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Devotion to heritage ironwork is recognised by unique award

For 35 years Chris Topp – along with his colleagues – has devoted his time to increasing his and others’ expertise in the preservation and restoration of the heritage of ancient iron.

Chris’s interest in traditional blacksmithing skills began in 1967 when he had a summer job in Bolton that was within walking distance of the Atlas Forge. At that time, Atlas Forge manufactured puddled wrought iron, as well as re-rolling wrought-iron axles.

The forge was the last manufacturer of puddled wrought iron anywhere in the world before it ceased production in 1974. It continued rolling steel for a further 10 years until it finally closed in 1984. The rolling mill is still in working order and is part of the collection at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.

In 1977 Chris purchased a package of scrap metal, which was in fact wrought iron from the demolition of a locomotive house at Sunderland Docks. Chris’s passion for working with historic materials, his talent for ironwork restoration and traditional blacksmith’s skills continued, and in 1982 he founded Chris Topp & Co. He quickly established the company as one of the most respected workshops in the country.

Now trading as TOPP & Co, the company creates and restores fine architectural metalwork for some of the most architecturally sensitive sites in the world. The unique technical and logistical challenges set by the heritage sector demand both the finest craftsmanship and organisation.

TOPP & Co are among the largest blacksmith’s workshops in the UK and have a client list which includes the Natural History Museum in London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and numerous cathedrals, estates, local authorities and private clients around the country. They are also the sole supplier of re-rolled genuine wrought iron.

TOPP & Co work to the standards set by the National Heritage Ironwork Group (NHIG) for the conservation of ancient ironwork, and Chris was influential in the writing of that code of practice. NHIG was formed in 2009 by a group of experienced professionals, including Chris, to raise awareness of the importance of the different forms of heritage ironwork and to ensure that the skills of the heritage ironworker and blacksmith are preserved.

Chris Topp remains a member of the NHIG council; and at its 10th Anniversary Conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum in November he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to heritage ironwork preservation.

For further information visit www.toppandco.com

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