A grin set in stone

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THIS cheerful house keystone, to be found at 167 Lewes High Street, was made around 1814 and is known, appropriately, as ‘the laughing boy’.

Drawn by Marietta Van Dyck and illustrated in her Hidden Lewes (Pomegranate Press), the keystone is made of Coade Stone, which is not stone at all, but a kind of terracotta.

Certain clays and sands to form it were mixed together according to a secret formula which is now thought to have been lost.

Coade Stone was used from the 1770s for more than half a century, and has proved to be remarkably durable. Several examples can be seen to this day in Lewes.

The architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called this particular keystone ‘a sweet little thing’.

It will raise a grin on anyone who takes the trouble to look up and say hello.