Cob Walls in Stratford sub Castle
Cob walls (or in some parts of the country Cobb) are a form of unfired earth wall for areas where there is plenty of chalk lying around. In some parts of Wiltshire the chalk (“clunch”) is tough enough to cut into blocks for walls, more friable chalk can be used in cob walls. Clay, aggregate or straw can be added in, the wall is built up in layers, each is allowed to dry before the next. Water can degrade these walls from above or below, so they need “strong boots and a good hat”, a footing and roofing of some more water-resistant materials, a lime wash render as a raincoat is optional. The boots can be brick, flint, sarsen, sandstone, the hat can be tile, thatch, slate, corrugated iron. Using chalk to build walls is hardly a new idea. Trial wattle and daub Neolithic hut reconstructions were built at Old Sarum in 2012 and can still be seen at the Stonehenge Visitor centre.
Clay Lump and mud and stud are other forms of mud building, modular and framed respectively All are vernacular meaning of the common man and using local craftsmen and local materials. Polite means the opposite, more aristocratic, in keeping with national fashion and less reflective of local character. Cobbles could be used in footings but are not a feature in this village, beach pebbles can be used and are in coastal areas. Vernacular uses what is to hand.
In the footings of the Carp Cottage and The Parsonage walls are bricks, flint and blocks of green sandstone, these last also appear in St Lawrence church and other sites in the village and Salisbury Cathedral and The Close Wall. A mineral, glauconite, makes it green. The nearest source is not the nearby Hurdcott but another west of Wilton. Why drag stone that far rather than use stuff lying around? These stones quite probably were lying around at Old Sarum, as spoil from their higher status earlier uses.
Hannath, Steve. 2014, Chalk and Cheese. Wiltshire’s rocks and their impact on the natural and cultural landscapes. Publisher ESLP. Chapter 6, pp 40-44
Historic England 2017 Domestic 1. Vernacular Houses
Lime Stuff Ltd, Glendale Farm, Whiteparish. https://www.limestuff.co.uk/blog/cob-rendering
Photos by the author