Walcot Steps Conservation Project

We are fortunate enough to have been commissioned to undertake another job for the World Heritage Site Enhancement Fund (WHSEF) which is a partnership between Bath and North East Somerset Council and the Bath Preservation Trust. The WHSEF aim is to initiate and organise minor enhancements to Bath’s heritage that might otherwise fall through the gaps!
 
This most recent job involved the repair and refurbishment of two sets of railings and 3 cast iron bollards that had deteriorated over the centuries at the top of the tall flight of steps joining Walcot Street to the Paragon.  As with much of this type of work this is a collaborative project and it is great to be working with our friend Andrew Ziminski and his crew from Minerva Stone Conservation. The majority of the work was undertaken on site as you can see by the images. Having been exposed to the vagaries of the weather, endless pedestrian traffic and centuries of dog messages, the work involved stabilising loose and wasted material as well as a complete overhaul of the paintwork. Wasted material was replaced with genuine wrought iron, in the spirit of using like for like material, which was fire welded onto the end of the bars. Our dog friends had significantly changed the shape of the bottom of the cast-iron posts but thankfully with such thick-walled castings, there was still plenty of sound material under the rust crust.
 
As with a lot of the railing repairs we undertake in Bath the paint layers reveal the many different colours the railings have been painted. Rarely do we find black layers except for the last layer on the top.

Another WHSEF project that you may have noticed if you are around the city of Bath is a programme of conservation of the carved street names on the Georgian buildings around the city. This street sign restoration project has just been awarded the Georgian Group Architectural Award for Streetscape Initiatives. Well done! What a lovely project! Visit their website to find out more.

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