Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Newlyn copperworks up with the best

Image courtesy of the Cornishman
The development at the elite school that taught David Cameron and many other of society’s biggest names will be crowned by the elaborate feature – known as an acroterion. The quarter ton roof ornament, which has taken eight months to make, will sit atop a gable outside the 300-seat hall at the prestigious £34,000-per-year school.

For those of us who have no chance of ever reaching such dizzy heights, it will be pleasing to know that the crowning glory of the new Eton will be stamped Made In Cornwall. The elaborate feature, known as an acroterion, has been made by Michael Johnson and Shelley Anderson at Newlyn Copper Works and is said to be the most complex example of copperwork made 'in a generation'. The pair now have the challenging task of installing the six feet wide sculpture outside the school's new lecture hall.

Mr Johnson said: “It is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most complex and intricate pieces of hand-crafted architectural copper-work made in this country in a generation.” Michael and Shelley were commissioned to make the roof decoration by architects Bekynton Field who are working on Eton's new quadrangle, or “quad”, development.

The £19m project - overseen by architect John Simpson, designer of the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace - includes 40 new classrooms for modern languages, economics and politics, as well as the lecture theatre and exhibition space. It is the latest addition to the sprawling site in Windsor, Berkshire, known for the Gothic-style college chapel that was part of the original design when it was founded in 1441. So it is nice there will be a (not so) little piece of Cornish engineering there, too, after Newlyn Copper Works were commissioned by Simpsons.

Michael Johnson said: “They had searched the whole of the UK to find someone capable of producing something like this – and they initially drew a blank and went to France. “The sort of thing we have made for Eton stopped happening in Britain after the Second World War. Intricate hand-crafted copper-work doesn’t really get done in this country any more... well it didn’t until we started on the acroterion.”

Image courtesy of the Cornishman
The duo have had to think about how the huge piece would expand and contract in the heat and also drain properly, and how to fix it to the roof.

Michael said: 'With something as complex as this you have to design it with close consideration to how it will function. And all the planning has to be done before a single hammer is swung.”

Acroterions are a hallmark of Britain's grandest buildings and can include discs, tripods and ornate Gothic statues. The names comes from the Greek words for extremity and endmost. Although the pair would not say how much they are being paid, they told The Western Morning News a project like this would cost between £50,000 and £70,000 to commission.

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