Bringing Crafts to life at Winsford Cottage Hospital

Traditional metalwork techniques from a local blacksmith

Here at Landmark, using traditional craft skills is an essential part of our mission to rescue and restore at-risk historic buildings. One of our newest Landmarks, Winsford Cottage Hospital in Devon is an arts and crafts gem, designed by one of the leading figures in the Arts and Crafts movement - C.F.A. Voysey.

In this post, Kasia Howard, Landmark Engagement Manager, shares a couple of crafts projects at Winsford.

One crafts project at Winsford involves the original Voysey fire surround in the hallway, which was missing. Previous staff members who had once worked in the hospital in the 1960s remembered a copper fire surround, which was polished every day by hospital staff. It was therefore decided that we would commission a new copper surround to fit the dimensions of the opening in respect for the original design. Our project architects produced a design, based on Voysey's portfolio for items in metal, including fire surrounds, hinges, grills and even keys, teapots and ink wells.

Inspired Metals Ltd, based near Chard in Somerset, are specialists in using copper, bronze and brass. Simon Hebditch leads a small dedicated team, including two trainees. The technique required for the new copper fire surround is called 'repoussé.' Repoussé is a technique in metalworking whereby a malleable metal is shaped by hammering the reverse side - in this case a copper sheet. Simon says that he enjoys the challenge of creating a piece for a historic building with such a strong architectural pedigree. 

A carved timber die is used to form the shape, so that both hearts are the same and the copper sheet is heated or annealed before it is hammered and reheated several times during the hammering process in order to keep the copper malleable. The copper sheet is only a couple of millimetres thick, so the fire surround has a painted steel support on the underside. It will be riveted to this support – the rivets being an integral part of the final design and we can't wait to see the finished product.

Another project at Winsford has involved blacksmith Greg Abel in creating Voysey-inspired candlestick holders. Greg came across Moreton Forge about 20 years ago, after stumbling across it whilst holidaying in the area. Blacksmithing was his hobby, but when he realized that the forge was for sale, he knew that it was opportunity not to be missed, to start a new life and business in Dartmoor. As well as working closely with clients to create unique pieces, often featuring sinuous fern and foliage designs, Greg teaches short courses in the 200-year old building. 

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we were able to arrange a two-day stay at Winsford Cottage Hospital for locals, Aaron and Mel to learn the art of hot forging alongside Greg. For Aaron in particular, this was an opportunity to fulfil a desire to learn the skills. 

"Learning to strike an iron, and develop a skill of alchemy and magic, that is thousands of years old is deeply satisfying."

Greg worked with Aaron and Mel to create two new candlestick holders, in a design inspired by Voysey’s work; these will proudly be displayed at Winsford Cottage Hospital. Book your stay at this remarkable Landmark - find out more here.