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From Staddle Stones to Pillars: The Weight-Bearing Applications of Stone


For centuries, stone has been an essential building material for the construction of buildings, structures and homes. It has been chosen continuously for its durability, strength, and natural beauty and can be seen in examples across history.

 

From the ancient staddle stones that are scattered across England, to the grand pillars of classical architecture, stone has been used as a weight-bearing material for a long time and has evolved significantly during this period. In this blog, we will discuss the fascinating journey of stone in construction and how it has been used to create enduring structures.


The properties of stone


Stone is a substantial material and has been used for a variety of applications over time. Here are some intrinsic properties that make stone such a strong material:

 

-       Durability: Stone can withstand a lot more than most other materials like wood and metal. It is resistant to weathering, erosion and wear, which is what makes it the perfect material for structures intended to last for centuries.

-       Compressive strength: Stone has the ability to withstand heavy loads without being crushed, which is an essential aspect for weight-bearing materials.

-       Versatility: There is a huge array of stone available, each with its own strengths that you can pick based on structural and aesthetic needs. You can choose between granite, limestone and sandstone.

-       Aesthetic appeal: Stone is a beautiful material that offers a timeless application in any kind of construction. The look of stone is unparalleled against other materials.


Staddle stones


Some of the earliest examples of stones being used for weight-bearing purposes is the use of staddle stones or post stones. They originated in medieval England as mushroom-shaped stones that offered a practical purpose, predominantly being used to elevate granaries and other agricultural buildings above ground to protect the items being stored against moisture and pests.

 

At this time, they looked like broad, flat-topped stones with a supporting narrow base which resembled a mushroom. They were often put under wooden posts on which granaries were built to provide dry storage conditions for crops.


Pillars and columns


Later, there were new ways to incorporate stone into construction, making it much more sophisticated. We began to see the emergence of pillars and columns used as essential elements in architectural design, particularly in Ancient Greek and Roman structures.

 

Greek columns can be categorised into three orders: the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Each of these columns has different characteristics. Firstly, Doric columns are sturdy and plain, whereas Ionic columns feature scroll-like volutes and Corinthian columns are ornate with acanthus leaves. While they were constructed with their decorative appeal in mind, Greek columns supported large structures to help distribute weight and ensure stability.

 

The Romans created composite columns which combined elements of the Ionic and Corinthian styles. These Roman pillars and columns were integral to the construction of aqueducts, temples and basilicas, which showcased their engineering power and artistic excellence.


Stone foundations


Similarly to staddle stones, foundations can be built using stone to create a strong, level base. It is highly important that a foundation is built properly and levelled or else there will be serious structural issues in the building.

 

Foundations that are not done properly can cause settlement issues such as wall cracking, bowing, water penetration and a host of other issues. Natural stone has been used for building foundations for thousands of years and its main attributes include high compressive strength, incredible durability and local availability.

 

A common method for stone foundations is creating two walls of stone, each 8 inches thick facing opposite directions with a 4-inch space in between. This space is filled with a liquid lime-based mortar and the stone wythes are pointed up and sealed. Commonly, limestone is used for these kinds of stone foundations.


Why stone is ideal for weight-bearing applications


Stone is a preferable weight-bearing material for the following reasons:

 

-       Water penetration: Stone is so thick that any small amounts of water that penetrate the cracks will easily get absorbed by the mass masonry and harmlessly evaporate outwards. Stone can absorb a large amount of water before it hits the saturation point. The grouted centre of the wall is usually bone dry and crumbly, making it perfect to sponge up any water.

-       Compressive strength: In comparison to all other building materials, natural stone has one of the highest compressive strengths. As it has naturally built up over millions of years and is squeezed together by climate changes, such as heat and pressure, the final stone product is densely compressed. It would require stacking stone blocks 4 kilometres high before the bottom block got crushed!

-       Durability: Natural stone is by far the most durable compared to other masonry products such as brick, concrete, block or man-made products. Over time, bricks and concrete can both deteriorate with water penetration and bricks cannot be placed below grade and are typically hollow on the inside. Concrete often has pits and cracks and is hard to repair. However, the stone will usually never experience these problems and it is also an all-natural product, making it a sustainable option.


Medieval and Gothic stone structures


During the Medieval and Gothic periods, architecture became categorised by its emphasis on height and light. In order to achieve these feats, stone was crucial.

 

Flying buttresses were external support structures that transferred the weight of the roof and walls to the ground. They are an iconic piece of Gothic architecture that can still be seen in buildings today. They allowed for the construction of taller, thinner walls with large stained-glass windows, as seen in cathedrals like Notre Dame de Paris.

 

Pillars and vaults can still be seen during this time period with pointed arches used to distribute weight more efficiently, this enables the construction of expansive interiors. Ribbed vaults are intricate frameworks that provide structural support and added aesthetic value.


Modern applications


We continue to see stone in modern architecture as it continues to be a preferred material for both its aesthetic qualities and structural capabilities.

 

In skyscrapers and facades, stone is used for cladding modern buildings, combining the material’s classic beauty with modern engineering techniques. There are plenty of landmarks that represent the use of stone in modern architecture including iconic structures such as the Empire State Building, which incorporates stone to symbolise durability and grandeur.

 

Bridges and monuments also use stone as a weight-bearing material. Stone has longevity that makes it ideal for bridges and monuments and is intended to last for generations. We can also see that stone has been chosen for iconic monuments, in order to last decades or even centuries. Monuments like Stonehenge stand as a testament to stone’s enduring legacy.


Shropshire Brick & Stone - Post Stones, Stone Pillars & More


At Shropshire Brick & Stone, we are a high-quality cast stone supplier offering a range of precast stone products including post stones, pillar stones and staddle stones.

 

If you’re looking for high-class precast stone, look no further than our cast stone suppliers. Whether you are looking for decorative stone or precast stone to use for staddles, lintels or pillars, get in touch with our team today. We can help you pick out the ideal pre cast stone products and completely transform your home or building.

 

Cast stone looks and acts in a very similar way to natural stone, while being much more affordable, meaning you can equip your home with cast stone staddles, cast stone pillars or any other kind of decorative stone product. For more information, visit our website or give us a call at 01743 861111. A member of our team will be happy to assist you with the right cast stone product for you.

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