Design of Railings

I have designed several of these projects over the years. They include St John’s Square in Lower Clapton Road in hackney, Stoke Newington Town Hall in Stoke Newington Church Street, St John’s Churchyard in Stoke Newington Church Street, Victorian railings on Stoke Newington high Street, Balustrades along the river walkway at Thamesmead and several other sites. these sometimes involved working with English heritage who have very high standards and exacting Specifications and i learned a lot from their experience and knowledge.

The image bottom right is a ffrightening example of how the maintea=nance departmetn at hackney tried to repair eighteenth century railings at St John’s Square in Hackney.

I made a bid to the newly formed Heritage Lottery for funding to refurbish the railings and the square. i had made such bids many times before in Docklands and other places and so did not think ti was unusual. however, i got a severe telling off from the Assistant Director for doing it, as he felt it should be a Planning initiative!! I had many run-ins with this individual and was delighted when he moved on to pastures new. I did it because it was a prime opportunity and I needed to earn fees to pay for my Team’s costs following the privatisation of Landscape Services by Mrs Thatcher. It was also urgent because the local people had told me that they were getting nowhere raising money to carry out the work and were depressed to see their beloved square being left to rot.

Amusingly, the bid was successful and secured over £1 million funding for the work. When i designed the planting areas, English heritage who had agreed to part fund the wscheme insisted that all plants used must be off species introduced to Britain before 1750. This was where my Hilliers Plant catalogue came in use, as it lists the date of introduction of every plant therein. I soon developed a spreadsheet of suitable shrubs, perennials and climbers which would meet the requirement.

The railings around the square were very interesting as they had to be set into stone using lead caulking, as the originals had been. I drew up the original designs so that the Contractors could make the railings. The design of the finials was important as these change through history.

Stoke Newington Town Hall

This project involved the replacement of the missing railings and rebuilding of the Portland Stone piers which ad been demolished. (Bottom left pictures above) The railings had been removed ostensibly to make fighter planes and battle ships in te second World War but in reality probably ended up at the bottom of the North Sea. I found the original Planning Application lodged in the Council’s archives and it dated from the 1930’s, before the Town and Country Planning Act. the originals were on linen and it was exciting to examine them in detail. i was allowed to make photocopies which as they were A0 in size or thereabouts (they did not have “A” sizes in those days) and our photocopier only did A3s it took some time. i had to copy the main bits and then used these to make a new set of drawings. these we did on tracing paper using Rotring pens as it was before the days of AutoCAD.

I wrote the Specification for the stone piers and for the railings after discussing it with English heritage and went out to tender. the work proceeded apace. When the Contractr asked me to view the stone samples he had obtained for the new piers, I said I thought they looked okay but would need to check with Englsih Heritage. They were NOT okay. they had examined them under an electron microscope and discovered that one had 40% fossil content and the ther had 80% fossil content. They demanded identical stone. Fortunately my Specification said “the ston must match existing exactly” and that clause saved the Clinet having to pay for the stone cancellation. in the end the origianl quarry in the West Country ahd to be found and opened up and new stone cut out to make the piers.

St John’s School Railings

This was a fun project where itook the designs from paintings produced by teh children and turned them into little icons to be welded to the new railings. We had birs, butterflies, bees and bugs and some flowers too. Sadly, they no longer exist.

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