Saturday, February 19, 2011

Building restoration

click photo to enlarge
It would be quite easy to fill several shelves of a library with books about the repair and restoration of historic buildings. Within the architectural profession this kind of work has become something of a specialism with some individuals and firms doing it to the exclusion, pretty much, of anything else. One of the aims of architectural restoration is to conserve the original structure as far as is possible. This is sometimes not possible because the ravages of time can make stone, timber, tiles, in fact whole sections of buildings, unsafe and beyond repair. In such cases sensitive replacement becomes the aim, either following the design of what was originally there, or with modern work that sits harmoniously alongside the original. In the U.K. work on historic buildings is subject to a number of pieces of legislation that have the effect of protecting our built heritage, and allowing us to see old buildings very much as our forefathers saw them.

Last year I was talking to a Yorkshire Dales farmer about a stone-built barn that I have known all my life. It originally dates from the seventeenth century though it received some modification in the nineteenth century. Fifty years and more ago I saw this barn standing alone in its field by the river. Today it has a small cluster of corrugated metal and timber barns next to it. Yet, because the building is "listed" and subject to laws about what can and cannot be done with the structure, it still looks pretty much as it always has done. In fact, when the stonework was recently pointed it had to be done with a traditional lime mortar to maintain its original form and appearance.

Given all that, what are we to make of this section of the west wall of the tower of the church of St Mary at Horncastle in Lincolnshire? This structure, like most of the church, is made mainly of green Spilsby sandstone. As a building material this "greenstone" leaves a lot to be desired because it weathers, rots and flakes relatively rapidly. However, when this section of wall was built in the 1200s it was the best locally available stone, certainly striking to look at, and its longevity (or lack of it) was probably not known. The light green and dark green stone in the photograph are new and older pieces. However, as this photograph shows, the original builders also included pieces of brown sandstone and occasional lumps that verge on the ruddy and tan. Consequently the restoration of the crumbling tower wall has followed the same pattern. The reason it looks so multicoloured is because the weather has yet to subdue the brightness of the newer stone. I liked the patchwork effect and the decidedly odd appearance, one that I have never seen on any other church, and so took this shot of it.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm
F No: 7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 500
Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On