Refurbishing a war memorial

Recently I, along with assistant Gerard van Esveld, added some sandstone cappings to a brick wall in Amersfoort.

These videos were made by Rob Lampe, who creates local reports for Amersfoort Gezien. He lives in the Westerstraat in Amersfoort, where in the year 1945 a bad policeman was shot by the resistance. In retaliation ten prisoners from camp Amersfoort were executed on the Appelweg just around the corner by the Germans. The wall where that took place was decorated as a monument very soon after the war was over, made possible by a gift from the doctor who lived there. The bullet holes are still visible.

The texts and the wreath were carved in Bentheim sandstone. This stone can keep for hundreds of years, but it all needed some maintenance. There was some salt efflorescence and some joints had come loose. Also, the text in some places had deteriorated due to rain, but especially by cleaning off graffiti under high pressure. Some experts had inspected it before, and came to the conclusion that the salt efflorescence was not too serious and that it would be sufficient to carefully clean the monument. However, it was recommended to add a good capping layer of the same stone.

In March I had already been at the wall for cleaning work. Because I was still recovering from a serious wound in my arm, my son Joram helped me at the time.

The old capping of the wall consisted of a layer of bricks, on their side. To ward off intruders lots of glass shards were embedded in the cement. Perhaps effective, but far from beautiful. It didn't work that well for the wall itself either; the top bricks were soaking wet and the jointing had also suffered considerably.

I ordered twelve sandstone pieces of sixty centimeters long for the new capping, with the same dimensions as the old layer of brick, in order to allow the connection at the remaining bricks on either side. They were cut to size by the stone supplier in Germany. The square center cappings however were carved in profile by myself, because the connection of each piece had to be different. At the underside I added a gully (for shedding dripping water), which ensures that the water does not flow along the wall, but stops at that place, and drips down.

Gerard and I cut away the old rowlock layer and first positioned the center capstones, after which we fit the intermediate parts in between. It's an old wall that curves a bit as well, so everything had to be adapted on site.

Why did I, being a sculptor, choose to do this work and not for example a bricklayer, or a stonemason? I was asked if I wanted to do the cleaning, and one thing led to another. It's a local project, something for someone with experience in sandstone, and there was some carving to be done. Because I've lived near the monument myself and know it very well, I had an affinity with it.

Often there is a lot of grief in such a place, much heaviness of unprocessed sorrow. I hope that with the refurbishing and a positive work attitude, I have been able to contribute something positive to the whole atmosphere of this monument.

In the first video from 5:00 minutes my colleague Stide Vos can be seen, working in the studio next to me on a series of statues for the Latin school in Nijmegen. He is copying old statues from Baumberger stone into new Obernkirchner sandstone.

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Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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