Category Archives: restoration

Keeping it fresh Part 2 – CPD with The Mosaic Restoration Company


Very soon after completing my work placement with Cliveden, I took up a second placement with The Mosaic Restoration Company. The company director, Gary Bricknell and I had been in touch for a few years. Gary had generously provided advice and passed on smaller jobs that weren’t viable for him and his team to travel for. This placement was to be a combination of time spent in the company workshop in Daventry, Northamptonshire and a week on site at the Old Admiralty Building in central London.

Unfortunately, my Mosaic & Marble Specialist CSCS card expired in the spring which meant quite a lot of hoop-jumping to acquire a replacement in keeping with the recent revisions of the CSCS system (yawn!). It took months to achieve this and was a thoroughly testing saga! There were also tests to pass specific to the building itself before I became adequately certified for working on the site. Once inducted for site safety on my first morning, I joined Gary, Pawel, Guy and Neil in the magnificent corridors of the elegant and nationally significant Grade II listed building to begin work.

The Old Admiralty Building is an elaborate labyrinth of corridors, offices and meeting rooms over several floors. At one time, Winston Churchill conducted top secret military operations from a wood-panelled room here, just restored as part of the current upgrade for the Department of Education. One lunchtime we managed to sneak a peek into this room and saw the original maps he used to pinpoint WW2 battle strategies. However, most of our time was spent on our knees fixing and cleaning the myriad areas of marble mosaic floor earmarked on the schedule for attention.

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Completed corridor, Old Admiralty Building. Photo by Gary Bricknell

Joining the team on this project built on my work with Cliveden and my experience of carrying out ground level mosaic repairs on large and busy construction sites elsewhere. The Mosaic Restoration team approach site work with diligence and expedience. There was an extensive list of disparate floor areas to repair and record throughout the myriad corridors that were constantly filled with operatives engaged in various other construction tasks. Whilst the nature of the work itself was familiar, inevitably Gary and his team have developed their own specific techniques for in situ repairs that were new to me. Principally, their well-honed methods make the work on site much swifter.

The week that I was on site with TMRC in London turned out to be the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures peaking at a record-breaking 38° by Thursday. We were relatively sheltered from the sun’s glare inside the building and, as fortune would have it, we managed to complete the workload a day and a half ahead of schedule. This meant that we could leave at lunchtime and avoid completely melting in the afternoon blaze. Early the following morning, I left London and drove to Daventry to spend the day at TMRC’s impressive workshop.

I felt like an excited child in an enormous sweet shop as I was shown around the storage facilities at TMRC HQ. Shelf after shelf filled with delicious shades of old English Jesse Rust and Venetian glass slabs; salvaged century-old and recently fired unglazed porcelain tesserae in towers of recycled take-away containers and sack upon sack of glistening marble, like sugar cubes, to feast my eyes upon. Upstairs, Guy had started to set out the sections of a large paper-faced glass mosaic mural for Liverpool University on the workshop floor. He explained the referencing system and I gave him a hand. Once it was all in position, we made minor adjustments and then restored any loose or detached tesserae back to their rightful positions.

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Setting out the Liverpool University Mosaic Mural panels at TMRC workshop. Photo Tracey Cartledge

The mosaic mural had been carefully removed from its original location at the university earlier in the year and was now being prepared for installation on a different wall and therefore required modifications. They had worked from a 1:1 full colour large format print to reconstruct the mural and adjust it to fit its new position. Gary showed me a technical model they had produced to work out an improvised installation method which involved an ingenious system of interlocking and overlapping panels. This, like the in-situ floor repair techniques, would allow the team to carry out maximum preparation in the workshop and the minimum of time on site in Liverpool. If you attended the BAMM Forum in York last October, you may remember Gary telling us about this project during his illuminating presentation.

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The Liverpool mosaic mural completed, prior to installation on site. Photo by Gary Bricknell.

In the afternoon, there was a delivery. Several large, heavy crates were craned into the loading bay containing great chunks of elaborate mosaic signage, complete with their original concrete backing. They had come down from Inverness where they formed part of the exterior decoration of The Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Company Limited building. TMRC have carried out several stages of restoration work for this building façade, including four pictorial mosaic panels depicting the city’s engineering and construction heritage. Three of these semi-circular panels appear on the front elevation of the building and the fourth is around the corner on one side, all framed by stone arches above the third-floor windows. One of the front panels was completely missing and needed to be designed and made from scratch to fit in with the others, in compatible style and material, with the same colour palette and appropriate content. We unpacked the crates of mosaic signage and then I set to work sponging off the muslin facing and cleaning up their surfaces.

