Hall Conservation leaders in restoration
“At Hall Conservation, we have a ‘can do’ attitude,” explains founder and director, Brian Hall. “Our projects don’t come with problems, they come with challenges, and our team is great at finding bespoke solutions to each and every one of them.”
When Brian Hall started Hall Conservation just over a decade ago, he already had a wealth of experience in the restoration industry. Brian’s early work included the ambitious restoration of the Hereford Screen, George Gilbert Scott’s enormous choir screen from Hereford Cathedral, now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. “That was a fantastic project that some people thought would be next to impossible to actually do. We did it though,” recalls Brian, with a smile.
Last year, Hall Conservation undertook the mammoth task of restoring the famous Warrington Golden Gates, a huge set of gates gifted to the town in 1895 and last restored in the 1970s. Following a specialist survey, Hall Conservation carefully dismantled the gates and transported them to their workshop where they were painstakingly restored. “It was an honour to be chosen for the project because the Warrington Golden Gates hold such a special place in the hearts of the townsfolk. When we returned them, restored in time for the annual walking day last summer, it felt like the entire town came out to welcome the gates home.”
Hall Conservation’s work on the Warrington Gates has since been shortlisted for the prestigious 2020 Civic Trust AABC Conservation Awards. “I’m delighted for our team that their work on this project has been recognised,” said Brian Hall, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many talented people working together to one aim.”
Brian Hall feels a strong personal connection to England’s ironwork heritage which he puts down to his upbringing. Brian grew up near Coalbrookdale, the village in Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire that was so central to the history of iron ore smelting. Brian recalls; “When I was growing up, it just seemed like everywhere around us there were things being made and bashed with hammers!” Keen to see ironwork heritage get more attention, Brian helped form the National Heritage Ironwork Group, and chaired the organisation for a year. Its aims were to raise the standards of restoration and conservation of heritage ironwork across the UK, something it has been able to boost considerably.
Brian’s own conservation ethos informs everything that Hall Conservation does, whether it is restoring a single picture frame or an entire building, as was the case with transforming the Old Marylebone Town Hall into the state of the art Sammy Ofer Centre for the London Business School. “Whatever the object we’ve been asked to restore is, it’s very important to look carefully at the object, consider its history, its story, and keep in mind what other restoration repairs have been done. We always try to be as unobtrusive as possible. We only intervene when we have to, and then it’s very carefully and very considerably done.”
It’s easy to see that Brian loves his work and is fascinated by objects and their individual histories. “Every job is different, and equally important. I was at a school open evening last week and someone asked me what I did. I found myself explaining that as a conservator you hold history in your hands and have to work out the best way of protecting it for the future.”
In recent years the growing firm has worked at sites as diverse as The Royal Armouries, Tate Modern, Blenheim Palace, Battersea Power Station, and Hampton Court Palace, just to name a few. Hall Conservation is listed on ICON’s Conservation Register - the recognised source for finding professionally qualified conservator-restorers in the UK and Ireland.
Brian sees Hall Conservation’s strengths as being their flexibility and wide skillset. “We can do almost anything, and do it very well. From a tiny museum piece that might take a few days, to restoring a huge building for LBS over several years.”
Hall Conservation’s work on the Sammy Ofer Centre was also shortlisted for an award. Thinking about the project, which took dozens of staff over two years to complete, Brian said, “We are successful at jobs like London Business School because we could adapt ourselves to do a real variety of tasks to a very high standard, where perhaps more traditional firms couldn’t. The items we restored included staircases, handrails, hit and miss filters, curtain rails, paintings, timber, cast iron panels, windows and bronze sculptures. As well as very practical things like upgrading the fire rating of doors while making sure that they remained respectful and in keeping with the heritage of the building.”
It’s clear that Brian is proud of what he’s created at Hall Conservation, and of their impressive new, specially built workshops near the river. “We’re a close-knit team,” he says happily, “And we really care about doing a fantastic job for our clients.”
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