I loved this post over on MVFlaim’s blog about his Kruse & Bahlmann plane restoration. Take a read and discover the extra surprise he got when he worked on the plane.
Bridgewood & Neitzert Ltd, Violin Repairers, Dealers and Makers, 146 Stoke Newington Church Street, London N16 0JU.
I had such a nice reponse to the first photoset about London makers I made, that I wanted to do another one. I was therefore delighted that Gary Bridgewood of Bridgewood & Neitzert Ltd took me up on my offer to photograph inside his building. My brief visit to the shop in London confirmed to me that this must be one of the most intriguing and skilled crafts still in demand today.
I asked Gary for a few brief lines about the history of how the business came about for my intro on the photoset. His story was so interesting I thought I’d reproduce it fully in the post instead. The business is owned by Gary and his business partner, Tom Neitzert.
Tom and I met whilst students studying at the London College of furniture. We were in an amazing workshop in Henriques street (I think formerly Berniers Street) renamed as one of Jack the Rippers attacks happened here!
We were on the first floor of an old Victorian school building overlooking a primary school with a theatrical company hiring the floor above for prop storage. What was so brilliant about this place was we all had keys and so the workshop was nearly always open until the early hours and often never closed at the weekend. We were a very small group, each year had 4 students and there were 4 years with a total of 10 students. I guess we all thrived on this time and the positive shared knowledge and competition between one another. I flitted between this department, Early Musical bowed string instruments e.g. baroque violins, viola da gambas and lutes and the modern office style building across the road where I learned violin making from William Luff.
Before the end of college I and three others started our own workshop in Dalston at 2 Crossway above an old East end gambling office called Sid Kikki jnr. This was quite an experience, we were on the second floor above a bespoke furniture maker called Kirk, in fact this was smoke screen for his rather more insalubrious activities as a drug dealer and pimp. On a Saturday morning we would be visited by one of Sid Kikki’s associates, a bovver boy called Mark, who collected the rent. We always felt relieved that we could pay the rent!
I shared a workshop with Robert Louis Baille (French), who is now a successful violin maker/dealer working in Seville and Tom shared a workshop with Craig Ryder (South African) who is a very fine bow maker working now in Paris.
We moved from here, our friends Robert and Craig moved to France, to Ilex Works in Northwold Road. Our Landlord, Mr Schwarz, had been in Auschwitz. He used to bring a few dolls house toys which they had somehow saved from this horror which I repaired for him; they were made from Olive wood, extremely hard. We had a good relationship with him, and would carry out repairs to the building for an occasional subsidy to our rent. Sadly this all turned sour when he mortgaged this property to improve his other Covent Garden ones. Strettons Estate Agents came in and very quickly we no longer could afford to stay.
We moved to Stoke Newington Church street after this and have been very fortunate to have a very suitable building for our needs.
I’m currently reading ‘The Lost Carving‘ by celebrated wood carver David Esterly. Whilst I have to admit to speed-reading large chunks of it, (I just want to read about the technique and tools), it’s a nice insight into a wood-carver’s life.
When fire destroyed a good chunk of Hampton Court Palace in March 1986, the damage also reached a number of celebrated carvings by Grinling Gibbons.
Having turned away from academia, Esterly had already dedicated his life largely to carving, and the opportunity to help in the Hampton Court restoration was too good an opportunity to miss. So starts quite an interesting read (if a little over-romanticised for me personally), where David struggles with technique, the balance of recreating parts of the carvings, and the internal politics that surrounds the various societies responsible for organising the restoration.
I’d recommend the book, to a certain extent, if only to learn more about the techniques that this sort of deep ornamental sculpture demands.
David has very helpfully compiled a list of supplemental images, which illustrate the book very well, and I personally found them very interesting.