The perfect beeswax polish

In a guest blog, Steve Whatling of Cambridge Traditional Products tells us about how to make the perfect beeswax polish. If you are a church that wants to use beeswax polish to restore old pews, choir-stalls and natural wood carvings please see the bottom of this post to find out how you can obtain it free of charge from Cambridge Traditional Products.

Beeswax

Beeswax

Cambridge Traditional Products Ltd. was established in 1979 by Adrian Perkins, a retired teacher, and part time beekeeper. Adrian had discovered an original Victorian recipe for beeswax polish, and when he tried it, he realised he had something special. He started producing polish from home, and within a few years the popularity of his polish necessitated a move to proper premises and full time production.

For more than 35 years we have produced polish to that same recipe. This means that apart from pure filtered beeswax, our polish also contains Pure Gum Turpentine. This is something we are particularly proud of, as most other producers of similar products switched to white spirit a few years ago when the price of turpentine rose dramatically. We made a decision then to stick with the original ingredients – I did not feel we could describe the polish as “traditional” if one of the key ingredients was a modern substitute. My belief was that people would be prepared to pay a little more for real quality. Fortunately this has proven to be the case.

Bottling polish

Bottling polish

Turpentine is a sustainable organic product, tapped from pine trees, like rubber once was. It has a much more beneficial effect on wood than white spirit, which is a by-product of the petroleum industry. For more on this, see my blog.

Cambridge Traditional polish is a cream, as opposed to a paste polish. Paste polishes tend to come in a tin, and are quite hard, like shoe polish. A cream polish is easier to use, as a little can be applied at a time and, generally, less elbow grease is required to buff it up.

Creating a cream polish presents its own challenges, as it involves making an emulsion. This can be quite tricky to get right, as various factors contribute to the quality of the end product. Firstly, the beeswax has to be of the correct specification, or it will not emulsify properly. The key ingredients are then heated in separate tanks. In one tank the waxes are dissolved in turpentine, and in the other, raw soap is dissolved in water. The two heated mixtures are then mixed into a stirring vat to cool.

Bottling the polish

The following day, we “bottle” the polish into jars, which are then weighed and labelled by hand and packed for shipping.

We produce a neutral beeswax polish, and a brown version. The neutral polish is the most popular, as it can be applied to any kind of bare wood. (I always emphasise “bare” wood, as there is little point in using our polish on something that has been varnished or lacquered; the real purpose of a traditional beeswax polish is to soak in and feed the wood).

The brown polish is great for enhancing the grain on darker woods. It is also useful as a subtle stain on light wood such as pine, and is remarkably effective when used to hide staining damage, such as can be caused by sun bleaching, or the effect of a hot cup being placed onto a table top.  View examples

We also produce pure beeswax sticks, which have a remarkable range of uses. One of these is as a traditional protection for zips , particularly in the sub-aqua industry, which led to the development of “Zip-Slip”, our specialist zip lubricant.

Another specialist product, related to the polish, is our “Timber Reviver”. This was developed at the request of a builder working for English Heritage, and is a beeswax and turpentine solution designed to be brushed onto old dried out timber beams, to protect and enhance the wood.

Wood in churches

Yorkkshire, HUDDERSFIELD, St Peter (Sarah Crossland 2012) #067In an article by the British Antique Furniture Restorers Association about the  care of historic furniture and fixed woodwork in churches.it states: “Only use a good quality, unstained beeswax with Turpentine polish”. It is the perfect thing for preserving and enhancing pews, decorative carvings or any other old wood in churches.

Some time ago, Adrian and I travelled to St-Mary-Le-Tower church in Ipswich. An old friend of Adrian’s was using our polish to renovate some amazing 19th century carvings in local oak, by Theodore Pfyffers. The carvings on the choir stalls, of angels playing musical instruments, and the Evangelists in their symbolic animal forms, are particularly impressive, and the effect of the polish is striking. See photos

Seeing the work being done, and feeling proud that our polish is being used to enhance such beautiful carvings inspired an idea. We currently have quite a bit of polish stored that we refer to as “factory seconds”. This polish is every bit as good (in terms of what it does) as the polish we sell, it just doesn’t look as good in the jar, and we have very high standards. So we decided to make this polish available, free, to charity renovation projects. There is more info on this on our website

How to apply for polish
If you would like to apply for some of this polish please contact us at  www.cambridgetraditionalproducts.co.uk and tell us about your project.

Now photography IS allowed – at St Paul

Now photography IS allowed – at St Paul’s Cathedral for one night only 8th April http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2015/03/09/rare-chance-to-photograph-inside-st-pauls-cathedral/

Churches and family history

Blog Pam Smith08In a guest posting, professional genealogist Pam Smith  writes about the importance of churches for family history.

Discovering your forebears, where they originated from and what they did for a living is a fascination held by many. The popular BBC series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ in which celebrities trace their ancestry, has stimulated many people to research their family history, making it an extremely addictive and popular hobby.

Television programmes such as these give the impression that it is very easy to find your ancestors with a few clicks of the mouse on a computer, and indeed it can be a reasonably straightforward process to trace back to approximately 1770 and more using both free and subscription websites.

However, it is worth reflecting upon the important role churches and chapels have had and continue to play in keeping the information needed by anyone interested in discovering their family history.

Parish chests

The Anglican church kept parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials since 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s Vicar General ordered parishes to keep these records in a triple locked parish chest such as this fine specimen currently resident in St John of Beverley at Salton.

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

Parish chest at St John of Beverly at Salton (c) Pam Smith

The incumbent was responsible for keeping the records secure although these wooden chests were often prone to damp and vermin. Today, any of these registers or parish records such as vestry minutes, churchwardens’ accounts, in which the earliest entry is over 150 years old, must be deposited in the Diocesan Record Office. North Yorkshire is mostly covered by the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. If you are lucky it is possible to see a sexton’s book of burials which literally marks the spot. You can imagine the scope of name-rich sources contained within these documents, recording all the significant events in a person’s life, which had the parish church at the very core.

