Friday, February 3, 2017
Old school ties
In 1571 a group of merchants in the Cotswold town of Burford founded a grammar school. Their leader was the appropriately named Simon Wysdom, whose name features in an inscription over the doorway of the old school building, which still exists, a solid-looking structure of Cotswold stone in the centre of the town. The masonry is quite high quality – coursed squared rubble blocks, one step away from the super-smooth ashlar of the very highest status buildings.
However, the structure is perhaps not as quite solid as it seems. At some stage there has been some instability and tie rods have been installed to stop the walls bulging outwards. These ties are metal rods that pass all the way through a building from one exterior wall to the other, fixed on the outside with bars or discs that hold the wall in like a corset. Often the rods are heated up immediately before they are inserted and the outer bars or discs fixed on, so that they contract as they cool down, ensuring the tightest fit.
The bars on the outside can take various forms. One of the most common is a large X-shape, so that the containing effect is spread across a large surface of wall. Here, there’s an added touch: instead of Xs, the rods end in the three initials B, G, and S, for Burford Grammar School. As well as holding in the wall they act as a bit of advertisement. Structural, educational, promotional, and ingenious in one.