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(1) BATH ABBEY:
WEST FRONT
Gus Astley of Bath City Council
outlines two years of conservation
work of Bath Abbey.
Following two years of conservation work, the scaffolding has recently been taken down to reveal the full splendour of the carved west front of Bath Abbey. This marks the culmination of the first phase of the Bath Abbey 2000 programme which aims to clean and conserve the whole of the exterior and carry out internal works by the building’s 500th anniversary in 2020. The work on the west front, costing £280,000, has been a gift from the Friends of Bath Abbey.
The original work to the west front, dating from 1520, gained its inspiration from a dream by Bishop Oliver King and includes ladders of angels climbing towards Christ in Majesty and flanked by apostles with intercessors below. Two rebuses near the bottom relate to Bishop King’s name. The work is thought to have been carried out by carvers from the workshop of Lawrence Ymber at Westminster under the direction of Robert Vertue who was a master mason at both Bath Abbey and the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey.
The last major work carried out on the west front was thirty years ago during which several pieces of carving were replaced. The ravages of the weather combined with pollution (not a new phenomenon but increased dramatically in this century) had been responsible for the stonework being in a very precarious condition. The emphasis of the recently completed works, however, has been on cleaning and conserving the existing figures with only one figure, which had lost its head and shoulders, having to be replaced. Nimbus Conservation Ltd, of
Bristol, has carried out the conservation of the west front stonework based on the lime technique used so successfully at Wells Cathedral. Significant benefit was derived from the foresight shown in 1869 when plaster casts were taken of all the statues on the west front.
Initial cleaning was carried out using a variety of methods including electronically controlled intermittent water sprays, ammonium carbonate poultices and small hand tools including scalpels and dental tools. A major part of the preparatory work involved removal of
CASE STUDIES
The completed west front.
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