectable and can fetch very high sums at auction,* so even though it can be costly commissioning specialist repairs, it’s often well worth making the investment.

To clarify from the outset, our definition of ‘restoration’ is refurbishment not conservation. Our objective with each project we undertake is to bring the item back to as near original condition as possible. We aim to make invisible repairs which give the item the integral strength required to ensure it is useable. (Please note that ‘true conservation’ principles are at odds with this. A true conservationist would simply aim to halt any further decay.)

Cast iron bench repairs (2) Cast iron bench repairs (3) Cast iron bench repairs (7) Cast iron bench repairs (8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately due to the bespoke nature of restoration work it’s very difficult to give an estimate to repair your item without actually seeing it because there is a huge variation in the scope of each project. Having said that, experience has taught us that there are some commonalities which can give you a guide. We thought it would be useful to explain our restoration process and a breakdown of the costs involved. Please note that all prices are subject to VAT.

1) Photograph the item
In order to ascertain the scope of your project we ask you to send photographs of the furniture with close-ups of any obvious damage. From these we are able to give an estimated cost for the repair work required. This is on the understanding that until we are able to see the item first-hand here in the workshop we are unable to give a fixed cost.
Should you decide to proceed with the estimate for repairs/restoration the following costs need to be attributed as applicable:

2) Transportation
Transportation to and from the Ironart workshops with Martin Bros (specialist fine art carrier) to include goods in transit insurance with our insurers costs c. £100 per trip, to cover most of England and Wales. POA for benches from elsewhere.

3) Condition reports
On arrival at our workshops the item is fully assessed and a condition report is recorded with dating where possible.  We carry out a second condition evaluation after your item has been cleaned because it is very common to reveal small fractures in the ironwork which had been hidden by old paint. Only at this stage are we able to contact you with a fixed price for the repair work. Cost for these two evaluations will be £80.00

4) Dismantling
In dismantling the benches it is very common that threads will require replacement. Until we dismantle the bench we will not know how many threads will need to be renewed. Cost per thread replacement is £20 per item.

5) Paint stripping & cleaning
It’s common practice to shotblast cast iron to remove paint. Here at Ironart we use copper oxide as the blasting medium and take a great deal of care when doing so! Copper oxide is a less aggressive medium than other materials offered by shot blasting companies (many of whom may have little idea of the intrinsic value of the piece). Depending on the previous paint types used the blasting time can vary enormously. As a consequence we can only give an estimate of the blasting cost here. Typically for a cast iron bench with cast iron back allow: £200 (2 seat); £300 (3 seat); £100 (bench ends only).

Once the item has been stripped back to the bare casting it is given one coat of primer to inhibit rust forming on the surface of the metal. The primer used will depend on the final paint system to be used so it is necessary to consider the finish at an early stage.

6) Workshop repairs
Workshop repairs are charged at £36 p/h and are carried out by our team of highly skilled historic ironwork specialists. Materials used during the repairs, such as cast iron welding rods are charged in addition.

7) Painting
Typically we decorate the benches with a Dacrylate Vinadac paint system, however we can paint in any conventional paint system. (Please note we do not have the facilities to paint two-pack systems). We keep a variety of stock colours which can be found on our website. The cost to decorate a typical three seat bench will be £320.00. Non-stock colours can be supplied in any colours from the RAL or BS4800/BS381C ranges. Allow an additional £40-50 for this depending on colour.
It is also possible to offer an historic paint analysis and colour matching service if you are interested in seeing your item finished in it’s original colour. Where items have been covered in multiple layers of paint we send a sample off for analysis to specialist paint historian (assuming the original paint is still on the bench). The cost for the historic paint analysis service is: £200.

8) Replacement Oak Slats
We are happy to supply new wooden slats, and to oil and fit them. These are supplied in European oak with a slight rounding to the top edge of the slats. The cost varies depending on length and number but allow c.£170 – £200 for replacement slats.

Depending on the bench style slats are either cut square at the each end or have to be shaped to fit within the cast iron moulding. If the slats are cut square then allow an additional £40 for stainless steel fixings and 3 coats of Osmo UV oil. If the ends are to be shaped then this can be a very time-consuming process depending on the casting allow 4-8 hours @ £36 p/h to include oiling.

9) Final Assembly
Final assembly can vary enormously due to the nature of construction allow 4-8 hours per bench @ £36.00 p/h.

*Please be aware there are many modern copies of original cast iron furniture patterns around. The only way to make an educated guess is to look at the quality of the casting and check your item for a pattern number which will help to date when it was made. Please find an explanation of pattern marks and how they can be read here:

Cast iron date marks

 

 

 

Cast iron hearth plate restoration

Martin did a really neat job of repairing this broken cast iron hearth plate. The rest of the team were mightily impressed with the results. Just a note to add to these images… this method of repair was chosen because the client didn’t want to use this hearth plate near a fire, it’s purely for decorative purposes. There are other, more suitable methods of repairing cast iron that is to be used in or near a heat source. If you have any questions about repairing cast iron items, please get in touch because we’d love to help.

Range & fireplace restoration

We’re currently restoring a cast iron kitchen range and fireplace for a client who lives in Larkhall, Bath.

Martin has had a challenging time piecing together the broken sections and taking moulds of the detail to recreate missing elements of the range. This range is the second of it’s type that we have restored in recent years, the makers name is John Denman, Bath. Martin had to create a new grate using mild steel which we’ll then send off for re-casting. He used plaster and Silastic to recreate the detail. Here are a selection of images of Martin carrying out the restoration work.

If you have an antique kitchen range in your period property, they are well worth restoring. If you would like some advice on what it might cost to restore your cast iron range, please get in touch.

Restoration of a three seat Fern Coalbrookedale bench

Martin has just finished restoring this beautiful cast iron three seat Coalbrookedale bench.  Coincidentally we have had a two seat fern Coalbrookedale in for restoration at the same time (pics of that one to follow shortly)

If you are lucky enough to have (or think you have!) an antique cast iron bench sitting in your garden in a state of disrepair, they can be very valuable and it is worth looking at getting it restored. If you would like to talk to us about restoring cast iron benches please pick up the phone. In the first instance it’s useful to have some photographs to send through on an email too so we can make an initial appraisal, please visit the Contact Us page on our website for more info.

 

Three Seat Fern Coalbrookedale bench - before

 

Three seat Fern Coalbrookedale bench - After