Having grown up in the Cotswolds and gone to school at the now disappeared Northleach Grammar School, your blogger was transported back in time by a story in The Telegraph last week, focusing on the richness and the beauty of the limestone which is hewn from the nearby Farmington quarry. The article highlighted the sustainability of natural #stone with its low embodied energy – a theme which we at Plastic Surgeon fully support as it resonates with our repair ethos, and the #save our surfaces campaign we launched at this year’s Ecobuild.
As members of the Cast Stone Association we are well aware that there are some very good examples of reconstituted stone out there in the market, and we regularly repair items such as balustrades and window mullions that get damaged during the build process, but natural stone offers varieties and often an ageing process which manufacturers struggle to match.
The writer of the Telegraph article cited the Norman church of Saint Peter in Farmington as a prime example of Cotswold stone’s qualities: referring to it as “a tiny gothic gem guarding one thousand years of parish history. Its walls, archways and pillars are all from the local stone: a luscious buttery yellow limestone that comes out of the earth soft enough to carve fine detail with a chisel, and which hardens to become a long-lived building material.”
The rich yellow limestone which dominates the original streetscapes to iconic towns such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on-the-Water, and the ‘Slaughters’ – used for roofing as well as walls – takes on a darker hue and an organic dimension as it ages and mellows. Concrete, by contrast, tends to stain and spall leading to iconic eyesores such as Portsmouth’s Tricorn Centre having featured in shortlists of the UK’s worst buildings many times down the decades.
In addition, cement – as a significant constituent of concrete – has a high embodied energy content from the limestone and other raw materials having to be fire at high temperature.
The article quoted Liza Hanks, who owns Cotswold-based Winchcombe Reclamation and stated: “Old Cotswold building stones, or York flagstones can be cleaned up and used again and again and again, We employ seven people who chip off old lime mortar, re-dress and if necessary re- drill old stone tiles, bricks, fireplaces, copings and quoins. My big plea to people re-using these materials – that may well have been recycled several times over centuries – is to use lime, rather than cement mortar as hard cement mortar is impossible to remove from old stones.”
It is also worth pointing out that cement mortars do not ‘breath’ like lime based ones and tend to blow the face off old masonry; either requiring large sections to be replaced or leading to a lengthy restoration job for our Finishers.
In fact here at Plastic Surgeon our R&D department has, over the years, put an enormous amount of work into refining techniques for the repair and colour matching of different stone types: from slate and granite, through to the various colours of sandstone and marble; the latter’s marvelous patterns resulting from enormous heat and pressure back in geological time. Our team has also developed a tinting system which enables areas of stonework or other masonry to be over-coated when they have suffered severe degradation from the weather, or perhaps some form of graffiti attack.
The UK’s architectural landscape has numerous examples of beautiful brickwork and more modern cladding materials making bold visual statements. And moving indoors, a sweeping marble staircase or granite worktops may not suit every style of property or purchaser’s pocket, but wherever natural stone is used, we at Plastic Surgeon celebrate its endless individuality, style and sustainability. And if it should get marked or damaged, we’re here to help ensure it actually achieves the very long life potential that nature intended.
Save Our (Stone) Surfaces.