Wilkinson Carvings – Majestic once more, The Completion of Restoration Work in London’s County Hall
Over the Christmas period, two magnificent stone carvings were returned to County Hall, London. These sculptural friezes made by Antique Bronze Ltd were precise replicas of the originals which once adorned the fireplaces in the main entrance of County Hall. After the completion of almost a year’s work, the experts behind the impressive feat highlight their story.
Alfred Henry Wilkinson was born in 1884 in Birmingham and whilst in his teenage years began an apprenticeship as a wood carver, attending his local art school. He then later moved to London, following his love for architectural designs, choosing to study at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He subsequently went on to become a National Scholar at the National Art Training School (now known as the Royal College of Art) before attending the Royal Academy Schools winning his scholarship and numerous prizes.
His work within London’s County Hall occurred following a competition he won in 1921 which was held to offer the chance to design the ceremonial staircase within the Hall itself. The commission unfortunately was never carried out; however Wilkinson was still employed to create stone carvings for both the Belvedere Road and Westminster Bridge Road entrances to the County Hall. In addition he created the chimney piece located within the members lounge. Continuing with his amazing skill as a wood carver, several years later he was once again commissioned to undertake wood carving within the northern section of County Hall.
Although there is no exact date available, at some point towards the end of the last century, two of the stone carvings adorning the main entrance to the Hall were indelicately removed. Eager to resurrect the splendour of the Halls intricacy, County Hall Estate Management Ltd, the current managers of the building decided to have the missing statues remade.
Antique Bronze Ltd were chosen to undertake this special task as they are renowned for their art services and are specialists in the restoration and conservation of traditional materials. Although this project has taken virtually a whole year, they managed to put the finishing touches to the replica sculptures in mid-December. Lucy Branch, director at Antique Bronze spoke of the challenges her team faced when taking on this project:
“Every stage of this project has been complex – just one of the early tasks was in sourcing enough clear images of the sculptures that we were replacing. This is an essential step in ensuring a faithful reproduction of the artist’s work. Just locating the images took a number of weeks. Initially, only one sculpture was known about and through our research, it came to light that two unique sculptures of the highest quality were originally there. When we did find images, our hopes were dashed as they were blurry and of no use to us who need precise details to copy. Once we had found the best images to relate to, the next step was sourcing the correct stone to keep in line with the existing décor and original choices made.
After searching for a while we managed to source the very same ‘Hopton Wood’ stone which is very rare now in the scale that we required it. From the photographs, we initially made a small wax maquette before going onto sculpting both models first in clay. We then carved them by hand in stone before finally installing them which was a logistical feat in itself. This month we plan to remove the scaffolding before allowing full access to visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the finished project”.
London-based Antique Bronze Ltd continually present a stunning range of wonderful restoration work and are highly respected as one of the most reputable experts within their industry. Delivering a wide selection of services, discover more about the company and their specialist trades by visiting the website at www.antiquebronze.co.uk now.
Regularly taking on some of the most delicate restoration works across the UK, they keep a close eye on stories and studies relating to their industry