STONE WALLS

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Stanley
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STONE WALLS

Post by Stanley » 04 Aug 2017, 07:25

STONE WALLS

Some elements of our landscape are so common that we cease to notice them. Field boundaries are a good example. From the earliest days of settlement with the advent of farming around 2,500BC fields had to be enclosed, at first with simple boundary markers but increasingly with stock-proof barriers. Some were hedges, anywhere round here named 'Hey' or 'Hague' was originally a hedged enclosure, that's the origin of the name. Eventually in the North the most efficient and durable solution was the dry stone wall.
I can show you examples of crude walls built from rounded erratic stone cleared from fields during cultivation that have survived for over 800 years but the majority of our walls are more recent than that and made with fragmented stone from just below the surface which has sharp contours and can be worked into a far more regular construction by a skilled waller. I'm pleased to see that many people are going on dry-walling courses and learning the essential elements of the craft. A well made wall with the correct batter (Taper towards the top) and good 'throughs', the larger stones which span the whole width of the wall and in a good wall are laid touching sides with each other, is a joy to see and will last for hundreds of years with minimal attention. One thing we tend to forget is that this basic skill was the foundation of house building in stone which became ubiquitous in this area in the mid 16th century after the masons were made redundant with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Improvements like dressing stone and the use of mortar gave us our unique townscape where almost every house is built with local stone, in our case the tough grit-stone quarried to the South of Barlick at Tubber Hill and Salterforth.
The last explosion of field walling round here was during the Enclosures of the Waste in the mid-nineteenth century. Many miles of wall had to be built very quickly and if truth be told, some by unskilled labourers and consequently of poor quality. The stone for these walls was dug up on site from small delphs (Origin of the word is 'delve', to dig) along the line of the wall. You can still see traces of these today. The farmhouses that were built on the new enclosures used the same source of stone and it's noticeable that it was always carried downhill and for as short a distance as possible. It was only later, during building in the town that horse transport of stone became common. Out on the moor the most common conveyance was a sledge and these were only practical if the load was being brought downhill.
Even today stone plays a big part in our lives and there is a good market for reclaimed stone from demolished buildings. The most valuable of all is 'grey' slate, local stone slate and good flag stones. So recognise our asset and let the stones talk to you!

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Erratic and dressed stone dry walls at Hayn Slack.
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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by PanBiker » 04 Aug 2017, 08:59

I built a stone range in the front room of my first house on York Street and later the fireplace and hearth in the back room. I used the same principle of not fetching the stone far and an exercise in recycling, the whole lot came from the demolition of the Bethesda Baptist Church which was my old Sunday School.
Ian

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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Cathy » 04 Aug 2017, 10:33

I left England in 64 when I was 7yrs old and there is something so familiar and homely about dry stone walls. It's as if a big impression of them is in my psyche... a belonging... does that make sense? I think it's almost primal, can't really explain it .
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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Tizer » 04 Aug 2017, 13:53

In the far west of Cornwall (Penwith) the earliest dry stone walls were made by joining up the gaps between massive granite boulders that would have been impossible for them to move and there are still lots of tiny fields due to this criss-crossing effect.

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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Stanley » 05 Aug 2017, 02:24

So I am not alone, walls are interesting!
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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Cathy » 05 Aug 2017, 09:14

We have dry stone walls over here too, obviously from our early settlers, in Sth Aust, Victoria, Tasi and New Sth Wales. Also group s/ organizations that teach how to build and maintain dry stone walls.
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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Tizer » 05 Aug 2017, 09:27

Very interesting and in many ways. Sometimes you can find fossils in the stones (especially when it's limestone) and some are made of unusual minerals. In Cornwall you can find walls that are mostly made of milky quartz; in Hayle you find them made of copper smelter slag. On the Lizard peninsula many are made of serpentine. It's always worth looking at the stone around you, not just in dry stone walls but in buildings, pavements, bridges etc. Churches sometimes have very interesting stone - there are several in Cornwall made of `sandrock' which is not true sandstone but a softer consolidated sand. I remember reading about a church in, I think, Yorkshire which has columns at the doorway that have a lot of red streaks in them. It's claimed locally to be the blood of one of the saints - but the red is haematite (red iron oxide). There are stone columns in a church in France that are hollow. It was recently discovered that they are composed of `flowstone', the calcium carbonate deposited over time from water. But how did they come to be hollow? It turns out that they once formed the coating on the inside of old, Roman, clay water pipes. The clay had disintegrated, leaving a hollow tube of flowstone which someone realised could be dug out of the ground and used to make lighter weight church columns!

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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Wendyf » 05 Aug 2017, 09:56

I love my walls! If any one wants a bit of practice doing dry stone walling I have small fall that needs rebuilding.... It's one job that Col doesn't want to do! :biggrin2:

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Re: STONE WALLS

Post by Stanley » 06 Aug 2017, 03:35

I once talked to an old bloke who did gap-walling and he said his best tool was his hammer. He marked the face of the stone on each side of the gap he had repaired and charged an extra two yards....
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