From August 2015
All images are copyright Ian Povey & IronArt of Bath
Week 20: w/c 7th September 2015
The steeplejacks, Ironart, were onsite during the site visit to commence removal of the weather vanes. A Hot Works Permit was issued by the project architect prior to works commencing. Due to their age and corrosion, only one weather vane was removed during the site visit, however the remainder were removed the following day. These have taken back to the steeplejack’s workshop for full restoration.
Site meeting undertaken between head stone mason, site mason, SSHC and the project architect. All elements of stone for removal were inspected and discussed so that all parties are aware of the scope of stone removal and the method in which it is to be removed. Whilst the project team was assembled, the subject of the Hard Hat tours was discussed. Such tours are included for in SSHC’s scope of works and will allow select people (including bellringers and supporters of the appeal) a chance to view the work that is being undertaken.
Interviews for the Parish Magazine were undertaken by Helen Gray. Four member of the project were interviewed and photographed.
During the afternoon we had a surprise visit from Ian Stainburn, who is Chairman of the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC), the body which approved the scope, scale and nature of the conservation work. Ian is a very highly respected Ecclesiastical Architect with many years of experience of this type of work He was very impressed with the work that has been undertaken so far and the philosophy being adopted for the project. Ian has requested that DAC members are able attend the proposed hard hat tours. Following discussions with SSHC and our project architect, it has been decided to offer a separate, additional tour to the DAC.
Overall the project manager, Ian Povey, is pleased to find that workforce had increased and there was plenty of activity onsite. He was also very pleased by Ian Stainburn’s comments and the confidence he expressed in the contractor.
Week 21: w/c 14th September 2015
Full site setup has now been completed, for safety purposes. Site had previously been missing fire extinguishing apparatus. With hot works now being undertaken, this was essential. Cleaning works are continuing on the blind arcading (decorative detailing on main elevations). The results, using the nebuliser spray, have been excellent. Some more intricate detailing, such as the buttress faces and archways, have been cleaned using a mixture of the nebuliser spray and poultice, as the projecting stonework can block the water sprays.
Request made by Helen Gray (Parish magazine editor) to photograph the new stone being carved, at the SSHC workshops. A request has been made to SSHC, to arrange a suitable date – response awaited. Initial invitations were sent to the PCC, in relation to potential hard hat tours. 3 potential tours have been suggested, to be undertaken in October, for up to 24 people. A separate tour has been offered to DAC members, as was requested during Ian Stainburn’s visit.
Email issued to SSHC, regarding staffing levels – operative levels were low during inspections – response awaited. Operative levels have dropped lower than is acceptable. Further information has been requested from the Contractor, regarding increased staffing levels.
Additional tasks undertaken this week:
- Formal graphics received for the design of the New Homes Bonus thank-you banner (Wychavon DC and Evesham TC). This has been issued to Acorn Design.
- Request made by operatives for Architect’s inspection; this now arranged for next week.
- Colour samples finally received from Smiths of Derby for the repainting of the clock face. SSHC informed and meeting arranged when the architect is onsite next week.
- Last, but not least, formal discharge of faculty conditions from Worcester DAC. All works can now continue, as per Schedule of Works.
Work on the weathervanes
This article is reproduced by kind permission of IronArt of Bath.
IronArt of Bath have been commissioned by Sally Strachey Conservation to carry out the restoration of four weathervanes on Evesham Abbey Bell Tower. This beautiful structure is all that remains of a large Abbey complex which was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The gilded crown weather vanes are generally in good condition although there is surface corrosion to the frame, and the gilding and paintwork need to be renewed. Our brief is also to redesign the bearing system which has corroded to the point where the weather vanes no longer rotate efficiently in the wind. Our solution will need to ensure that minimal maintenance is required in future, as you can see from the pictures the weathervanes are extremely tricky to access! The last restoration was carried out in the 1950’s, and the restorers mark was helpfully stamped into the bronze.
