St Martin-in-the-Fields    on Trafalgar Square is a landmark building, familiar    to millions both as a church and as a community facility which hosts activities as varied as concerts, a café, and a programme of social care services.

As part of massive £36 million restoration project, Dorothea Restorations has restored nearly 200 metres of Victorian cast iron railings as well as key features inside the church building itself.

This massive metalwork project started in 2005 with a consultancy project to identify the most appropriate techniques to first remove, and then repair, these feature cast iron railings.

Restoration works started on site in January 2006, with the removal of all 186 linear metres of cast iron railings.  Although the objective throughout was to maintain as much original material as possible, the top cast rails were so badly damaged throughout that replicas were required, cast in a ductile iron to be a lot stronger than the old grey cast iron. To balance this out, the entire bottom rail was retained and extensively restored – work which took 18 months in all and included the use of a wide range of techniques including plate repairs, metal stitching and welding.

We also manufactured new sockets for the cast iron railings, and worked closely with the masonry team to anchor these into new concrete footings, with stone (a combination of original and new) being laid around.

Inside, a wrought iron font rail and an original altar rail have been cleaned and restored.



St Martin in the Fields; An Architectural History


 
The first official notation of a church on the site dates back to 1222, when a dispute was recorded between the Abbot of Westminster and the Bishop of London, regarding who maintained authority over the church. The Abbot won, and St Martins it is believed, housed  the Monks of Westminster for around 300 years thereafter.
 
With the reformation of the church in England in 1542, the original church was desecrated by Henry VIII and a new one built . Boundaries were also rearranged, it is said, to keep the plague victims of the parish from encroaching to close on the Palace.

In 1607 the church was enlarged by Prince Henry only to be knocked down in 1721 and replaced by the beautiful church featuring Georgian architecture that is now world renowned.  Designed by James Gibbs and completed in 1726, it has become one of the most important ecclesiastical structures in England.
 
New railings were installed in the 19th century, designed to match the originals, but the quality of those installed, most notably by the minimal cast iron content, compromised their strength. As a result, a large proportion of the hollow cast iron railingshad eroded and broken after 150 years of life. 

 

 

 

Back to case studies