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Staddle stones are support pillars originally designed to hold up the grain harvest to keep rodents out. Other methods of pest control and securing harvests have rendered staddle stones obsolete in many regions of the world. Some people use them as garden ornaments, particularly in England, where these distinctive pieces of stonework represent a part of the nation's history, and gardeners may have an interest in preserving them.
These pillars have a distinctive mushroom-like appearance, with a slender base and a flaring, rounded top. The base lifts the top well above the ground, and the rounded top makes it difficult for rodents to climb. When in use with the grain harvest, the stones usually supported a structure like a granary, lifting it to keep rodents out and provide ventilation to prevent mold, mildew, and insect infestation.
The word “staddle” comes from an Old English word for “foundations,” referring to the purpose of the staddle stone as a foundation for structures to hold the harvest. Some examples of these stones in situ as architectural features are still extant, especially in regions of England where people have an interest in retaining and protecting historical structures. Other collections of stones have been broken up for sale as garden ornaments, and companies also make modern replicas.
Different regions of England tend to produce staddle stones of slightly different shapes and compositions. These reflect available local materials like sandstone and granite, as well as preferences for precise shape and size. Some are more squared, while others are rounded. Historians with an interest in architectural elements from England can often identify the region a stone came from, along with the era when it was produced, on the basis of the materials and shape. Antiques experts can perform similar identifications to confirm the authenticity of a stone.
In the case of an antique staddle stone, cleaning is not recommended. These stones gradually form a surface layer of lichens over time, and the lichen actually protects the underlying stone in addition to providing a habitat for microorganisms. Older stones with a distinctive patina of lichen should ideally be left as they are to preserve their character. If it is necessary to clean a stone, people should use gentle soaps and brushing, avoiding harsh chemicals and wire brushes that may scratch or scar the stone. Bleaches and similar chemical treatments can weaken staddle stones and cause them to crumble or crack.
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