Part 1: Repairing The Stone
Since 2016 mason Mike Orchard has been carving new stone to replace the damaged or lost elements of this Halswell Park icon.
The restoration started with scaffolding to the bridge and removal of dangerous tree limbs before the winter could do any more damage to the structure. Each stone had to be numbered and mapped both on the working drawings and on the stones themselves, before dismantling the most precarious areas could begin.
The ashlar apse at the back of the central pediment had roots digging through the cracks and had been losing cut stone blocks into the water below for many years. Before Mike could evaluate the missing stone that needed to be remade a catalogue of all the stone found on site was needed so that the jigsaw could be understood. Salvaging stone lost in the silt was one of the first tasks.
This unprepossessing lump of muddle rock is actually an intricately decorated section of the keystone. This one came from the centre of the bridge and has been languishing under the silt, unseen for over a century. This piece was added to the many more found stones that we have been building up for the day the restoration could begin.
Each piece of stone at the back of the apse is gently curved to create a half-dome. Removing this thin ashlar skin from the rubble stone that makes up the core of the building was a difficult task, each one was numbered and mapped to its original location for the rebuiding that will start once all the new stone has ben carved and the jigsaw puzzle will be put back together.
With the delicate areas of the bridge now removed for conservation and missing stone being cut the time has come to focus our attention of the dam beneath. Until this structure can be made watertight and sound once again the restored elements above water cannot be put back into place. Work has now started on digging out a large concrete apron that rests on silt, rubble and bedrock just in front of the bridge. With more cut stone finds being made on a daily basis this has become an archaeological site in its own right.
The next part in this series dedicated to the Bath Stone Bridge will focus on the dam repairs and the finds being pulled from the lake.
A full history of the bridge can be found by clicking HERE.