Wimbledon Gate Piers

Lots of little jobs of late, but one I enjoyed particularly was the restoration of these Victorian (mid 19th Century) Portland stone gate piers in Wimbledon.

Moving and cleaning

160 odd years had taken their toll. Not only had the piers moved around, possibly due to the large trees nearby and possibly due to other factors, but pollution and poor repairs had also ravaged the stonework. Moss, soot and plants were abundant.

Gate Pier Restoration

Gate Pier Restoration

Restoration of the lintel

You can see the right pier had shifted leaving a gap-toothed effect. The budget wouldn’t allow us to shift the entire piers back together again so the solution was to use new stone to close the gaps. I did however have to reposition the lintel stone so it was flush with the front and back walls. It was protruding 1 inch over the RH wall in this picture.

Below: this is after the cleaning of the stone after a super-heated steam cleaning. The particular one we used was Thermatech but there are other systems available.Gate Pier RestorationThis picture (below) shows the new stone returns (which I’d made in my workshop) and a slip was put in below the volute (spiral) feature to close the gap there too. Also the lintel is now flush with the walls. How did I do it? We couldn’t get a gantry in as there is a gully at the back, and costs prohibited using a crane. In the end I built up a pile of blocks and used a lorry jack to lever it up, put a dowel underneath, pushed it back, raised it again and removed the dowel, lowering it into position. Voila!Gate Pier Restoration

This is after cleaning. The stains were incredibly stubborn but we got most of it out with no damage to the stone. A new return has been inserted.Gate Pier Restoration

Stone Cleaning

Mark Wilkinson of Insall Architects points out areas of concern. The soot was actually carbonated areas which had become part of the stone and was not merely a layer on top of the stone. The super-heated water could only do so much, so for this we used a conservation-approved cleaning product specifically for this problem, which was supplied by conservation supplier, Tensid.

Gate Pier Restoration

The area above is the left hand side in the picture below, which shows newly piece-in stones, cleaned stone and repointed areas. The top right-hand return on the top of the lintel is also new.Gate Pier Restoration

Other piecings-in were the entryphone, where the tooling had to echo the surrounding stone.

Gate Pier Restoration

Managing Expectations

And here are the finished gates. It’s important to realise if you do have an old stone building like this that after cleaning and restoration it will never look brand new, and that expectations have to be realistic. Where do you draw the line? Entire replacement is always feasible but you would be looking at spending tens of thousands of pounds. As it is, these gate piers have several hundred years left in them as long as they are cleaned and attended to in a sensitive and appropriate manner by stonemasons and conservation professionals.Gate Pier Restoration

What do you think?

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