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.

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.

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!
 

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.

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.