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The Beasts of Bloomsbury

The Beasts of Bloomsbury

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St George’s steeple
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Larger scale model of S.W. Lion. Note the wooden spire section marked with masonry joint lines.
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Detail of Lion model, modelling in progress.
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Large scale model of S.E. Unicorn.
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Large scale models of North side beasts, cast in plaster from clay originals.
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Large scale models of Unicorns in plaster demonstrating individual treatments, and also the limitations imposed by location.
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Part of the process to produce templates of the multi-block sculptures involved jointing the plaster models.
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Using the scale models of each component block full size templates could be produced following the principles of masonry setting-out.
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This image demonstrates the process of applying the templates to the component blocks of the massive carvings.
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Work in progress on the N.E. Lion, demonstrating the scale of the task.
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On site, the first block to be fixed in manoeuvred into position. No easy task; at one and a half tons the wheels of the pallet truck sank into the platform.
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Accompanied by the architect Colin Kerr the first block is lifted and inched into position.
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Work progresses on the final lion to be installed. Note the complex scaffolding and limited workspace.
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The S.E. Unicorn head being fixed. Balancing the uneven loads was a challenge, in order to land the blocks perfectly flat to avoid damage to the joints.
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With all the blocks fixed and grouted and pointed, and secondary scaffolding removed, in situ finishing across the joints takes place.
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With the Duke of Kent, who ceremonially inserted the gilded Unicorn horn marking the completion of the project.
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Paul J. puts in a few last minute finishing touches.
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The S.W. Lion demonstrating vigorous textures to enhance expression.
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The S.E. Unicorn, carved by Paul J, demonstrating movement, expression and decorative flow in the mane.
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The south face photographed during the striking of the scaffold.
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Myself and Paul, on completion of the fixing, which took 17 weeks, and was carried out in the depths of winter.
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The south face of the steeple. Shame we didn't replace the Crown and Swags!
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Aerial shot of the south and east faces of the spire after completion.
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Description of Project

In the pantheon of English architecture Nicolas Hawksmoor now stands alongside the other greats of the Baroque age, Wren and Vanbrugh. But it was not always so. After his death the Palladians eclipsed his work and it was neglected to such an extent that some of his six London churches came perilously close to demolition. In 1871 the four lions and unicorns that originally clung to the base of the highly distinctive stepped spire at St. George’s had to be removed due to their dangerous dereliction. As part of the recent renovation these magnificent beasts were replaced. Each standing 12 feet high this was literally a monumental commission on the grand scale and the realisation of the project dominated my life for two and a half years. It was the most complex and ambitious commission of my career so far.

The Beasts of Bloomsbury

The Beasts of Bloomsbury

Category: Stone carving | Restoration | Baroque

Date: 1993-1996
Material: Portland Stone
Architect: Nicolas Hawksmoor/Molyneux
Contractor: Fairhaven and Woods

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