In the first half of the 19th century most workmen’s cottages were single-storey. When William Thomson moved into this cottage people had begun to build staircases and open up an attic space to create a bedroom for their children. Most families were large so creating this additional space was a huge benefit for the children and in addition gave privacy to the adults.
William was a master stonemason so it is not surprising he would work with the material he knew best. This staircase is built entirely of sandstone. Stone staircases are usual in large houses and castles but extremely rare in small cottages but the way this staircase is made makes it all the more so.
Each step is carved by hand from a single piece of sandstone. Each is then jointed into the wall and balanced on the step beneath (this type of construction is called cantilevered). The stones are built into a beautiful smooth sweeping spiral. If you look at the underside of the staircase you can see the individual steps and their joints.
William Thomson was clearly a master stonemason of great skill with a keen eye for design who in this staircase has created a unique and exceptional piece of vernacular architecture.
Look closely at the bottom stair and you will see marks where kindlers used to be chopped.
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