St Nick’s weather vane restored 

Church weather vanes are something you rather take for granted so it was a bit of a shock when the one at St Nicholas Church at Chiswick Mall fell off. The bottom mount had snapped, due to rust and fatigue and the whole thing was quite badly mangled by the fall. The frame, the flag and the figure within it were bent and twisted, as was the north / south / east / west lettering.

The church called in Neil Brown, blacksmith at the London Museum of Water and Steam, whose forge in the museum grounds is the oldest forge in continuous use in London.

Three weeks later the weather vane, with its strange figure, is as good as new. “No one seems to know much about it” says Neil, neither who the figure is supposed to be, nor how old it is. The church tower dates back to 1425 and the modern church was rebuilt in the 1880s but the weather vane is modern: “From the look of the workmanship I’d say it was 1940s at the oldest” says Neil.

Church weather vanes are something you rather take for granted so it was a bit of a shock when the one at St Nicholas Church at Chiswick Mall fell off in the autumn of 2018. The bottom mount had snapped, due to rust and fatigue and the whole thing was quite badly mangled by the fall. The frame, the flag and the figure within it were bent and twisted, as was the north / south / east / west lettering.

The church called in Neil Brown, blacksmith at the London Museum of Water and Steam, whose forge in the museum grounds is the oldest forge in continuous use in London.

Three weeks later the weather vane, with its strange figure, is as good as new. “No one seems to know much about it” says Neil, neither who the figure is supposed to be, nor how old it is. The church tower dates back to 1425 and the modern church was rebuilt in the 1880s but the weather vane is modern: “From the look of the workmanship I’d say it was 1940s at the oldest” says Neil.

Neil says: “As you hopefully can see, the wind vane was in a bit of a state when it was dropped off, the direction part of it had all its characters bent and damaged. The top swivel that the flag sits on was bent, and the bottom mount had snapped, due to rust and fatigue. The top flag had taken a pretty hard hit as well, with a lot of damage to its copper tale and figure which had both been bent and stretched by the frame being bent and twisted when it fell onto the church roof. The directional arrow was bent in two different directions, one of the scrolls had been crushed, and the lead counter weight had cracked in half, and come of from the tip”.

“As this was for repair, I had to decide how far to go with each of the damaged areas to make the best repair possible. Looking at the characters on the base, I knew I would be able to straighten them buy using various hand tools, and these repaired very well. The flag on the top half of the weather van was very bent, and the frame holding it was also very bent. I decided that I would have to remove the rivets holding the copper flag into the frame, to allow the frame to be manipulated enough to straighten it. Once this was straight, I was able to remove the damage from the copper flag, and re rivet it all back together. The figure was very badly stretched and bent, I decided the only way to have him at his best again would be to make some cuts in the copper to relieve the tensions in caused by the damage, which allowed me to straighten the figure and repair it. A lot of work went into straightening other areas of the steel frame and central pivot, and when the two parts were reunited in my forge, they lined up perfectly.”

It was then a question of attaching the lead counter weight on the arrow tip, and re-attaching the bottom copper sphere, before repainting the metal work and gilding it in gold leaf. And finally the small matter of hoisting it back up the tower and re-fixing it in position.

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