DAVID LAWS

Bricks

Bricks are boring, right? WRONG. There’s a whole lot more to this humble lump of baked clay than meets the eye. Much more than just an essential building block for living.

Take these men learning how to restore stately homes and other historic buildings. When they’re skilled at the job they can earn a handsome pay rate while keeping Britain’s architectural heritage in pristine order. Without such expertise many of our beautiful old buildings would fall fall into decay and decline.

I chanced upon this class at a small wayside station in East Anglia. Chappel & Wakes Colne is a little gem of railway architecture. Note the decorative shapes on the staircase and the facia above.

Their job is much more than simply taking out worn bricks and putting in standard size replacements. The pieces they are chiselling out need new bricks shaped exactly and they don’t use a grinder or a saw, which would leave ugly marks. Instead, they rub the new piece into shape by gentling kneeding it against an old flagstone.

The man who is second right is the master. He’s restored royal palaces. He merits a profile all of his own.