Mountpleasant Square, one of the most charming enclaves of Georgian houses in the city, is suffering the ill-effects of misinformed brick pointing to the same degree as the city centre.
No. 41, a fine three-bay yellow brick house of c. 1810 date, has just been repointed in the worst fashion conceivable: using the wrong coloured mortar, the wrong type of pointing, and leaving a patchwork of mismatched brickwork.
The distinguishing characteristic of Mountpleasant Square, aside from its gracious curved terraces and the modest scale of its housing, is its almost exclusive use of yellow stock brick as a walling material. Thankfully this has been little interfered with to date.
As pictured above, No. 41 is one of the earliest houses on the square, sited amongst the first tranche to be built shortly after 1807. We need only compare it with the adjacent house (below) to observe what it looked like before the recent nasty repointing damaged the mellow ensemble here - a beautiful soft yellow brick with characteristically Irish 'wigged' pointing, using dark yellow mortar carefully applied over a rough white fill mortar.
And yet at No. 41 we end up with anchovy coloured mortar applied in the English tuck pointed manner, with ribbons of lime putty and sand laid over it. Could the contrast with the neighbouring house be any more apparent?
The same scene with the intact house on the other side.
Here is close-up example of original wigged pointing, where we can clearly see dark yellow mortar applied in a linear fashion over the white construction mortar to emulate guaged brickwork.
And here is the new job at No. 41 with an incorrect inverse pointing method, where the white is applied over the stopping mortar, and wholly incorrect colour.
What a shame.
Also, the first floor brick appears to have been cleaned before stopping half way down, hence the disparity between the two storeys. What a mess.
Sadly, there are many more terraces of yellow brick in the vicinity that are ripe for mauling in this way if a watchful eye is not kept over proposed works. Indeed only three doors down another house is getting the same treatment as we speak. It would appear proposals for repointing are dealt with on a discussion basis with planners and the over-stretched conservation officer, rather than necessarily through planning applications, so strict methodologies and follow-up are probably rarely set out or conducted once the basic 'conservation principles' are agreed on with established firms. There is a school of thought - certainly amongst some brick specialists - that it is the owner's personal choice and taste that dictates the method of repointing. This is not the case, as DOE guidelines point out that existing pointing should always be retained as much as possible and only repaired where necessary. The extension of this is that the existing pointing method should always be used.
Bessborough Parade just around the corner is a charming example of a largely intact yellow brick terrace. Only the first tall house was pointed in the 19th century with red mortar.
Long may it last untouched.