Saturday, May 09, 2009


Making a silk purse from a sow's ear

Back in February, I was asked to take a look at a job in Knutsford, a wealthy Cheshire town about 15 miles from Manchester, and probably better known as the real-life "Cranford" of telly fame. One of the residents had been talked into allowing a right bunch of chancers lay sett paving to his home, and he suspected they didn't quite know what they were doing. This is what I found when I went out there....

...not what you might call quality work, and to make matters worse, the paving had been laid to a level that was 150mm ABOVE the damp proof course!

The householder was distraught, to put it mildly. He'd spent tens of thousands of pounds on providing materials and paying these clowns for work that, in his heart, he knew wasn't right, but like so many other homeowners, he believed the "contractor" when they said that it would all look great when it was finished and cleaned up and could he let them have another couple of grand for wages...

My advice was to part company (I didn't use quite those words) with this alleged contractor, and I'd put him in touch with two or three genuinely skilled and experienced sett layers who would be able to salvage something from the disaster that was now despoiling his home. It's no exaggeration to say that he was close to tears at the stress and financial cost he'd borne for over three months while the eejits managed to ruin a little over 150m² of sett paving.

He asked me to design a new driveway, and to get prices from genuine contractors to rip up what had been laid, and re-lay to a professional standard and with a bit of flair. After a long discussion about what he liked, and what he felt suited the property, I came up with a layout that he immediately loved. Based on a stunning circular guilloche feature centred on the front doors of the property, the Mark II driveway would use a circle layout for the frontage and a fan pattern for the driveway.

For those of you not sure about what a guilloche might be, it's the swirly figure-of-eight layout in this drawing taken from the site plan I drew...

Obviously, good sett layers are few and far between, but we put the job out to tender and the job was eventually awarded to Cookie and his crew from The Original Stone Paving Company from Wrexham. They started work just after Easter and the first task was to get rid of the pig's ear that the original gang still believed to be a good job.

Three weeks into the job and all the old crap has gone. The ground level has been reduced so that the paving will be at least 150mm below DPC; the drains have been checked and cleaned of all the muck that had been allowed to fall into uncovered manholes by the previous crew, and sett laying has started in earnest.

The central flagstones for the guilloche feature were custom cut for this job by McMonagle Stone to create the exact diameter required, and they also provided the smaller 'dots' around which the setts will revolve. Now we're beginning to see the project take shape, so here's the first of what will, hopefully, be a series of photies following the job as it progresses.

Jobs like this don't come along very often, and it's a real treat to be involved in a project that will restore a property to its true former glory, using original materials as far as possible, and celebrating the skills of a genuine streetmason.

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