Outlook Issue 27 Spring 2019
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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The making of our church - brickwork
Looking round St Mary’s, there is not a lot of brickwork immediately visible – only a bricked-up arch on the south side, near to the organ keyboard. Less obvious is a vaulted brickwork cellar, where the central heating boilers are located. More attractive is the brickwork visible on the outside of our church, where it is used for decorative purposes. The elegant highlighting in red brick around the bell-openings on the north and east faces of the tower, radiates out around the top of the arch and defines its shape (pictured). Brick was frequently used with flint on these medieval churches. Strong and durable Brickwork is one of the oldest of building materials, and the making of unfired bricks from clay and straw in Egypt is mentioned in Exodus. This way of making bricks was also widely used for low specification agricultural buildings and houses in Suffolk during the nineteenth century (it is known as clay lump). More widely used is fired brickwork, where clay is moulded into brick shapes and heated in a kiln until its chemical composition is changed, which makes the material stronger and far more durable. The Shire Hall in the Market Hill was built of solid brickwork in the 1550s and you can see the brickwork is still in good condition today. Even traditional timber-framed buildings, such as those around Market Hill, have low-level brickwork walls to protect the timber from the damp of the soil. Brickwork is strong in compression, but very weak in tension and was traditionally used in walls and foundations. When constructed in lime mortar, brickwork is a plastic material that will distort significantly over time without cracking, which is very useful in Suffolk where shallow foundations tend to move around on shrinkable clay. The strength and solidity of brickwork is expressed in the phrase for a solid investment, ‘bricks and mortar’, and for a dependable friend, ‘a brick’. These are qualities which are desirable in both people and buildings. John Davis