There has been a weathervane on the Tithe Barn since about 1850. Of recent years it has been a bit tatty, with the loss of one letter and the arrow to show where the wind was coming from. This has been annoying Les Chattell for some time, so he volunteered to repair it for us.
Jim Stevenson, one of the trustees, arranged for the White Watch of the Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service to come and take it down for us. When their long reach vehicle got there they found that there was no means of taking it down other than sawing it off. When it was down on the ground Les he found that project to refurbish the vane was larger than than he had expected !
It stands about 6'6” high by 5' wide, which meant using a trailer to move the one-piece riveted assembly in the forge. Disassembly entailed heavy grinding, substantial chiseling and levering. It did then however, allow its components to be both handled separately and inspected and cleaned before any plan for repair was possible, ensure as much of this architectural antique was salvaged and to provide a working and safe assembly for the foreseeable future.
The vane may have been installed in the 1850's, and from the corrosion seen it was likely to have been there earlier and endured the roof fire that destroyed the earlier thatch of the Tithe Barn. The corrosion had taken its toll on the high level decoration although elsewhere, notwithstanding bad pitting, most of the vane was considered adequate for purpose. Wear on the bearings however was substantial and very little was left of the primitive wrap-round straps used as bearings for the sail and pointer. The vane is a heavy assembly and was very near to failure.
The sail had been modified, probably very early in its life, to add more area to aid and improve wind response, by adding a lead panel to the rearmost part. Also and more interestingly, the lead, apart from being rotten, had suffered holes approximately 3/8” diameter, from shots most likely from a muzzle-loading gun. There were also similarly caused impressions (still apparent) in the original steel of the sail. Was this 19th century vandalism?
To restore the weathervane the main metal area of the sail has been refilled with a copper panel; larger surface area bearings made to fit the pitted centre post (which is made of hand forged pig iron with had cut threads); and a new full length bearing tube found to fit the new bearings and mounted in the strengthened sail and pointer. Modern materials have been used such as stainless steel, which has been profiled to replace the high level decoration and the missing 'S'. During the renovation all the parts were cleaned and ground to best advantage and the whole upper section with sail and pointer made detachable, both to avoid water ingress to the bearings and to allow it to be detached from the heavier, roof mounted lump, and the now jointed main support was sleeved, shimmed and clamp bolted to fit. This remains removable with the aid of a spanner and some navvies. The whole assembly has been coated with Hammerite, and the letters, pointer and sail over-sprayed with gilt enamel.
Les says that he "can't guarantee the durability of the new finishes and please don't ring me if anything fails in the 22nd century!"
And for those who doubted that it would turn in the wind and always pointed South West, here it is telling of a North wind in January 2010!
The trustees would like to acknowledge a considerable debt to Les Chattell for all his work in restoring another part of the built heritage of Bishop's Cleeve.
last updated 04 December 2010