The Restoration of the Wrought Iron Balustrade of MAISTER HOUSE The High Street, Kingston upon Hull
By ALAN K. BRAY R.I.B.A. (writing in 1975)
In early 1971 it was decided by the National Trust that the wrought iron balustrade at Maister House was in need of comprehensive repair and redecoration.
This fine ironwork by Bakewell, after 227 years of service appeared at a first glance still in reasonable condition. Close inspection revealed that while the basic structure remained sound, the more decorative portion with slender leaf and foliage shapes, and cover and joint ornament, was in a serious state of disrepair. Wear and tear over the years had resulted in dilapidation which if not halted, would have lead to more general decay.
In the 38 decorated baluster units forming the balustrading of the ground to first floor stairway and first floor landing, a leaf motif appears on each side of each unit, that is 76 in all, and out of these, 30 leaves were missing, and of the remainder some were loose, some damaged and a few only in reasonably original form. All the applied decoration could be said to have been in need of repair in this ratio.
To some extent the precise condition of the ironwork was heavily disguised by paint coatings applied over the years, and it was decided to strip the paint coats from a number of baluster units in order more closely to ascertain the true condition of the ironwork, and this was done very carefully and covered the lowest 11 units and enabled a more accurate assessment of the remedial work required. Subsequently, prices for the restoration work required to the ironwork were obtained from Contractors having the necessary specialist experience, based on a specification of the work required and eventually a tender agreed and a firm of Contractors appointed.
The balustrade around the gallery at second floor level is also of wrought iron construction but due to its much simpler design (that is to say without fine ornament or slender shapes) and also due to its isolation, had received much less wear and did not require any remedial work other than stripping and thorough paint treatment.
The main balustrade however, required very extensive repair and this involved careful removal of the units to the Contractor's work place and re-erection on completion, including also the removal and afterwards re-fixing of the wood handrail, very thorough paint protection of all the metalwork against corrosion and final decoration and gilding.
It is of interest to note that careful paint stripping revealed that the original colour of the balustrade was white, then later it was peacock blue, then red and gilded and after that black on a number of occasions. All the work is now complete and the balustrade can be seen against a background of walls freshly redecorated.
The building's sober facade hides one of the most fascinating interiors in the city; and a story of wealth, tragedy and high art. The wealth belonged to the Maister family. The Maisters were one of a number of merchant families who lived on Hull's High Street and traded with ports around the North Sea and Baltic. The family originated ... (read more...)
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