For 35 years, along with his colleagues, Chris Topp has devoted his time to increasing his and others', expertise in the preservation and restoration of the heritage of ancient iron.
Chris Topp's interest in traditional blacksmithing skills began in 1967 when he had a summer job in Bolton that was within walking distance of Atlas Forge. At that time, Atlas Forge manufactured puddled wrought iron as well as re-rolling wrought iron axles. The forge, the last manufacturer of puddled wrought iron anywhere in the world, ceased its production in 1974. The forge continued rolling steel for a further 10 years until finally closing in 1984. The rolling mill is still in working order and is part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum.
In 1977, Chris purchased a package of scrap metal, which was in fact wrought iron from the demolition of a locomotive house in Sunderland Docks. Chris’s passion for working with historic materials, his talent for ironwork restoration and traditional blacksmith’s skills continued and, in 1982, he founded Chris Topp & Co. He quickly established the company as one of the most respected workshops in the country.
Now trading as TOPP & Co. the company creates and restores fine architectural metalwork for some of the most architecturally sensitive sites in the world. The unique technical and logistical challenges set by the heritage sector demands both the finest craftsmanship and organisation.
TOPP & Co. work to the standards set by the National Heritage Ironwork Group for the conservation of ancient ironwork, and Chris was influential in the writing of this code of practice. NHIG was formed in 2009 by a group of experienced professionals, including Chris Topp, to raise awareness of the importance of the different forms of heritage ironwork, and to ensure that the skills of the Heritage Ironworker and Blacksmith are preserved.
Chris Topp remains a member of the council and, at their 10th Anniversary Conference at the Victoria and Albert Museum in November 2019, Chris was presented with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his contribution to Heritage Ironwork Preservation.