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.
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 The gates were originally made in 1905 and each gate has slightly different designs and motifs.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.
|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!
June 1967 – Sgt Pepper had just been released, Aretha Franklin’s Respect was at number one, protests against the Vietnam War were at their height … and as the first cash machine appeared on the streets of London, over in Bath a metal workshop called Ironart opened its doors for business.
Sam Chantry, the original owner, made some of the classic Bath ironwork that you see around you today, including railings, gates and balconies at the likes of the Royal Crescent, the Theatre Royal and further afield at Bowood House. Our very own Luke worked for Chantry as a teenager and sometimes finds himself revisiting the ironwork he helped to install all those years ago.
And 50 years later in June 2017 here will still are, on the same site in Larkhall, doing what we do best – making beautiful bespoke ironwork that will adorn your homes and gardens for another 50 years – at least…
From the initial design brief – based on the concept of ‘bounteousness’ – to final installation, these ‘allium’ gates for a vegetable garden in Doynton have proved a challenge and delight in equal measure. Our client wanted the design to reflect the bounty of nature which immediately prompted the idea of a swelling onion bulb. Once the design had been refined in collaboration with the clients, each aspect was hand-crafted in our workshop, where the onion leaves were forged in the fire in the traditional manner and bent into shape. We were thrilled to receive this message a few days after installation:
“I finally got to see the gates properly yesterday and we are absolutely delighted with them. You and the team have put a huge amount of ingenuity and creativity into producing an amazing feature and talking point for our garden. We wait to see what the muntjac will make of it – they are resourceful little critters!”
As ever, we left site without being able to capture the gates in their full glory when the garden is at its most bounteous, but we look forward to sharing more images in the summer months.
We were recently approached to design and make a set of gates for a substantial 18th Century property in Oxfordshire. Required for the property’s courtyard, the gates were to be made in the traditional manner with their design reflecting the style of the front gates. Made of mild steel, the gates featured mortice and tenon joints, individually hand forged finials and fire welded rings, as well as traditionally made snub-ended scrolls. To finish, the gates were thermal zinc sprayed and painted. We’ll post photos of these stunning gates in situ soon.
We are often contacted to make bespoke balconies and balustrades for period properties.
Most recently we have been involved in a comprehensive project to design, make and fit a decorative and highly detailed external staircase, landing and balustrade for a townhouse in Clifton, Bristol.
The structure includes a landing radiused at one end with cast iron landing plates, a staircase with decorative cut stringers, cast iron treads with custom made bull nose edging to the sides.
The wrought iron balustrade features a convex handrail, traditional hot forged scrollwork, lead cast fleur de lys details and cast iron newel posts. The design of the balustrade was taken from the existing balustrade to the front of the property which the clients were keen to mirror this design in the new balustrade.
Overall a stunning piece and beautiful exterior showcasing the property.
Ypres in Flanders saw a fantastic turnout for its week long International Blacksmithing event last week. Bringing together blacksmiths and farriers from around the world to create a stunning new World War 1 Cenotaph for the 21st Century, the cenotaph will stand as a beacon of hope for future generations, commemorating all those who died, survived and were affected by the conflict 100 years ago.
Represented by Andy, Alan, Alan’s wife Helen and James, Ironart was proud to attend and take part in this unique event, travelling the return trip of 580 miles by camper van and bicycle, via the Channel Tunnel.
Andy told us:
“The set up at Ypres was incredibly impressive – over 20 nationalities were represented across the 170+ blacksmiths attending. Split into 25 teams under Master Blacksmiths, the forging stations ran really well with Alan, James and I joining different masters to produce the individually designed railing panels which will flank the 12-tonne centrepiece of the Cenotaph – a 7m high slab of steel featuring a single Flanders Field poppy surrounded by a field of 2,016 steel poppies – all handcrafted by blacksmiths and farriers from all over the world.”
Over the six day event, the town saw parades and events to commemorate the Great War and all those who suffered, including the laying of a wreath of poppies forged by children. Alongside the forging spectacle, ‘Transition’, an exhibition of contemporary forged metal design, was also on display. The international exhibition will tour the UK and mainland Europe finishing in London as part of the centenary Armistice celebrations in 2018.
“As always it was great to meet up with old friends and make new acquaintances; working in international teams really does inspire. It was also a great opportunity for us to spread the word about BathIRON 2017 a celebration of our nation’s heritage ironwork, which the NHIG (National Heritage Ironwork Group) is staging in June next year. A rare and exciting event, Bath’s Parade Gardens will host a Festival of Ironwork that will see the live creation of a brand new balustrade for the park’s bandstand. Alongside this, a two-day Historic Ironwork Conference at the Guildhall will focus on conservation and restoration of our nation’s heritage ironwork.”
