The Company takes its name from Nicholas Charles Szerelmey, a Hungarian Colonel serving in the Austro-Hungarian army. Born in 1803, Nicholas Szerelmey was an inventor, caricaturist, printer, engineer, explorer and an academic who was widely travelled and spoke several different languages. He had a passion for archaeology and was particularly interested in ancient buildings. Being appointed to a commission to investigate the reasons for the decay of stone in certain fortresses, he ended up travelling to the Middle East and Egypt where he was greatly impressed by the techniques they used to preserve their monuments. Today Nicholas Szerelmey's love for Egypt is reflected in the Szerelmey logo which features the head of Amun Ra, one of the chief Egyptian deities.
Following his travels which took him to America, Scandinavia and finally Europe, Nicholas arrived in London in 1850 and founded a company to manufacture his new resin-based inventions. He leased a shop on Oxford Street displaying the products from his workshop in Battersea, where he would perfect his restoration and preservation processes. He lived in Pimlico and then later Park Road, Clapham. During this time he still continued his illustration and print work.
His company quickly gained reputation and in 1855, following a competition, the prominent architect Charles Barry and the scientist Michael Faraday both recommended Szerelmey's pioneering restoration techniques for use on the newly-built but already decaying Houses of Parliament. After two years of trials both Barry and Faraday deemed Szerelmey's technique to be a success. This was arguably the birth of the modern restoration and maintenance industry.
The zopissa range of products expanded to include paints, sealants and bonding cements, used internally at St Paul's Cathedral and the Bank of England. In 1862 Szerelmey presented a series of technical inventions at the World Expo in London, extending far beyond his restoration background. In 1865 Admiral Sir Edward Belcher presented a paper to Naval architects seriously considering Zopissa treated board as an alternative ship-building material. According to him "Zopissa paper of one inch thickness [was] fired at and not quite penetrated while a similar shot went through ten inches of good oak"
Just one year after the World Expo, the London Underground was opened, running from Paddington to Farringdon Street. The iconic Victorian faience and brick facades are now scattered over London; little did Szerelmey know at the time but his company would go on to restore numerous stations across the capital including Great Portland Street, South Kensington, Lambeth and Edgware. The company now leads the way in faience and terracotta cladding innovation.
Nicholas Szerelmey retired in 1874 due to poor health and died in 1875 in Hungary where his mausoleum still stands. In the same year the company N C Szerelmey & Co was incorporated, continuing his legacy. Looking to develop their products, they investigated their liquid restoration processes with fresh eyes and with the general advance of knowledge at that time. Following this the company released the product commercially known as Szerelmey Stone Liquid. In 1874 the City Temple, Holborn was constructed - Szerelmey went on to clean and restore the building in 1998.
Architect John Loughborough Pearson, well-known as a Gothic Revival Architect in the 19th century and designer of Truro Cathedral, worked with N C Szerelmey and Co to undertake a thorough restoration of the medieval Grade I listed Stonebow in Lincoln, as well as further work in 1930-31. Coincidentally one of J L Pearson's key projects was St Peter's Church which sits directly opposite our current offices in Vauxhall. Also in 1885, the Royal College of Music was officially opened; Szerelmey restored the building three times between 1974 and 2001.
During these years the company also produced a number of industry and sales manuals such as the Cause and Cure of Damp and Decay in 1894.
At the turn of the millennium the Company had expanded and continued to flourish; their products being used from the USA to Australia. At the outbreak of the First World War, the Company was run by Henry Taylor and Arthur George Cunnew. Arthur, a partner in the company, was a manufacturing chemist and in 1916 gave evidence for a Governmental report on the Danger in the Use of Lead in the Painting of Buildings; N C Szerelmey & Co were offering a lead-free alternative paint at this time.
Despite most records disappearing for the post-WWI period, the company remained active across the UK and continued to work extensively in the ecclesiastical sector. They went on to restore Clonfert Cathedral in 1936, New Malden Christ Church in 1939 and Wimbledon Saint Mary Church in 1960. Some time before 1932 N C Szerelmey & Co was dissolved, and Szerelmey Ltd was formed. The company had an office on Rotherhithe New Road, Bermondsey, at this time.
At this time the use of faience as a building material was flourishing; a favourite of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods which saw the greatest heights in the 20s and 30s. Szerelmey have had the privilege to work on Michelin House and 1 New Oxford Street, both unique historical buildings of the era.
In 1925 Szerelmey received this testimonial from a satisfied client: "The Liquid you supplied us with in May, 1915 and used on the stonework of a Church in Southampton, has proved a great success, and after ten years, the work looks well. It appears to have entirely stopped the decay of the stonework." Geo S Hallum & Sons, Southampton 10th January, 1925.
It was during the 1970s that the company was purchased by the current owner, who continued restoration and heritage work; early projects included Coutts Bank and Alexandra Palace. In 1978 Szerelmey was once again called to undertake the restoration on the Houses of Parliament, the project that founded Szerelmey in 1855, and restored the river-facing facade of the building.
During the 1980s Szerelmey extended its services to include new build stonework operations and around the same time the company opened its own stone cutting yard in Battersea. Stone blocks were delivered here, worked and delivered to site. The cutting yard was eventually closed after some years and the company moved from Battersea to Vauxhall, while continuing to deliver restoration and new build stone projects. The Restoration team continued to bloom during the early 80s 1981 delivered large scale restoration projects at Victoria College, Jersey; Victoria Building, Liverpool and the Natural History Museum, which they then returned to in 2009.
Also in 1981, the British heist film Loophole featured Szerelmey's scaffold banner hanging outside Blackfriars Hotel during ongoing restoration works.
The company moved to its current offices in the mid-1990s which provides extensive office space in addition to two yards for large scale mock ups and material testing. As the availability of overseas stone suppliers increased the decision was made to close the Szerelmey cutting yard and focus on our in house design and project delivery. Among the many projects delivered during the 1990s was the repair and refurbishment of the former Bankside Power Station to accommodate the Tate's modern art collection, the installation of two new elevations for the Royal Opera House, and works to the West Gate and St Thomas' Tower at the Tower of London.
By the early 2000s due to the expansion of the company, separate divisions were created for Szerelmey Restoration, Szerelmey Ltd and Szerelmey GB. Szerelmey Restoration, the heart of the company, continues to restore, refurbish, remodel and repair historic structures across the Capital. Szerelmey Ltd delivers new build projects across the Capital and Szerelmey GB delivers new build projects across the length and breadth of the country. By 2015 the in-house Design Department had expanded significantly, now occupying most of the first floor of the building. Re-investment in the latest design software and training has led to the department's proficiency in the use of BIM.
As of 2017 the company has secured its two largest multimillion pound projects to date and continues to expand its growth across the Capital and the nation. We are constantly striving to innovate, grow and provide quality projects, and at present have ongoing works at the Royal Opera House, Battersea Power Station and 48 Carey Street.