EXPERT stonemasons are nearing the end of a major project to restore a key part of Bradford's heritage.

Contractors have been painstakingly repairing intricate stone carvings, statues and gargoyles adorning City Hall, as part of a multi-million pound renovation that began in 2013.

The masons, employed by York-based firm William Anelay, have been working their way around the Grade I listed building which opened in 1873, replacing damaged stonework and creating new carvings where the originals have been lost in the sands of time.

A crucial part of the work has been repairing a series of statues of British monarchs which runs along the main frontage of the Gothic landmark.

William Anelay's contracts manager Sam Weller said they had been surprised by the amount of work they were having to do to the statues, from repairing heads and hats to replacing crosses on sceptres and fitting whole new hands.

He said while his company was well-practised in repairing landmarks, such as Westminster Abbey, this was some of the most detailed work they had been involved in for some time.

"We do a lot of intricate work but generally clients don't allow you to go down to the fine detail of replacing fingers and hands of statues at that height," he said.


"It's quite an expensive process but its quite a worthwhile process because you are basically extending the life of that statue."

The craftsmen are taking new Scotch Buff sandstone and carving replacement pieces on-site, using the damaged stonework as a model.

Mr Weller said: "The easiest process to recreate these things is to have the existing stone in front of you, especially with the carvings.

"They will sit with the piece in front of them and essentially just recreate that all by hand on-site."

Where the original has been lost completely, masons have to use carvings elsewhere on the building as inspiration for new creations.

"What we have got to do, especially with carving gargoyles, is look at what is there already and take a bit of a carver's interpretation of that," Mr Weller said.

"They will make their best interpretation of what they think it would have been like originally."

And they have even been turning to old photographs to give them clues about features that could have been lost over the decades.

This research is now helping them bring a statue of an angel back to her former glory.

The angel, perched over the main entrance to City Hall, was taken down for repairs and was this week lifted back into place by crane.

But an old photo showed she had once held a large brass horn.

Mr Weller said: "We had looked at some old photographs and discovered it was no longer there. We said, if it was there before let's recreate it.

"One of our guys has turned it from timber, and it will be cast in a foundry out of metal."

And hidden on the roofline of City Hall will be secret signature marks left by the masons in the stonework, only to be found by others making repairs in years to come.

Mr Weller said the tradition of the 'mason's mark' was a long-established one, but the marks would only be seen by other stonemasons.

He said they hoped to finish the most intricate work within the next few months, and would then see whether Bradford Council wanted them to undertake any further repairs, such as work to the clock tower.

A spokesman for Bradford Council said work to the clock tower was in the pipeline.

The Council has so far set aside about £4 million for the whole restoration project, which also includes major roof repairs. It is set to end by April 2016.