We were once again approached by Sally Strachey Conservation to restore four weathervanes on Evesham Abbey Bell Tower. This beautiful structure is all that remains of a large Abbey complex which was demolished by townsfolk when it was surrendered to the King in 1590 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The gilded crown weather vanes were generally in good condition although there was surface corrosion to the frame, and the gilding and paintwork need to be renewed. Our brief was also to redesign the bearing system which has corroded to the point where the weather vanes no longer rotated in the wind. The solution needed to ensure that minimal maintenance was 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.
Working high on the scaffolding, Ironart’s restoration team started the dismantling process 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. Great care was needed due to the base of spindle also forming the clamps around the delicate stone pinnacles . Eventually coming free without damage to any part of the weathervane or pinnacle, the vanes were then winched down on two ‘gin wheel’ hand pulleys.
Brought back to our Larkhall workshop once dismantled the four pinnacles were carefully flame cleaned. Several minor repairs were made by the restoration team, which included replacement of a number of missing crown crosses, rudimentary straightening of cardinal points, cleaning out areas of rust-jacking before being painted and then gilded.
The original bearing system centred around an exposed bearing surface which required regular maintenance. To try and ensure a lower maintenance solution, the new bearing specification involved using sealed bearings with machined weather caps at the top and bottom.
As the pictures below show, the four vanes were quite literally a stunning sight once re-gilded. Returned to heir home in December 2015 we hope they will continue to do their job for many many more years to come.