29.05.19 Liveryman Duncan Wood

Building a Castle


Pictured above: Tom prepares the pole from the Lord Mayor’s Coach for gilding, by applying French chalk to prevent the gold leaf adhering to the surrounding paintwork

In 2016 Fairbourne Carriages was approached by a young student, Tom Castle, who was studying motor vehicle engineering at West Kent College and needed to secure a work placement during his summer holiday.

Tom duly arrived for his two-week placement where he was taught how to make tea and sweep and vacuum the workshops. Three years later he’s still with us at Fairbourne Carriages and he’s now a valued member of the team.

Following completion of Tom’s college course we offered him a full time role as an apprentice. One of the first projects that he became involved in was the restoration of the Lord Mayor’s State Coach (LMSC). One of the aims of the project was to encourage and promote the traditional skills required to restore the coach.

The LMSC was subjected to complete restoration during a period of two years, including the manufacture of four new wheels, repairs to the perch and cabin carvings followed by the gilding and painting of the external surfaces and the re-upholstery of the interior. This project was key for us in allowing Tom to fully understand the range of skills required to become a coachmaker and during the restoration he worked on many parts of the LMSC.

Tom painting undercoat on a wheel from the Lord Mayor's State Coach

Tom painting undercoat on a wheel from the Lord Mayor’s State Coach

In late 2017 we were contacted by the Coachmakers and asked if Tom would be a suitable candidate for its apprenticeship bursary scheme. There then followed a meeting with Past Master Michael Kimber, Hon Assistant John Blauth and Cmdr Mark Leaning at Fairbourne where Tom discussed his work and gave them a tour of the workshops. Following a nail-biting wait of a few weeks confirmation came that Tom had met the criteria to become a Coachmakers apprentice and at the Carol Service in 2018 he was presented with a bursary award.

Tom’s work at Fairbourne has continued apace and he is currently working on the restoration of a 1908 Austin Landaulette together with coach work for a 1908 De Dion and 1911 Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. He has also acquired a ‘barn find’ 1930s’ Morgan three wheeler that requires complete restoration and in May he competed in a 1937 Fiat 508c TT at the Crystal Palace Sprint in South London. To be continued.