Bath Stone Bridge: The Restoration

Part 1: Repairing The Stone

Since 2016 mason Mike Orchard has been carving new stone to replace the damaged or lost elements of this Halswell Park icon.

The restoration started with scaffolding to the bridge and removal of dangerous tree limbs before the winter could do any more damage to the structure. Each stone had to be numbered and mapped both on the working drawings and on the stones themselves, before dismantling the most precarious areas could begin.

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The Bath Stone Bridge in Mill Wood was created by Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte (1710-1785) and probably Thomas Wright (1711-1786) as the show piece in the of their water garden vision.

The ashlar apse at the back of the central pediment had roots digging through the cracks and had been losing cut stone blocks into the water below for many years. Before Mike could evaluate the missing stone that needed to be remade a catalogue of all the stone found on site was needed so that the jigsaw could be understood. Salvaging stone lost in the silt was one of the first tasks.

This unprepossessing lump of muddle rock is actually an intricately decorated section of the keystone. This one came from the centre of the bridge and has been languishing under the silt, unseen for over a century. This piece was added to the many more found stones that we have been building up for the day the restoration could begin.

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A section of keystone found in the water.
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The apse with the ashlar blocks that were still precariously in place being removed.

Each piece of stone at the back of the apse is gently curved to create a half-dome. Removing this thin ashlar skin from the rubble stone that makes up the core of the building was a difficult task, each one was numbered and mapped to its original location for the rebuiding that will start once all the new stone has ben carved and the jigsaw puzzle will be put back together.

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Working plans of this 3d puzzle which needs to tie in hundreds of blocks of new and old stone with millimetre precision.
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The missing apse and cornice stones.
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Stonemason Mike Orchard at work on Halswell’s Bath Stone Bridge.
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The pediment and cornice coming back to life; this section of the bridge had been missing for well over 100 years. The arrangement that was in its place, possibly from about 1900, was made of concrete, not the original pediment painted by William Hogarth in 1753.
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The results of the hard work begin to mount.
Bath Stone Bridge 1950s smaller version
The bridge in c. 1950 after the deforestation of Mill Wood.

With the delicate areas of the bridge now removed for conservation and missing stone being cut the time has come to focus our attention of the dam beneath. Until this structure can be made watertight and sound once again the restored elements above water cannot be put back into place. Work has now started on digging out a large concrete apron that rests on silt, rubble and bedrock just in front of the bridge. With more cut stone finds being made on a daily basis this has become an archaeological site in its own right.

The next part in this series dedicated to the Bath Stone Bridge will focus on the dam repairs and the finds being pulled from the lake.

A full history of the bridge can be found by clicking HERE.

-RB

 

2 thoughts on “Bath Stone Bridge: The Restoration

  1. That concrete balustrade was horrid!
    Like Mr Humphreys, above, I too am interested to know if one of the caryatid-type figures still exists, and whether you will be commissioning a second figure (or both figures if none exist).
    Do you have any tours of the works planned this year, for interested members of the public? I came to the re-opening of the Temple of Harmony, but would really like to see the grotto, icehouse and other restoration work that is in progress. Thank you.

    Like

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