Jane Davis of the National Heritage Training Academy South West has brought two groups of students to train at the Mansion during the past few months. Second-year stonemasonry students from Bath College have spent Tuesdays for ten weeks at the Mansion, and five students from the Prince’s Foundation spent the first two weeks of the year at the Mansion. Both groups have gained valuable experience in practical restoration, rather than just having practise in the classroom, and all have expressed their enjoyment and satisfaction at being able to contribute to the restoration of the Mansion.
The students from Bath College were presented with certificates to mark their work on the Mansion by Trust chairman Stephen Davis on 1 March. The Prince’s Foundation students worked at the Mansion for two weeks as part of a five-month programme of training on various sites around the country. They were presented with certificates by the Prince of Wales in London on 22 March.
With two groups of students working on the Mansion we have seen a good demonstration of the collaborative nature of stonemasonry. The Bath College team spent several weeks before Christmas mainly identifying and removing damaged stone on the east gable on the north range and on the buttress outside the back door. Immediately after Christmas the Prince’s Foundation students began to replace ashlar on the buttress outside the back door and to cut three stones for a window jamb on the second floor. They set one of the stones and left the other two to be set by the Bath College team, who also replaced the header stones from the window – stones which had been cut two years ago by students from the Building Crafts College!
The Bath College students have cut and replaced ashlar on the east gable of the north range, in an area that has been awaiting repair for several years. Both teams have been working with the traditional methods of using mallet and chisel to cut stone but they have also gained valuable experience in the use of power tools – a move which is essential to masons seeking to compete in today’s commercial market.
During the course of removing damaged stone from the top of the gable, the apex finial, a figure in the form of an imp or devil, called a Hunky Punk, was removed and Jitka Palmer, one of the Bath College students and a sculptor in her own right, has created a new hunky punk in the same style. Jitka has done considerable research and has found similar objects on the cathedral of Notre Dame, probably reflecting Viollet-le-Duc’s influence on Benjamin Bucknall.
At the presentation of certificates on 1 March, Jitka presented the new hunky punk to Stephen Davis and Jitka and the Mansion were featured on BBC Points West early in March. More information Jitka's web site
Since the conclusion of their formal practical training, some of the students from Bath College have continued to work on the east gable of the north range under the supervision of WMT’s Training Manager, Jonny Anderson, and it is hoped that work on this gable will be completed shortly, so enabling the scaffolding which has been in place for the last four years can be removed, revealing the restoration work that has been done on that part of the Mansion.