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Restoration of John Skeaping statues Print E-mail

​Recently Houghtons of York completed the restoration of three over 6ft tall statues carved by John Skeaping, the husband to Barbra Hepworth for six years and well-renowned carver who is known best for his work in stone and equestrian pieces.

The statues were the artists last large scale commission, they were carved from Nigerian Opepe for Kings College Cambridge, below are some historic photos of them stood in place.

The statues are of Christ, St Nicholas and The Virgin Mary, each weighs approximately 1/2 tonne and are carved taking full account of English medieval carving traditions - differing from Skeapings usual style. The timber for the statues was shipped from Nigeria to his studio at the Royal College of Art.

When Houghtons arrived to collect the statues they found that they were being stored in a dilapidated barn which had been planned for demolition a few years earlier. The statues were looking a little worse for wear having suffered significant exposure and temperature fluctuations. Large cracks had formed, with some parts of the statues beginning to fall off the main body and a substantial quantity of surface dust/debris had built up.

The company carefully removed them from the barn where they had been stored for 38 years and transported them back to their workshop where the damage was reviewed and appropriate repairs decided upon.

Initially, all loose elements and timbers that had moved significantly were removed the glue joints were cleaned and reformed with hidden bolts being introduced to increase the joint strength and nip the misaligned components together.

Once reassembled, they began dealing with the more significant damage which had occurred in the past. Following this they began to fill the remaining smaller cracks which had formed this was completed by gluing slivers of timber into the cracks and then tooling these in to blend with the adjoining timbers.

Having been in storage for 38 years much of the original finish had been lost so clear natural oils were used to nourish and revive the timber to complete the statues and giving them a new lease of life, all of those involved in their restoration are incredibly proud to the final results.

They were moved to their new home in Castleford Parish church and brackets manufactured to secure the statues firmly upright, considering the size they were surprisingly unstable!

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