After 1837, the state took over responsibility for recording births, marriages and deaths both locally and centrally. However the practice of recording baptisms, marriages and some burials (where the churchyard is still in use) still continues to the present day. Some vicars and church wardens are amenable to these records being viewed and some charge a fee.

Churchyards

The churchyard and the interior of the church contain valuable information in the form of a memorial or monumental inscription. Most people were buried in their local parish and a headstone may be found there. Some graves were filled with unrelated people who could not afford a headstone so the occupants were not commemorated. A higher status ancestor may have a monument inside the church. Both internal and external memorial inscriptions (MIs) offer rich detail of the life of a family member. This MI in the St Andrew’s Church in Rillington (pictured below) gives not only the date of death and age of Laurence Stratford, but also his occupation and details about his father, helping the researcher back a further generation.

Many churches hold a roll of honour commemorating the local people who fought during the Great War and the Second World War. Often you can find a list of incumbents which is an ideal starting point for researching clerical ancestors.

 St Andrew's Church Rillington - MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch  (c) Pam Smith

St Andrew’s Church Rillington – MI for Laurence Stratford inside porch (c) Pam Smith

My main area of research is in North Yorkshire and the former North Riding of Yorkshire. We are very fortunate that most rural churches are left unlocked for visitors during the day. I find them an invaluable source of research. An interior photo can help bring life to a set of genealogical data when one can imagine where an ancestor was christened, married and had their funeral service.

I have a collection of leaflets from different churches which, for a small fee, have produced details of the history of the building and a guide to the churchyard. Parish magazines hold a depth of information about community life including names and significant dates of the inhabitants together with snippets of local life presuming that a churchwarden has kept a copy of each one.

Pam Smith is a professional genealogist and a family history tutor based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire who also manages the Rillington One-Place Study.  For further details please contact Pam Smith on 0790 485 6099 or email pam@pamsmithfamilyhistorian.co.uk

National Maintenance Week 2014

In a special post to mark the upcoming National Maintenance Week, guest author Kate Streeter Project Manager of SPAB Maintenance Cooperatives tells us about their plans for launching the week and encouraging ongoing maintenance.

SPABCOOP_logo-01

What do a ladle, rubber gloves and a pair of binoculars all have in common? They are all part of our cheap and cheerful essential maintenance kit, and this November we are going to show you how they can help you to take care of your place of worship at the very first Maintenance Co-operatives Project national conference: From Gutter to Spire. The conference is in York on Friday 21st November and tickets are free from www.spabmcp.org.uk

A stitch in time saves nine, and nowhere is this more true than for our places of worship, where we estimate that for every £1 not spent on planned preventative maintenance will likely cost £20 in emergency repairs.  This is where the Society for the protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) Maintenance Co-operative Project steps in.

clearing gullies at sgrawley.jpg largeThe project team are working hard in four regions (Cumbria, The North East, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and Dorset and Somerset) to bring together places of worship with volunteers who would like to assist with their upkeep, to form Maintenance Co-operatives.

Each co-operative is supported by a dedicated SPAB member of staff, offered tailor-made training and access to an array of resources.  The training begins by taking participants through the process of carrying out a condition survey and using this information to write an annual maintenance plan.  It also covers topics such as working with architects, dealing with damp and when to bring in professional help.

A year into the project and we have co-operatives springing up all across the country busily working to ensure the long-term future of their historic buildings.  We are delighted that many of the volunteers involved, places of worship, and representatives from our hugely supportive project partners (who include The National Churches Trust, Caring for Gods Acre, Arthur Rank Centre, English Heritage, and major funders the Heritage Lottery Fund) are coming together in York this November for the very first Maintenance Co-operatives conference.

blocked gully.jpg largeThis is a wonderful opportunity for those already involved to share ideas, and for those new to the project to find out more.  A packed scheduled of speakers from SPAB and our partners will be followed by fascinating York walking tours, the opportunity to put your maintenance concerns directly to our dedicated technical advisor, and of course a sociable drink in the pub to finish the day.

We very much hope that you can join us, tickets are free and there are a limited number of travel bursaries of up to £100 available to volunteers, so book soon!

Kate Streeter

SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project Manager

Church exploring with our camera

In this special blog post from one of our Friends, Ros Patrick described the joy she and her husband get from exploring and photographing local churches.

My husband and I moved to England from Australia six years ago. One of the first things we noticed was the beauty of the countryside and the next was the incredible age of so many buildings. We live in Wales so we’re in the perfect place for both.

Within thirty to forty miles of our home we have so far visited over 160 churches and we have found it’s a wonderful hobby to photograph them and read their history. This includes finding them in the first place as many are quite isolated and up narrow country lanes. We’ve walked to quite a few for the last mile or so as driving on a road barely wide enough for one tractor is a bit nerve-wracking.

Whole villages must have disappeared as the size of the church is completely out of proportion to the size of the hamlet where it is. Other churches have been surrounded by buildings and parking can be difficult.

As we’re in the Welsh Marches a lot of the history is pretty bloodthirsty, and some families have a sad reminder in the graveyards of the members who died in battles.

We have been lucky as we only rarely find churches which are locked – I feel we should give a special thankyou to the men and women who must open and lock them each day. Some of the locks require a very large and ancient key.

We have found several churches which have workmen doing repairs and maintenance and it must be very expensive to keep such old buildings in a good condition. We have met a lot of people who enjoy their beauty and history and I hope will do so for many years.

You can explore some of Ros’s beautiufl photographs in their flickr photostream.

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