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Blog - Vernacular Architecture

02 May 2018

A brief history of ..building materials

Flicking through a book I found at my Mum’s house, I came across the term ‘vernacular architecture’. I had never heard of this before and, also because the illustrations were so beautiful, I decided to sit down and have a closer look. The book is called ‘Village Buildings of Britain’ and is written by Matthew Rice. It champions the cause of vernacular architecture and the desire to keep our villages looking how they did in years gone by. So what is vernacular architecture? Put simply, it is a style of architecture based on local needs and the availability of materials. It creates a local style which many try to preserve.

Reflecting on my last blog, it seems that geology is again key. It is the diversity of the rock making up our small island that has influenced how our buildings were constructed. This, in turn, has created the look and atmosphere of our villages and towns as they have developed over the years.

The East Midlands sits largely on clay and so it is no surprise that our buildings are predominantly made from brick. To the west, timber was used as an infill, but it wasn’t freely available, hence the Warwickshire half timbered look. The combination of bricks and timber is delightfully called ‘nogging’. To the north, Peak District stone was in abundance and used to build dwellings able to withstand harsh weather. Golden brown ironstones are seen in the east of our region, for instance in the Parish Church of St James in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir in Lincolnshire.

From our modern global perspective, looking at our own homes and the buildings around us, it is easy to forget, and poignant to remember those whose immediate surroundings dictated how they built, the materials they used – and what an amazing job they did.