1st February 2015
The brickies finished on Friday, leaving behind a big pile of brick off-cuts, the remains of a tonne bag of lime mortar and their mixer (as well as a lovely wall). As we were clearing up on Saturday, I realised that I had a brief window, before chief brickie Joe Blackwell returns to collect his mixer on Monday, to put these materials to good use and clear the front of the site.
Broken bricks are excellent hardcore. And the threshold of our new doorway is currently well above ground level. So today I built up the ground with layers of bricks and lime mortar to create the base of the path that will lead from the gate to our front door. We have to have a level entry – no steps allowed – so I set a string line from the new door threshold to the ground at our front gate, defining the slope that our path must follow. I then spread the mortar over the hard core to follow this line and heaved some huge York stone slabs on top.
These slabs are the remnants of Holly Lodge, the Victorian mansion within Thomas Cubitt’s 1840s Clapham Park development that was demolished in 1922 to make way for a more modest terrace. Some of these slabs were in the garden that became our building plot but I also dug up a couple when we were clearing the site 18 months ago. These evidently survived the demolition and were still in their original position, probably in the kitchen or scullery floor (see blog number 6).
The job was exhausting and incredibly messy, and the path still has some way to go to reach the gate, but it was great to complement our traditional brickwork with some genuinely antique materials. Just the thing to lead you up the garden path to a chunky oak door with metal straps and a huge iron door-knocker. No timid guests please – all visitors to The Orchard will be obliged to make an entrance.