Old buildings are made of local materials, which were typically made, quarried or felled near or next to where they were constructed.
Often the more vernacular and humble buildings were constructed with the simplest local materials; there was no reason to bring anything in from afar. Prior to the industrial revolution, transportation of building materials was expensive and difficult, and so only the finest country houses would have been constructed using materials that were not found in the local area.
Dressed stone was needed to repair the external walls.
Mabel’s was built in 1710 and the materials and construction techniques are typical of the area and the style of building. The walls are constructed from local Cotswold stone and the internal joinery features elm that was likely grown locally — elms are so common in the village that the old English name for the village was Elmington.
Our first task at Mabel’s was to source local stone to repair the drystone wall that surrounds the house and to find high-quality dressed stone to repair the external walls of the house prior to underpinning. Mabel’s is constructed from Cotswold stone; however as the Cotswold escarpment stretches from Wiltshire to Warwickshire, the limestone across the area varies from lemony grey in the south, to the orangey brown of the local stone in our village.
There used to be hundreds of quarries in the area. Now there are a handful and therefore there is a lot less variation in stone available. The new Cotswold stone available is honey yellow and not at all similar to our local Hornton stone, so we need to source an exact match to ensure a good quality repair.
Local contacts provided the local stone that
was needed for the external repair work.
Of course, building materials and products are manufactured and imported from all over the world nowadays. It would be rare to find a modern building where all the materials are sourced locally, as many of the quarries, gravel pits and local industries have long gone. Sourcing materials to repair listed buildings can be a real challenge that involves research, timing and a bit of luck. However reclamation yards, ebay and local builders’ merchants can all be good sources of materials.
For the repairs to Mabel’s, where better to find some local stone than in our own back yard? An impromptu meeting in the community shop with a neighbour, local farmer and a parish councillor was the answer.
We happened to mention that we needed some stone for repairing our wall, and by chance another neighbour was removing their wall and needed to get rid of the stone.
The drystone boundary wall was one such area in need of repair.
Our local farmer Rob and parish councillor Jeff offered to take down the wall and deliver the stone for a very reasonable sum. Rob has proved to be a great contact; the following week he had sourced us some lovely dressed stone from an old lean-to that will be perfect for our external repairs.
There is something quite satisfying about being able to use local materials from the village for our repairs — it feels like stepping back in time and is more wholesome and sustainable than something that has been imported from overseas.