For the second in our less than serious summer series of blogs on different building substrates, we have decided to go with #stone: allowing us to compile another top 10 of buildings, structures and other objects that make up the world we live in and that Plastic Surgeon keeps in good order for our clients.
Prehistoric man’s earliest form of shelter was made of stone – or more accurately cut from the rock by natural forces such as flowing water; with some of the best known examples being found in southern France at Lascaux, where there are Paleolithic paintings to be seen.
Also famous for their artwork are the pyramids of Egypt where the pharaohs were accompanied into the afterlife by vast riches, weapons and often their wives. The Romans, meanwhile, sent endless slaves and gladiators to their death within the Coliseum which remains remarkably well preserved today, though there are areas of the stonework which could do with repair when Plastic Surgeon gets round to opening an Italian branch.
Still in the land of pasta and pizza, the Leaning Tower of Pisa may be famous for its lack of verticality, but this is actually down to what it is built on, rather than what is built of. And while just about every city in Britain can claim to have a Taj Mahal restaurant, the genuinely famous one is a white marble mausoleum at Agra in Northern India.
Although it featured strongly in our history around the time the Taj Mahal was being built, the oldest parts to the Tower of London – primarily the White Tower – in fact date from the 11th century. Legend has it that the survival of the Tower is not dependent on maintenance of its stonework, but keeping the ravens around, which is why one of the yeoman warders spends all his time keeping them happy.
Coming a bit closer to our National Headquarters in the West country, one of my favourite masonry structures is the Royal Crescent in Bath – an incredibly elegant edifice until you get up close and find a lot of it is run down; and very much in need of a Plastic Surgeon facelift.
Then in the delightful Dartmoor Village of Drewsteignton is Castle Drogo which, despite its apparent battlements and towers, is actually a gentleman’s residence, completed around 1920 by architect Edwin Lutyens for the bloke who started the Home and Colonial Stores.
Lutyens was in fact our sort of architect because he believed in employing materials which displayed evident effects of weathering, though we are barred from making good most of his ‘planned obsolescence’ as the places are either listed or in a conservation area.
And talking of buildings which haven’t weathered well, Devon also has the remains of Brunel’s “Atmospheric Railway,” the name relating to the pneumatic pipes which were supposed to propel the engines, rather than any mood it induced. Unfortunately the great engineer’s decision to rely on leather pressure seals lubricated with animal grease drew the attention of every rat in the area, and their nibbling soon brought things to a standstill. The railway’s red sandstone pumping station near Starcross has, meanwhile, suffered from the marine climate and could do with some TLC.
Staying with trains for our finale, although our Finishers are frequently out repairing sandstone, granite, marble and various types of masonry, my favourite stone repair from recent times concerns the Thomas Land theme park in the Midlands. It happened one of our Finishers was there for a period of weeks attending to the wear and tear suffered by the rides at such a busy family destination when a vehicle hit the stone effect entrance gate.
He was quickly re-assigned to make good the damage to the painted timber structure so that everything was back looking its best within 24 hours.