Newtown, Reading - Possible Cornice or Impost post molding
This stone was found in a the back garden of a house in Newtown, near the River Kennet. How did it get here. Did it 'fall off the back of a barge' at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries on its way maybe to Windsor? Or did some enterprising owner of the house think of beautifying its rockery when the houses were built in the 1870s?
This stone has been identified as being carved from oolitic limestone of the Taynton quarry type. It is about 25cms wide x 20cms deep and 20cms high.
The carving technique is of high quality. The profile shows how several moulding patterns have been combined to create an attractive design. Once in situ these would have formed carefully spaced shadows which would most probably been combined with coloured paints creating different patterns in different light.
Note the accuracy of the mason’s lines.
Different types of chisel were used in the stone’s creation. In the photo above you can see the claw chisel marks on the back of the stone to give a crisp clean straight edge.
The next photo shows the rougher and wider chisel cuts which helped give grip to the mortar which attached this stone to its companion.
The stone was possibly one of a series making a cornice. Alternatively it could have been part of a plinth or impost molding. The following two photos are examples of such stones from France. It should be remembered that the first head of the Reading community was Prior Peter of Cluny Abbey. He began the building of Reading and together with his fellow Cluniac monks from Lewes, it is likely that he would have determined the basic framework of the Abbey and its style. The first Abbot, Hugh of Amiens, was only appointed in 1123, two years after work began.
This photo shows the fine carving of the stone. It is remarkable that such detail remains after such a length of time and considering its treatment.
The red markings are due to burning. The modern owner of the stone used it to deposit his BBQ charcoal!