Skip to content ↓

The Restoration

The Restoration of the statue of General Gordon at Gordon’s School

Jayne Cox – Escar UK Bronze

It is really quite an amazing turn of history that this example of English Heritage, having travelled thousands of miles, surviving a particularly hazardous journey from England to Khartoum - including immersions in the Thames and then the Nile - should eventually find its way back to the grounds of the Gordon School where they are united in their dedication to the memory of General Gordon. It is a privilege for Escar UK Bronze to have been chosen as the company to undertake the monuments restoration to ensure its persistent longevity.

It is further remarkable and somewhat fitting that a statue already so embroiled in records of the past should again stand as an example of history as it becomes the first historic artefact, within the UK, to undergo a new and ground breaking restoration technique that the company hopes to introduce commonly into the crucial market of renovation.

Analysis of the bronze statue showed that there were several main areas to be addressed; the entire surface had become dull and porous, some key parts were missing and critically two of the legs (one front and one rear) displayed significant deterioration, both aesthetically and structurally. This was due to substantial corrosion of the internal supporting steel bars causing contamination from the inside which over time had worked through the entire thickness of the bronze to the outer surface.

The approach for renovating the statue addressed each of the three key problems:

  • Replacement of missing pieces
    • An existing large tassel was used as an example to create a mould for replica tassels to be cast using the original “Lost Wax” process. Smaller versions were also fashioned through adaptations of the original example to match
    • New reins were made and a missing adornment from the camels harness was supplemented with a bell, fashioned to match the tassels
    • All new pieces were coloured using traditional patination oxidisation techniques to achieve a sympathetic match to the seasoned originals
  • Restoration of the Legs
    • The two effected legs were approached in entirely different ways,
      • The rear leg was restored using a very traditional approach where all contaminated material was removed to leave just the structurally sound parts. New material was then welded into place, fettled and patinated in the traditional manner
      • The front leg was entirely removed and sent to Canada to undergo a pioneering process supported by English Heritage called COLD SPRAYING. This technique allows the original material to be impregnated, giving rise to not only a repair but an actual rejuvenation of the original material that allows it to become structurally strong again – in many cases displaying superior strength to its original form.  The major benefit being that the original piece can be kept, where traditionally once the metal has become so severely compromised the only remedy would be to replace it with new material (in this case that would have been a newly cast leg). The technique employs a sequence of grit blasting to expose the true uncontaminated material; the structure is diagnostically analysed using XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence) technology to ascertain the exact elemental structure of the material (both original and contaminated areas) so that a specific powder of the correct composition can be created. This powder is then cold sprayed onto areas that need renovating. Where the material is specifically compromised layers can be built up to recreate new material regions to the exact composition to match the original material, again preserving authenticity.

Once the leg had been renovated it was also painted with resin on the inside surface to protect the portion of steel that remains in the bottom half of the leg.  Finally, the leg was reattached using traditional welding and fettling techniques to affect a seamless repair

  • Renovation of all bronze surfaces
    • All areas old and new alike were steam cleaned and degreased using special eco-friendly soap as approved by the British Museum any localised small surface repairs required were carried out as necessary and repatinated to blend with the original
    • The entire statue was then waxed with multiple coats of hot and cold wax finalised with Heritage approved micro-crystalline wax and buffed to give the final lustre.

To complete the renovation the stone plinth and surround also required extensive work

  • The base substrate required some replacement and reinforcement, due to subsidence which became evident when the broken flagstones were removed for replacement
  • Loose paving was re-pinned and replaced where necessary with matching quarry stone
  • The Portland stone plinth was washed down to remove accumulated dirt and grime. Two applications of stone poultices were applied to remove as much as possible the staining from the copper salts leaching from the bronze statue into the stone
  • Broken pieces of the Portland stone plinth were reinstated using suitable adhesives
  • The Entire plinth and paved area was re-pointed and further high pressure and steam cleaning was carried out to restore as far as possible to the original colouration.

RESULT: We now have a statue with a seamless renovation, preserved for future generations to appreciate as part of the rich heritage of Gordon’s School.