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South African War Memorial.

The South African War memorial in Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park was in need of careful cleaning and corrosion removal, re-patination, waxing and re-pointing. Missing elements were re-modeled and remade in our Telford workshops then sympathetically but firmly re-fixed in position.

Project location:

The South African War Memorial (1906),  sculpted by local artist Albert Toft (1862 – 1949), had suffered from the effects of acid rain, other environmental deposits, vandalism and some historic settlement of the granite base. Four plaques, three with names of the fallen and one high relief bas plaque representing grief and sympathy were equally corroded and unreadable.  Peace, the topmost sculpture, with two soldiers representing Courage and Endurance with a gun carriage had been vandalised.   Normally held by Peace,the olive branch was missing as were the two rifles  of the soldiers. Originally, the four corners of the base had bronze elements too, these were either wreaths surrounding shields or perhaps eagles; verbal and photographic evidence was inconclusive.  The vulnerability of these lower plinth elements lead the client to request that only the rifles and olive branch were re-made.

Cleaning trials removing the areas of sulphides and powdery green corrosion products led the client and Eura to the conclusion that light air abrasive cleaning of statue plus all four plaques  followed by chemical re-patination to the original mid- brown colour plus a protective coating of specially made micro-crystalline wax was the best way to conserve this historic memorial.  After the thorough cleaning there were numerous areas where faults in the bronze casting were apparent. Some were the result of staining from iron chaplets in the original casting process, some were poorly made patches in the bronze, again probably dating from the original casting.  Careful removal of staining  of highly corroded areas  and where needed filling with bronze loaded resin resulted in a surface suitable for patination and waxing.

Craftsmen in our extensive Telford Eura workshops took a mould from the one remaining rifle in order to reproduce the pattern ready for lost wax bronze casting.  The olive branch was modeled by hand and again cast in bronze to reproduce the original.  The new elements were secured with stainless steel fixings to reduce the risk of theft.

The pink granite plinth was cleaned and repaired by a specialist company; the mastic filler raked out and appropriately re-pointed with lime mortar, along with some small replacement pieces of granite being inset.

The Memorial was the subject of a re-dedication ceremony carried out by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr. John Lines and the Council’s Heritage Champion, Cllr. Phil Davies.  Steve Parlanti, whose family originally cast the bronze in 1906 says, ” …the result is truly stunning,” …”Congratulations on such a fine piece of refurbishment, I was really impressed with the finished work.”

The results are there for all to see and once again the Memorial can be viewed by local people and the many visitors to Cannon Hill Park.

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