During January Martin Smith and Paul Ashmore worked on the restoration of an unusual kitchen garden gate from Cothelstone in the foothills of the Quantocks. The Ironart team was also commissioned to follow the original design and make up three new, replica gates to replace those that have long since gone missing from the walled garden, a challenge which we gratefully accepted.
The original gate is an impressive, heavy wrought iron example of complex, traditional construction, featuring tenon joints and curved punched rails and elegant forging. By Martin’s estimation the gate dates from c. 1820 and was without doubt specifically commissioned for the walled kitchen garden it graces. This was a really interesting and challenging project for the Ironart team who fully appreciated the craftsmanship and high level of precision with which it had been made.
Because the assembly of the original gate was so complex the team chose not to remove any of the component parts for cleaning. The extensive corrosion between joints had resulted in a great deal of rust jacking and failure of the tenon joints, all of which had to be meticulously cleaned by hand with brushes, chisels and scrapers. Any replacement parts were made by the team using wrought iron to retain the structural integrity of the gate. The original spring latch was reinstated as a working feature and a new stainless steel mortice lock was enclosed within a wrought iron box in sympathy with the original design. (For those that are interested, the main construction of this original gate was 1 1/4″ stiles, 3/4″ main bars and 2″ x 1/2″ rails – both straight and curved.)
The replica gates were tackled by one of our highly experienced blacksmith’s Jason Balchin, understudied by NADFAS intern Cecilie Robinson and Adrian Booth.
Jason’s first challenge was to scale down the dimensions of the original gate and create templates for the three new gates to fill the apertures in the wall. The new gates not only faithfully followed the design of the original, but were also traditionally made, with tenons, mechanical joints and firewelded features. The central diamond detail was made up of fire-welded joints and halving joins. All the ends of the rails had forged tenons which were heated up and riveted into countersunk holes on the stiles. It’s important to point out that these new gates were constructed using modern materials – ie: metric mild steel instead of imperial wrought iron.
Due to the complexity of this project the team had to assemble them three times during the making process to ensure that all dimensions and calculations had been accurately achieved.
Prior to assembly all the mating joints and tenons were flooded with a zinc rich primer before being sent to a local firm for shot blasting and hot zinc spraying and priming. Once this has been done they’ll be ready for their final paint application.
Jason Balchin says of this project: “It was really enjoyable making these complex, technical gates and a pleasure to work with Adrian on our first big project together – he did a really great job.”
The restoration team here at Ironart have just reinstated a lovely cast iron range inside the Claverton Pumping Station for the Canal & River Trust. The range is a ‘Galdac Gem’ and was classed as a ‘portable’ freestanding stove, even though it takes a great deal of manpower to shift it! Ironart’s Martin Smith – who heads up our restoration team here – estimates that the range was made in the 1830’s as it pre-dates the registration mark system of of 1842.
Claverton Pumping Station was built in 1813 and is a fascinating example of local engineering history and well worth a visit if you are ever in the Bath area. The pump was in working order until two years ago and is currently undergoing a major restoration of it’s own. The Trust aim to have it up and running again by the end of 2015. The pump uses the power of the River Avon to lift water up 48ft into the Kennet and Avon Canal above. As their website states: “Burning no fuel and making no waste it is the ultimate in environmentally friendly technology”. WATCH a Youtube video of the Pumping Station here.
The Trust believe that this cast iron range was located over the road in a cottage which was built at a slightly later date to accommodate the pumping station operators. We think that the range predates the cottage, and we’re assuming that it originally came from the pumping station workshop or kitchen. The Ironart team had to disassemble over 80 individual parts to repair. The Canal and River Trust acquired it and then obtained a grant to fully restore it. Martin Smith, Paul Ashmore and NADFAS Restoration Bursary Intern Cecilie Robinson all worked on this restoration project which took the best part of two weeks to complete. The only part of the range that was missing was the ashpan which the team made new, faithfully following the design of a similar range we had seen. The Canal and River Trust now hope to have the range in full working order. Once the the flue, registration plate and bespoke firebricks are installed and connected they fully intend to use it!
On Monday Andy and Alice went along to the AGM of the National Heritage Ironwork Group which was held in London. The NHIG objectives are to advance public knowledge and understanding of traditional ironwork and ironworking crafts, in particular through education, research and promotion of high standards.
The NHIG was set up and lauched by a small group of dedicated professionals in 2010. In four years it has grown to a committee of 17 very enthusiastic blacksmiths and heritage professionals who have come together from all corners of the UK to forward the aims of the group. The NHIG has recently been granted charity status and is looking set for some strategic changes – exciting times are ahead. More news on this when we have it.
In the meantime, if you are a blacksmith, heritage professional or simply have an enthusiasm for the conservation of important ironwork please help us to guarantee the future and support the NHIG by becoming a member today at a cost of £50 – spread the word!
Ironart featured in the press this week when this pair of handsome lanterns were unveiled by the Bishop of Taunton, Peter Maurice, at Christ Church on Julian Road in Bath. Now Bath and The Bath Chronicle both picked up on the story because, once stripped of their paint, the lanterns were found to be peppered with bullet holes!
The team at Ironart had been commissioned by the trustees of Christ Church to restore the lanterns earlier in 2013 thanks to a generous legacy left by a Christ Church parishioner. The lanterns are of painted copper construction with traditionally made wrought iron brackets. Martin Smith who is head of restoration here at Ironart describes their style as ‘high gothic’ and dates them somewhere between 1860 – 1880. They were originally gas lanterns, and almost certainly base mounted, they had been modified from their use elsewhere to grace the front of the church. One of the lanterns has a series of bullet holes which could not have happened while they were hanging at the church due to their location on the copper crown – nobody seems to know where they came from! The ornate wrought iron brackets with which they were mounted had also been adapted, Martin believes they may have originally formed part of an overthrow-type structure. The only other similar gas lanterns Martin has seen were in Westminster, London.
Martin worked on the full restoration of these historic lanterns with National Heritage Ironwork (NHIG) student Paul Ashmore who was on a placement at Ironart for several months over the summer. Paul and Martin paintstakingly disassembled the lanterns and made a full assessment on it’s condition and the method of repair, before restoring them to their former glory. Please follow THIS LINK to a full gallery of images of this restoration project.
If you have any questions about this or other similar projects, or have a lantern yourself and would like to discuss it’s repair – please get in touch.
Welcome to Paul Ashmore who has joined the team for the summer months. Paul is an NHIG (National Heritage Ironwork group) student. We’ll post some more about Paul as he gets stuck into various projects over the next few weeks.