COMMISSIONED TO CREATE LARGE ECCLESIASTICAL SCREEN
AT 900 YEAR OLD ELY CATHEDRAL
Chris Topp & Company has the distinction of being the only blacksmith company in the world today still rolling and supplying genuine wrought iron.
As such this rural north Yorkshire company, employing a unique team of traditional craftsmen, regularly undertakes commissions to restore ancient works of wrought iron in cathedrals and great buildings such as the Houses of Parliament.
However, rarely does his company have the opportunity to create in wrought iron a large new work of art such as a reredos in a building as large and prestigious as Ely Cathedral.
Chris Topp and his team have just finished constructing a five metre wide and five-metre high screen for Ely cathedral’s Lady Chapel. It is in a central location behind the altar and under the large main east window of the Chapel. This part of the cathedral dates back to the fourteenth century and still today daily services are held. An altar table and candle standards are also being made at Chris Topp’s workshops in Carlton Husthwaite near Thirsk.
The project comprises the largest piece of elaborate ecclesiastical wrought iron work created by the Chris Topp Company in its 30-year history. It is also possible that the screen is the largest piece of new ironwork placed in 900-year-old Ely Cathedral for nearly two centuries. “We are proud to think that our new screen could remain in the cathedral for centuries” says Chris Topp.
“It has been a privilege for my company to have been commissioned to undertake this work and an honour for the talented group of traditional blacksmiths working with me” says Chris Topp.
The screen has been designed by John Maddison, a Cambridgeshire based artist and expert on medieval architecture. “I was pleased to recommend Chris Topp for the commission of this intricate construction because I have worked with him before and am an admirer of the quality and skill of his team” says John. He added: “Chris is very experienced in this field and brings his own personal contribution to the finished product”.
The work has been done in traditional style, emulating the high standard of craftsmen working in wrought iron for centuries and rarely practised today. For example there is no modern electric welding of joints: instead the time-honoured use of wedges has been employed on the screen.
John Maddison’s design is very modern in concept and is cleverly arranged to show off the remains of an early, fourteenth century reredos, carved into the chapel wall. A rectilinear framework is distinguished by the use of blacksmith-made pierced joints held together in time-honoured fashion by means of iron wedges. Projecting upper parts of the screen add another dimension while their style makes reference to their gothic surroundings.
Chris Topp & Company scours the world for ancient wrought iron that can be re-rolled for use today. The screen for Ely Cathedral was made with wrought iron that previously was part of large chains raised from the seabed of the former Gibraltar naval dockyard! The use of wrought iron, well known for its long life, as well as being a joy for the smiths to work with, will guarantee that the reredos will last for a few centuries to come.
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