Gate restoration for the Piece Hall in Halifax

The magnificent south entrance gates of the Piece Hall in Halifax have been re-installed. They have benefited from an extensive conservation programme to repair and restore them to their original condition and decorative scheme.

The Piece Hall’s south gates were made in 1871 by George Smith & Co of Glasgow. They have a wrought iron framework and each gate bears cast iron panels depicting John the Baptist. The intricate designs contain many clues to a fascinating local history and provide a suitably grand and colourful entrance to Calderdale’s most important heritage building.

We had them for over one year while they were repaired, conserved and repainted. The conservation work has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The conservation work involved removing the gates and bringing them to our workshop. Consultation was undertaken on the proposed new colour scheme which uses strong, rich Victorian colours appropriate to the era of the design and construction of these ornate gates. At the workshop, the heritage colour scheme was reintroduced, and the wear and tear associated with over 100 hundred years of use was repaired. The gates returned home to the Piece Hall in outstanding condition and ready for a renewed future.

The gates are constructed using wrought iron for the framework with each panel filled with a grey iron ornamental casting. They are of considerable size and weight with the standard of the workmanship being very good. Particularly impressive is the forging of the back stile, which is forged in one with the bottom rail and the two hinges.

In September 2010 we did a survey and report on the state of the gates and surrounding stone work. The condition of the left hand top hinge caused concern and although apparently unlikely to actually fail, can hardly be considered safe. Some urgency was placed on finding a remedy to the difficulty of opening the gates and the resulting shaking as this is causing further damage. To achieve this major work will be required to the hinges. We also suggested that while the gates are removed they received attention. We observed that there is wastage to the bottom rails, particularly of the right hand gate and a new piece of wrought iron should be put in to replace the wasted section. It is accepted conservation practise to fix replacement structural sections by electric welding, although care must be taken not to cause any distortion, which will risk cracking the neighbouring castings. Other remedial work was also suggested.

The work went out to competitive tender and in November 2011 we were awarded the work. We removed the gates in December 2011 We estimated each of these gates weighs 4 tonnes; we had to build a special lifting frame to help with the removal and hired in lorry’s with specialist lifting equipment on board. The work was started but more work was commissioned once the paint was removed and as a result of paint being removed we discovered the original paint colours, applications need to be made to the authorities to get the colours changed back to something close to the vibrant ones that would have been of the era.