061118.Bath, ‘X’ Marks the Spots: Conserve Some, Remove Others

November 18, 2006 at 4:07 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bath Abbey, Cathedrals and churches, Chisel Marks, Conservation, Ladders, Preservation, Restoration, Ruins, Salisbury, Sculpture, somerset, Uncategorized, Wiltshire | 3 Comments

061026.097.Somset.Bath.Abbey.West.St Andrew Statue

 

Figure of St. Andrew

Date:1500-1540
Height: 60 inches
Width: 20 inches
Depth: c8 inches

061117.1.Somset.Bath.Abbey.RolandNewman.DecayandConsofStone.MMEver stare at something for a long time? I’ve been watching this west facade of Bath Abbey like a hawk, which is why the statues and their surroundings have bothered me. At the Salisbury lecture, I learned that Salisbury’s west facade has the most preserved medieval stonework (mostly plain ashlars) even though most of its façade statuary was clearly Victorian (they’re wearing wigs, etc.) from Gilbert Scott’s notorious true “restoration.” Scott demolished anything that was built after the cathedral was first completed, and rearranged the remaining original fabric of the interior to make it symmetrical. His actions were a contributing impetus for conservation studies.

Anyway, I took this photo of St. Andrew (and several other statues) a while back and then found a case study on it by Roland Newman examining the previous restorations of the statue and the late 1990s conservation efforts that resulted in what you see above. The main efforts seem to have been removing the previous restoration addition’s use of cement and replacing it with a built-up sacrificial layer of lime mortar.

There have been four major restorations of the abbey:
1833 G.P. Manners
1860-73 Gilbert Scott: his work here was the considered scholarly and responsible (having gone in and replaced or removed most of Manner’s altercations)
1900 Thomas Jackson
1957-1960 (I believe carried out by English Heritage)
And the late 1990s conservation efforts by English Heritage.

The canopy around St Andrew is carved from Clipsham stone and dates from 1900, as much of the Bath stone weathers poorly. (This is infamously seen by its poor performance in the restoration of Henry VII’s Westminster Abbey Chapel, London.) Newman provides a very good explanation on the causes of decay at Bath Abbey, and Bath in general. “The weather in Bath is mainly from the South West, so the parts of the stone facing in that direction get perpetually washed whist those facing in other directions do not. This gives rise to mechanical erosion on one side of a figure and a build up of dirt and salts on the other.” (Newman, 17. See citation below.)

Will answer the demands of the Ruth, Natalie, and JC in tomorrow’s post.

 

 

 

 

061117.2.Somset.Bath.Abbey.RolandNewman.DecayandConsofStone.MM061117.4.Somset.Bath.Abbey.RolandNewman.DecayandConsofStone.MM

Except for the top photo, all information diagrams and the second photo above come from

Roland Newman, The Decay and Conservation of Stone. Thesis (MSc). (Bath: University of Bath: 2000).

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3 Comments »

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  1. …but what is the story with the random medieval dude shinnying up the side of Bath Abbey?

  2. With or without history, the picture is splendid. The ‘angel’ (?) climbing up the ‘ladder’ on the right is amazing. Wonder what the story is there?

  3. I agree with Nathalie and JC, what an interesting tale that guy tells (even when we don’t know it!). Very cool stonework and photo.


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