Benchmarks: Preserving the stone markings around Northern Ireland

Preserving the stone markings around Northern Ireland

10/23/2021 4:41:00 PM

Preserving the stone markings around Northern Ireland

Benchmarks, which were used during the mapping of the island of Ireland, are being lost.

One example of a more recent benchmark is at Portrush Primary School.Image source,Image caption,This benchmark at Portrush Primary School was created much more recently than many others"It's carved on the brick pillar at the angle of the fence that surrounds the school, which was built in the 1950s," he explained.

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"The wall that surrounds the school is of that date so the benchmark must have appeared after the war."Portstewart Golf Club's piece of historyDr Wilson has recently helped to preserve one that would have been lost without intervention.Portstewart Golf Club replaced an old wall and luckily Dr Wilson was walking past as it was being demolished.

"I happen to know that one of the stones in the wall had a benchmark on it," he said."I spoke to the lady on reception and the course manager and explained what a benchmark was and how they had one, and it was going to disappear in the next few hours if they didn't do something about it.

Image source,Peter WilsonImage caption,The benchmark is a distinctive feature on this pillar on White Park Road in Bushmills, County Antrim"They agreed to try to save it and they have done."That particular block of rock is in its original position and it has been incorporated into the new wall.

A pint of the black stuffOne example of a benchmark that is unlikely to be lost any time soon is on the so-called "Guinness stone" at the Harbour Bar in Portrush.In fact, unless they looked closely most people wouldn't know it's there.

"The carving has been obscured by the paint but you can just make out the indentations," said Dr Wilson.Image source,Peter WilsonImage caption,You can just about see the benchmark beneath the white paint on the "Guinness stone" outside the Harbour Bar in Portrush

Whilewriting for the local Portrush Heritage Groupnewsletter he looked through old maps, which indicate where they should be and found about half a dozen."I went to about another 15 locations but I couldn't find them so the structures, the walls, the buildings have been replaced at some time," he said.

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"There must be thousands of them across Northern Ireland - they're in remote locations, some are in towns and villages."It's just a matter of wandering around and looking and hoping that you can find one."Legal protection?Benchmarks continued to be carved into stone work until about the 1990s when map-making and surveying by the OS went digital.

"They stopped needing benchmarks, they didn't go out with their theodolite lights and surveys polls - they did it using satellites," said Dr Wilson.While map-making may be different now Dr Wilson hopes there might be some consideration given to protecting benchmarks.

"If one is on a building that has got legal protection because if it's a historic building it's not going to be demolished.Image source,Image caption,A benchmark at Coleraine Train Station"But most benchmarks are not on buildings that are listed and therefore they can easily disappear with redevelopment."

For Dr Wilson, there is the worry that we will continue to lose more benchmarks.He said ones like the "Guinness stone" will likely be there for a long time but a lot of the others in the countryside could easily disappear if walls are replaced and bridges are rebuilt.

He would like to see similar protection to that given to local boundary stones."If they had some form of protection or legal status that would be helpful."It's something from the past, part of the heritage and part of the Ordnance Survey mapping that dates from the early years of the 19th Century, so some consideration could be given by the authorities to protecting them," he added.

Read more: BBC News (UK) »

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