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Cleaning the Rose Street Foundry Mosaic Signage, photo by Gary Bricknell

Before leaving Daventry, Gary told me about one or two future projects that TMRC have tendered for and mentioned my potential involvement in one of these. As I’d thoroughly enjoyed not just the work itself but also the friendliness, good humour and helpfulness of all the team, I was delighted by this prospect. So, we’ll see how things work out!

 

Jesse Rust repair at Churchgate House


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A close-up of part of the floor outside the Mayoral office in Churchgate House. Jesse Rust glass mosaic – it was popular stuff in it’s heyday. Jesse Rust worked with Alfred Waterhouse and you can see his firm’s work in Manchester Town Hall as well as in the corridors of the old part of Manchester Royal Infirmary. These floors underwent a major overhaul and full restoration a few years ago by fellow mosaic restorer Gary Bricknell and the team from the Mosaic Restoration Company. Gary gave me some useful advice when I was researching for this repair work.

As it was only a short length and, for the most part, a single row of tesserae that was missing from the floor, it was not going to be viable to have glass specially made to match the original material. This is how I improvised…

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Bisazza glass mosaic, carefully chosen for the colour and quality, shaped and abraded to best fit in with Jesse Rust’s beautiful colour palette, as seen in the opposite side of the floor in question, below. His mission had been to create a beautiful but affordable flooring material as an alternative to marble.

“I take old glass of any description and fuse it with a large quantity of sand together with the colouring matter. I thereby get a material resembling marble, but which is much harder and will resist moisture. Any colour and shape can be made in a fused state. I then press it into moulds, in the shape required either for geometric designs, or in squares to be broken up for mosaic.”

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Following meticulous removal of first the repair epoxy that had been used to temporarily fill the gap in the mosaic floor, then the damaged mortar bed and lastly the broken screed beneath, I repaired the floor beneath the glass tiles in three stages. Finally, here are the pieces lined up ready to fit…

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Fixed, grouted…

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All done!

On Our Doorstep


 

There is so much craftsmanship to be admired in the details of  Manchester’s amazing architecture. Have you noticed how many Victorian mosaic floors and thresholds we have in the city centre?

Manchester’s neo-gothic Town Hall has been in the news this week and, just like Buckingham Palace, we’re told that it needs ‘future-proofing’ to ensure its structural integrity. It has an abundance of stained glass leaded windows sagging under their own weight; fairy castle sweeping spiral staircases of stone leading you from one opus sectile marble floor to another featuring, of course, the iconic worker bee and cotton flower motifs in marble mosaic.

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Library Walk Mosaic Floor by J W Restoration, 2015

In 2015, J W Restoration were commissioned to replicate the cotton flower mosaics for a new floor in Library Walk, which runs between the Town Hall extension and Central Library.

Step out into Albert Square and there are more mosaic details within a few short steps of you. Across on the corner of Lloyd Street and South Mill Street, the circular portico at the entrance to what is now Red’s True Barbecue Restaurant has a fine example.

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Portico Mosaic Floor at the entrance to Red’s True Barbecue, Manchester

Over at the other side of the square at 14 Princess Street is the Northern Assurance Buildings. Here you can see a large – more than five square metres – threshold mosaic of a similar age, made using the same traditional method and materials. The mosaic material is unglazed porcelain. Just like the floors that I repaired at Victoria Station a couple of years ago and a more recent restoration in the Royal Exchange Shopping Arcade.

img_4221Restoration of the Philip Morris & Co threshold mosaic in Manchester Royal Exchange Shopping Arcade by Tracey Cartledge, 2016

Over on Rochdale Road, one of my favourite pubs and former home to the cellar brewery of Marbe Beers, is the Marble Arch pub, well known for its sloping floor. Last Christmas, the Chorlton Mosaic Group was invited to put up an exhibition in the pub’s back room. Below you can see the progress on my “Piece of the Marble”, copied from the pub floor, with a few minor colour modifications. This was purchased by the brewery and now lives on their office wall.

well-crafted“A Piece of the Marble” 2015 (in progress) and “Well Crafted” 2016 by Tracey Cartledge

Just like “Well Crafted”, again made in unglazed porcelain, making mosaics like this is great practice for commissioned threshold mosaics like the one below that transformed the entrance to Pettigrew Bakeries in Cardiff.

Pettigrew Bakeries, Cardiff, commissioned threshold mosaic by Tracey Cartledge, 2016

Whilst it has been difficult to research and confirm, I suspect that many of the above and other Manchester period architectural mosaics were the work of the Oppenheimer family business that was founded in 1865 and thrived in Old Trafford until the mid twentieth century.