When is a gate not a gate?
When its a piece of Art?
These lovely gates date from the late 19th Century (that’s Victorian if your British). We conserved these gates for a private client. Luckily for the gates the client is an Art professional, who realized their value culturally and financially. They we’re rescued from a salvage/reclamation yard a few years ago purchased with no provenance. The client wanted to use them as a feature somewhere in the house or gardens of her beautiful Edwin Luytens/Gertrude Jeykell designed Arts & Crafts House.
In consultation with Burrows Lea Forge Ltd. she was only to aware that the first rule of conservation had been broken; moving a piece from its original location. Nothing could be done about that now, but there was an opportunity to embrace another Conservation rule, namely if a piece is in danger in its location, it should be moved to a more suitable (preferably permanent) site.
These gates are very special, they are in an Arts & Crafts style, expertly balanced and we suspect they were originally commissioned for a civic building, church or public office. There is an enormous level of detail, demanding top level forging skills. Interestingly and in the spirit of Arts & Crafts, the Artisan was only too aware of his excellent work and deliberately allowed ‘schoolboy’ errors in the setting the piece. As a craftsman I can easily identify what’s going on, the technical execution is so expert, it makes a joke of the deliberate errors, I suspect the Blacksmith responsible, might have hoped a Peer will see through his fakery, as I would in his situation. Well, I have!
Its amazing the time-shift a skill or craft can breach; you can get inside the head and empathize with someone long gone. Conservation and restoration does this, as you look closely, respecting the work of others, you can truely see inside their minds and feel what they must felt as they ‘turned’ a scroll or ‘pinched’ a collar or made a small mistake! Its a marvelous thing.
Back to the job! The client thought about the best use of the gates for quite a while and eventually with our guidance decided for us to install them in the covered arch way to the old coach-house of her property. The bare wall of the inner arch was crying out for some sort of ‘interest’. So we installed the gates on the wall. We were conscious to install them high enough to be aesthetically acceptable and safe from the prevailing weather. We used the original hinge mounts fixing them with stainless steel fixings into the Bargate stone wall. Mindful all the time of reversibility of of our actions.
So the gate went up, they looked great and as you can see there is as much on show today, no less than there was 100 years ago, with any luck, 100 years from the view will be the same.
THAT”S CONSERVATION! sorry I meant ART.