I am currently studying at the National School of Blacksmithing and have a keen interest in heritage. At the start of July, I was able to be part of the working party at Nettleham Hall. Seeing the ironwork to begin with was a bit daunting as the gates date back to the early 18th century, are Grade I listed and in a delicate condition. Knowing what to look for when identifying missing elements, later repairs and the effects of extreme corrosion such as rust jacking was all very new to me, and becoming gradually more familiar with the gates over the weekend was a very rewarding experience.
Everyone was friendly and we had some fantastic experts to lead the way, such as specialist blacksmiths and paint analysts, all adding to the wide range of backgrounds such as architects, students and college lecturers who had come along. I found everyone’s knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication fantastic to be around and inspiring.
The weekend was an opportunity for me to understand how the relevant documentation associated with the gates, and other historical ironwork, is produced. This real-world scenario was a unique and valuable experience as we made our own condition reports, carried out a site excavation and took paint samples. These are specialist skills that are not part of my previous experiences or studies but they are transferable to use at other historic sites and in my college work. It also gave me an insight into the regulatory bodies and the high-quality craftsmanship required in the conservation and restoration industry.
Without the NHIG I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to gain an insight into the skills and knowledge involved in working on historic ironwork. I learnt so much and it was fantastic to be part of a group where everyone was so willing to share their information. I think the best way to gain a better understanding and learn new skills is through practical real-world experiences like this. I look forward to hopefully learning more, particularly the practical skills involved in conservation such as flame cleaning, through many future events with the NHIG.
Stan Lawler, Student Blacksmith, Hereford College