Having repaired the beautiful Georgian wall that divides Bell House from College Road, Matt has returned to work on one of the last surviving ha-has in London. Built in 1767, it was designed to protect the garden from passing livestock (sheep and cattle were driven along College Road to market in London). The name ha-ha is thought to derive from the expression of surprise as people discovered what they thought was uninterrupted grass was actually a hidden wall. Unlike a fence it is invisible from Bell House, leaving views which would have stretched for miles in Georgian times.
Working outside in this hot weather brings its own issues. Matt must ensure that the traditional lime mortar he uses (its flexibility helps protect the brickwork from future damage) does not dry out too quickly. Lime mortar gains its strength, in part, from carbonation: the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Just because a mortar is dry does not mean that it has carbonated and if the pointing dries before enough carbonation has taken place, the mortar will crack and weaken. So Matt has been starting work very early, spraying the brickwork with water to slow down the process, and finishing before the heat of the day affects the mortar. Come past Bell House around 7am and he will already be at work. Luckily because he is a traditional craftsman, working only with his hands, there are no intrusive noises to disturb the neighbours. Once Matt has worked his way along the ha-ha he will work back again, replacing any missing bricks.
The retaining walls of the ha-ha, which stretch towards the road and support the pavement outside Bell House, are buckled and need complete replacement. Together with Nicholas Garner, Matt has devised a structure that will support the load placed on the walls but also be visually sympathetic to the location. A hidden metal and concrete structure will be faced with recycled Georgian bricks.
We hope that our commitment to repairing and maintaining Bell House in this sustainable and traditional manner will help preserve the house for the next 250 years of its history.