The Memory of Stones: the Pleasures and Pains of Ultra Thick Walls.

As anyone who has ever owned a 200 year old house will know, many of them, especially here in Scotland, have ultra thick, solid stone walls. Ours are two or three feet thick and consist of incredibly hefty stones of various kinds, some of them so weighty that you wonder how those stonemasons, 200 years ago and more, managed to haul them up to the second floor. Some system of pulleys and a good deal of manpower must have been used. There's lots of granite, with a little sandstone as well, here and there, which means that any tiny bit of damp that manages to find its way in (usually in connection with the place where the chimneys meet the roof) will filter through inexorably.

Thick stone walls have their advantages of course. They tend to be beautifully soundproof. This is a terraced cottage but we hardly ever hear our neighbours, unless they are doing renovation work and even then, it's muffled. (We talk to them a lot over the hedges, though!) When our son was a teenager, he could play his music to his heart's content and we didn't hear it. These walls also, once you can actually manage to heat the place, tend to keep the heat in for a long time. That used to be the way those huge old fireplaces functioned. The fire was seldom allowed to go out, the ash was seldom if ever cleared away completely, so the whole fireplace area including the stones around and the ash below, was a major and enduring source of heat - enough to heat the whole room, and beyond.

But you'll have trouble with your broadband. I had a conversion with a nice man from EE only the other week, who told me that his parents have the same problem. You will soon discover that the signal will go through the floors much more easily than it does through any of the walls, so you'll need various boosters. (Something I'm working on at the moment.)

The other fun thing about thick walls is that no young tradesman, other than one well qualified in restoration work, will have any idea about how difficult it is to drill through a block of granite the size of a small standing stone. We've had this conversation many times in the course of our years living here.
             'I'll just drill through here' says the electrician/builder/plumber etc.
             'Oh no you won't,' we say. 'You're going to have to find some way round that stone.'
             The tradesman invariably looks at us as though we're past it, shrugs, and carries on. Only to give up in despair, often with a piece of burnt out equipment, a little while later.

There is, however, something very reassuring about the knowledge that the skeleton of your house is - literally - rock solid. Especially since these old houses don't have any foundations to speak of, but were just built straight onto the ground. The new parts of our house have foundations strong enough to support a multi storey car park, unlike the rest of it. Some years ago when we replaced a lintel in one of the rooms, the vastly experienced builder shored it up while the new beam was put in place, but there was a brief heart in mouth moment where he was relying on the 'memory of the stones' to hold it up.