[Bell Historians] Daily Telegraph letter

John Harrison john at 7SGdZWI3sQfv3_CFzuAjkvFAdEjBvEcMBfgk-KVJQtvjBrVkt9_mzSrhtpX5tMj-XcZXfKPCE8UwLFk.yahoo.invalid
Thu Oct 22 23:35:48 BST 2009

> SPAB's manifesto:-

> http://www.spab.org.uk/what-is-spab/spabs-purpose/

Interesting reading:

'Repair not Restore'
'Although no building can withstand decay, neglect and depredation
entirely, neither can aesthetic judgement nor archaeological proof justify
the reproduction of worn or missing parts. Only as a practical expedient on
a small scale can a case for restoration be argued.'

That suggests that a block of masonry that has weathered away should not be
replaced with new stone, and that if it is, it should not be carved to
match the profile of the piece being replaced.  Yet from my observation,
that is standard practice on most cathedrals with heavily eroded stonework.

'The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is involved in all
aspects of the survival of buildings which are old and interesting'.

It might be good idea to have a clear definition of what a building is. 
Unhelpfully, the SPAB page doesn't do so.  Most dictionary definitions are
not very helpful (talking about an edifice, or that which is built) but
this one seemed more helpful:

'building - a structure that has a roof and walls and stands more or less
permanently in one place'

The key issue is the division between structure and contents.  Integral
walls and floors are part of the structure.  The furniture that stands on
them is not.  

Superficially, you might draw the line between that which is attached and
that which is not, but I don't think that is valid.  For example lathes and
other such machinery is bolted to the floors of a factory, and fans, drive
motors, etc are often bolted to the walls.  But they are not 'part of the
structure' in any meaningful sense.

 I would suggest that internal studding, which is not integral, and
contributes nothing to the structural integrity of the building, is also
not 'part of the building'.  

So is a bell frame 'part of the structure'?  In a few places it is, for
example where the tower consists of a bellframe on long legs, with cladding
on the outside.  In such cases, the frame is integral, and does contribute
to the structural integrity of the building.

But the vast majority of bellframes do not form an integral part of the
structure.  They make no significant contribution to the structural
integrity of the tower, which would survive quite happily if the frame were
absent.  The frame is securely fixed to the building, like the lathes in
the factory, to stop it moving about in use, but that does not per se make
it a 'part of' the building'.

Would SPAB resist the repair of an organ?  It is securely fixed to the
floor, and quite possibly the walls of the building.  

Where the organ case constitutes an integral part of the internal aesthetic
of the building, along with other surfaces and fittings, then there would
be legitimate grounds for not changing it, but not grounds for refusing to
renew the broken air pipes or sticking couplers.

Very few bellframes contribute to the internal aesthetic of a building. 
The only ones where that could be argued are the radial ones that you can
walk round, like Guildford, Washington or Liverpool.  Most the rest are
crammed into spaces that don't have any internal aesthetic.  

'Essential work'
'The only work which is unquestionably necessary (whether it be repair,
renewal or addition) is that essential to a building's survival.'

On that basis, no bell frame (or organ, or pew, or ...) could ever be
repaired, since it doesn't contribute anything to the structural integrity,
and hence survival of the building (apart from the exceptions where the
bell frame is the tower frame).

I am sure SPAB would like to claim jurisdiction over anything attached to
the structure, but it doesn't seem a tenable position, especially when
applying a criterion based on building survival.


John Harrison
Message sent from an Iyonix running RISC-OS 5


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