On September 17th 2015 Martin Smith and James Cuthbertson went to Evesham to dismantle the first of the four weathervanes. Working high on the scaffolding, they started with hand tools – thankfully the first one came apart easily, apart from the bottom section of the spindle which was very well secured and had possibly been cast into bronze assembly. James and Martin unbolted the cardinal points and the crown from the top of the spindle, which then allowed them to remove the griffon detail. 65 years of weather had corroded and sealed this firmly on, so the two men winched up a gas set and heated the socket at the base to loosen it up. This was a bit nerve-wracking because the base of spindle also forms the clamps around the delicate stone pinnacles. Thankfully they eventually came free without damage to any part of the weathervane or pinnacle. The vanes were then winched down on two ‘gin wheel’ hand pulleys.
Having studied the weathervanes in detail, James is of the view that the vanes were made at the same time as the clamp assemblies. Although the iron has weathered and looks old, the bronze has weathered better. Looking at the flames on the forged griffon they appear to have been flame cut from sheet – identifiable by the distinctive edge quality. James comes from Evesham and was contacted by several people who apparently know the provenance and history of the weathervanes, we’ll update you when we know more.
James said of this project: “It’s good to be involved in a restoration project that has a connection with the place I grew up, and it’s satisfying to know that once the restoration is complete these weathervanes will be here for another long period of time.”
The four vanes are now here in our workshop in Larkhall, Bath. They will now be flame cleaned and minor repairs will be carried out by our restoration team before they are re-gilded and returned to Evesham.
Week 22: w/c 21st September 2015
Following a request to the contractor for additional manpower, a new stone mason has started onsite this week. They will be assisting with the removal of defective stone, at the top of the tower. A meeting between SSHC and the project architect, to inspect the works that have been undertaken and look at colour samples for the clock face. The two samples that have been received, seemed different to the existing colour, both being far too dark.
A request was made to Smiths, for further samples that they had, which will match better. Smiths, even though they do not have records from when they previously painted it, have insisted that it is definitely one of the samples they issued. Images for other clock faces they have painted have been received from Smiths, which seem to support their claims and has been supported by the project architect. Details have been issued to the PCC, for approval, prior to the works being undertaken. Paint specifications have been received from Smiths, which have been forwarded to the project architect, for approval.
Cleaning works are continuing on the lower sections of the tower elevations. Results continue to be of high quality. The contractor has mentioned that there has been an outbreak of small flies at bell and clock stage. They thought it may be due to a dead animal on the inside of the tower. This was inspected and no dead animals were found. This information was passed on to Chris Povey (Ringing Master) who confirmed that this occurs every year. They usually stay for about 3 weeks and then disappear. This is to be monitored as it may affect the works to the clock face.
Week 23: w/c 28th September 2015
The bells and frame have been covered with dust sheets, before stone removal is undertaken adjacent to the louvre openings. This was inspected and found to be satisfactory. Chris Povey (Ringing Master) informed of these works.
The colour for the clock face has been approved by the PCC and works commenced onsite. The hands have been removed and returning to the clock maker’s workshop, for restoration. They will be returned following completion of the stone works, to ensure they do not get damaged. The existing paint was removed and clock face taken back to bare metal. Any remaining rust has been treated and the face has been primed and top-coated. Flies are still present around the bell stage louvre openings. Some have become stuck to the new paint, however this can be easily rectified when the paint is fully dry and the flies have disappeared.
Masonry removal is continuing and has almost been completed on the upper stages (pinnacles and parapet) Initial trials have been undertaken on the removal of the hood moulds, on the buttress faces, above the finials. These works require and replacement of a curved stone piece. This is far more complicated than normal stone removal, as clean edges need to be maintained, to splice the new stone in correctly. Initial works have gone well and results are of high quality. Cleaning works are nearing completion, with some final poultice cleaning on the base plinth. Mortar repair samples were presented to the Project Architect, for approval. These have been approved, which will allow mortar repair works to commence next week.
Project meeting was undertaken on the 29th September 2015. Further requests have been made of the contractor for details of the lapsed programme and implications. A formal response from the contractor is awaited.
Due to changes in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, the CDM Coordinator role has been dissolved. The project architect, who was previously employed as the CDM Coordinator, has been formally appointed as the Client’s advisor. Formal instruction was issued at the meeting, on behalf of the PCC.
Overall, progress is being made and the clock face looks good, so far. All works are of excellent quality.