Gates reveal their former glory

EIGHTEEN layers of paint, rust, corrosion and 155 years of history have been carefully stripped away to reveal the original splendour of a school's iron gates.

EIGHTEEN layers of paint, rust, corrosion and 155 years of history have been carefully stripped away to reveal the original splendour of a school's iron gates.

The gates at Orwell Park School have been restored to their former glory as part of a £30,000-plus project, which has taken almost a year, but the work has still not discovered their true origin, which is shrouded in mystery.

Today the elaborate gates were being officially "opened" to celebrate their return to the school on the banks of the River Orwell at Nacton.

Rumours have always circulated that the wrought-iron gates were plundered during the wars with the Spanish hundreds of years ago.

When they first arrived in Suffolk, they were said to have slid off the pontoon carrying them as they were delivered and sunk to the bottom of the Orwell.

What is certain is that the impressive grade two listed gates have been the entrance to Orwell Park since they were installed in 1850.

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They were removed in July last year and taken to leading conservation experts Hodgsons, a small family-run specialist firm in King's Lynn, for restoration.

The work included replacing seriously corroded sections with wrought iron and "puddling in" additional iron to consolidate the main areas affected.

Structural elements of the gates that were beyond repair were replaced while support parts such as the pillars were carefully strengthened and repaired.

The gates were originally installed by William Cook, Nacton's blacksmith at the time, and his great grand-daughter Hazel Palmer was invited as guest of honour at the ceremony to commemorate the restoration.

She said: "To my knowledge the gates haven't been removed since my ancestors put them up there. It's nice to know work my family were involved in has been lovingly restored."

The Orwell Park Foundation, a charitable trust supporting projects of a particular architectural or historical interest within the independent school, raised more than £30,000 towards the cost of the restoration.

The foundation is now seeking to raise more money for phase two of the project, which includes gilding key areas of the gates such as the roses and coat of arms.

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