I was awakened this morning by the sound of banging outside my house. In a moment reminicent of the opening chapter of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the name Gary and the word Pillar kept crossing my mind, looking for something to connect with. When they did, I was up and out of bed, dressed and downstairs putting the kettle on within a minute. Sure enough, when I opened my front door, there was my brother-in-law, who had taken down the pillar that supported the end of my front wall and the gate, and was mixing cement to rebuild it.
If my house had been in continuous occupation, then the pillar would have been regularly repointed and would have remained sound. Over the years the house was empty, frost had gotten into tiny cracks in the cement, making them bigger; plants had then taken root in those cracks and further weakened the cement, allowing the frost to penetrate even further. It had reached the stage where simple repointing would not do any good, so I had to let nature take its course and wait until it was at a point where the pillar would fall down before anything could be done to it.
Gary is a Stone Mason, so when he set about mixing the cement, he mixed to lots. One was relatively dry for the stone column at the centre of the pillar and one was wetter, for the bricks that square it off. Well, sort of square it off. The bricks are old and unlike modern bricks are not completely identical. Gary could either get each course plumb or level, not both. The thing is, that is the way the original brick layer who build the pillar back in the early 1920’s did it. It is what gives the front of my house its character. If I had wanted a perfectly square and plumb pillar, I would have bought new bricks, and the pillar would look awful, sticking out like a sore thumb.
Every two courses of bricks there is a stone rosette in the middle. This gives additional support to the brickwork. If you imagine each face of the pillar being numbered one to four, at the base is on the even numbered sides is the first rosette. The odd numbered side is just bricks, but the next two courses on the odd side has a stone rosette, with the even numbered side being just brick. What really surprised me was how big the hinges on gate are. All I see is the part that the gate swings on, but I should have realised there would be more to it than that. Something to support the weight of the gate as it swung open and shut. The prongs go all the way through the bricks into the stone column at the base of one of these stone rosettes, and it is the weight of the stone and the bricks above that anchor the gate.
Eventually, I hope to get a nice pyramidal coping stone to go on the top of tls pillar, and its neighbour. For some reason, the originel coping was removed and a pair of square paving slabs were put in their place. I can put that down to horrible 1970’s fashion. With this rebuilding, the pillar will once again be strong enough to take one.