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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World JTC Roofing Contractors Ltd

Conservation principles for heritage forged and cast ironwork

Using the NHIG Conservation Principles will help ensure high standards and appropriately carried out work.

The principles are for use by all those involved with heritage ironwork projects including:

  • Custodians when commissioning work, to select the right people to work with by ensuring they implement the NHIG Conservation Principles for all their restoration work.
  • Professionals when specifying work, to ensure good and appropriate work by including the NHIG standards within tender documents.
  • Practitioners when promoting their services and tendering for work, to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and importantly the standard they work to regards all their restoration work.

The Conservation Principles are intended to inform and guide decisions at all stages of conservation work to forged and cast iron; they provide a comprehensive and ethical framework around which informed judgements and decisions can be made. Throughout the development process NHIG’s aim has not been to invent something new, but to aid the practical interpretation and application of universally accepted general conservation principles by making them specifically relevant to ironwork. Uniquely, NHIG’s principles expand on the philosophy in order to improve understanding.

Surprisingly, ironwork was the one area of conservation where no specific codes of practice existed which is why NHIG felt it was so important to develop the Conservation Principles document. It has long been felt that while conservation is important, good conservation is essential.

The principles set a standard of practice for those who provide advice, make decisions about or undertake work on heritage forged and cast iron work, not only practitioners and specifiers but also owners, managers and custodians. The purpose of standardising practice is to ensure consistency and make sure that the significance of the work carried out is fully appreciated and that those involved are accountable for the work they do.

The ‘core principles’ of conservation are stated in order to provide a clear ambition and expectation. While these are aligned with universally accepted conservation principles the uniqueness of the NHIG conservation policy is that it goes on to expand the philosophy behind these principles, as ‘best practice’, in order to improve understanding on how they specifically apply to forged and cast ironwork. The conservation policy should be read and referred to as a whole and while self-contained it should be noted that the standards of other conservation organisations may also be relevant.

As with other conservation policies NHIG’s Conservation Principles document is concise as its role is to clearly convey aims and objectives. It does not include lots of detail or guidance, since this would detract from the principle concept and make it too complex to be useful. Instead further practical guidance will be kept separate and provided as supporting documents. Therefore the guidance given for each of the fifteen points listed under good practice has been purposely kept between 50 and 300 words.
In conclusion it is important to appreciate that ‘core principles’ and ‘best practice’ are essentially ‘aspirational’ in stating ideals both for what should be aimed at and what should be achieved. It is therefore essential to adopt a flexible approach to their interpretation, in order to determine how best to apply them to the individual circumstances of any given case or location.

The NHIG ironwork conservation principles were carefully developed, following a process which included two public forums and a peer review process. The Peer Review panel was chaired by Rory Cullen, Head of Buildings for the National Trust, and he was joined by Katy Lithgow, Head Conservator for the National Trust; Kate Gunthorpe, Senior Building Surveyor for English Heritage; Deborah Cane, ICON representative; Ali Davey of Historic Scotland; Rupert Harris of Rupert Harris Conservation and Dr Bruce Induni, SPAB representative.

The Working Group was chaired by Geoff Wallis, proprietor of Wallis Conservation and former Director of Dorothea Restorations Ltd; he was joined by Elizabeth Green, Curator for The National Trust; Bethan Griffiths, Director of The Ironwork Studio; David James, Director of George James & Sons Blacksmiths; Adrian Legge, Senior Blacksmithing tutor for Hereford College; Andrew Naylor, Director of Hall Conservation; Chris Topp, Director of Chris Topp & Co Ironworks.

The NHIG Conservation Principles document has been endorsed by the National Trust, English Heritage, Icon, The Worshipful Company of Ironmongers and BABA.

To find out more about the NHIG visit www.nhig.org.uk