Alarm at five and out by 5.20am; westward-bound to Portland, Dorset and Albion Stone, who have several limestone quarries, the last being restored now and with most of their new block production coming from caverns under the ground.
The requirement for the Horsham block is very specific – we have a 6.5 tonne weight limit on the delivery lorry and a desire to see something approaching 2 metres in height which would give us a block of 2.5 cubic metres. Portland stone is structurally strong and makes a good freestone which weathers well in the landscape.
Walking down row after row of blocks at Albion’s Portland base, each block is marked with the bed height, weight and a block number. Many blocks are too squat to be sculptural in form; quarried at around the 160cm (the common bed height) but longer in dimensions ready for factory processing. For posterity, keeping the sculpture ‘in bed’ is sensible so that the plane of deposition remains in the same attitude and future erosion by wind and rain is minimised.
There were no ideal blocks in the first four rows next to the factory. A few of the required height were too large and would require cutting down. Most of the blocks are destined to be cut down to far smaller, regular dimensions for new building developments – using British stone – across the country.
A flash of possibility in the final row! Sadly quashed with the realisation that the stone had an additional paint mark of someone’s prior selection. We thus set out for the old quarry nearest the factory where the last quarried blocks are gradually being moved across the road and restoration of the land is afoot. In a pile at the back, we spied a fine stone lying on its side but a full two metres in bed height and possibly just over our weight limit.
It was thought a sound block and the low loader was summoned to weigh the block to see if it would fit our criteria, which it did. From here, a long journey to Horsham will see the block at Highwood Village for a start on site at the beginning of Horsham District’s Year of Culture.
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