“We thoroughly enjoyed Ypres 2016 – huge thanks and congratulations to BABA and the Belgian Guild of Blacksmiths (ASG) for organising. For the Ironart contingent, it gave James and myself a great opportunity to get our cycling gear on and take in some beautiful countryside on our 120-mile return leg from Calais to Ypres. Many thanks to Alan and Helen for driving…a road trip to remember!”
Hard to believe but almost a year has passed since journeyman blacksmith Thomas joined us back in September 2015, as part of his apprenticeship with the Compagnons du Devoir (also known as the Compagnons du Tours de France).
You’ll recall from an earlier blog that the Compagnons du Tour de France is a French organisation of craftsmen and artisans dating from the Middle Ages. The aim of the Compagnon guild is to train young men and women in traditional trades by acquiring experience by working in various workshops throughout France and internationally. Their traditional, technical education includes taking a tour doing apprenticeships with masters.
As his year with Ironart draws to a close and with the next stage of his journey lined up, Thomas tells us how the last 11 months have gone:
“Looking back, the year has really been a great experience for me; I’ve worked on and seen so many interesting projects as part of the Ironart team, first working closely with Dominic then more independently. It has been such a busy environment. Everyone has been so helpful, welcoming and supportive. My English was very basic when I arrived – school level – now I can say a full sentence or two and have picked up some technical blacksmithing terms!
I came with only a small amount of ironworking experience and had never worked in a blacksmithing organisation. One project that stands out for me was making a balcony and balustrade for a property in Lansdown, Bath – learning new techniques and seeing the finished piece was amazing.”
Thomas leaves us in mid August and will move back to France, settling in Strasbourg for the next two years as he takes up a teaching role at the city’s Compagnons du Devoirs. He will be teaching 16-18 year old metalworking apprentices basic skills and techniques, as they embark on their own journeys.
“I am really looking forward to the next stage in my learning – and also a little nervous! It will be a very busy two years and I have never taught before so again I will have a lot to learn myself.
The confidence Andy and the team at Ironart have shown me has helped me already and I’m looking forward to talking about and sharing my experiences with other compagnons when I return to France. I am very lucky to have had this experience and would definitely recommend it to other apprentices. Thank you to Andy and everyone at Ironart for everything – I can actually speak English now!”
We wish Thomas all the very best!
The Lower Lodge Gateway (or Gatehouse) was once the main entrance to impressive Ashton Court in Bristol. Built in c. 1805 it was constructed at its location to allow a picturesque carriage drive from the City of Bristol to Ashton Court’s main west front.
Having been in a state of dilapidation for some time, the Lower Lodge gates are now part of a £1m Bristol Buildings Preservation Trust Project which will see the restoration and conversion of the building into the Bower Ashton Gateway Centre, a community hub and learning centre to be managed by Ashton Park School.
For us at Ironart, restoring these gates has been another fantastic project to be involved in…and not without its challenges!
Due to logistical issues, the 15ft x 15ft double gates set within the gatehouse itself couldn’t be moved so the team was required to restore them in situ – a very restricted space. Made of wrought iron in c. 1875 we think the gates were originally transported to the site in sections for assembly.
Martin Smith of Ironart said:
“Over the years the gates have suffered quite severe damage including vehicle damage. The right hand leaf looking out on to the road was seriously distorted and the level of rust-jacking to the overall structure was widespread. This was particularly noticeable on the finial cresting which was also severely bent, with cracks clearly visible on the left side. The top and bottom rails were also in poor condition. The lock boxes were severely corroded and broken; the springs were snapped and internals bent, again probably due to vehicle damage. The drop bolt and keep were in need of repair as the keep was no longer retaining the bolt.”
Washing down the gates to remove the top layer of dirt enabled us to see the scale of the job. Rust-removal was the next key stage which once completed, was followed by wire-brushing back to the clean surface.
In terms of the individual elements, the broken lock box was sent to Keith Carrier & Son of Birmingham, for repair. New lock box cover plates were made at Ironart’s Larkhall workshop and the keep boxes repaired retaining as much of the original material as possible.
The drop bolt once removed was brought back to the workshop to be straightened and a new tension-spring made and fitted.
The finial cresting of spears and sweeps was removed from the top bar and brought back to the workshop for the rust-jacking to be removed. Each spear, sweep and ring detail was individually and carefully cleaned out and filled where needed. Repairs were also made to the bottom rail.
Once primed, the gates were undercoated and top-coated in a dark grey paint. A beautiful pair of 19th Century gates restored and ready for the next chapter in their story…