Posted by: travelrat | September 26, 2007

Wattle and Daub (and Jomo Kenyatta)

Wattle and DaubAnne Hathaway’s Cottage

A week or so ago, I promised to tell more about how our older houses were built. They sometimes use the same principles in house-building today, but using modern materials. First, they’d build a wooden frame, usually of oak. Then, they’d fill it in with what they called ‘wattle and daub’; that is, mud bricks reinforced with hurdles made from woven twigs. Then they’d finish up with mud … which, over the years, dried to a hardness you wouldn’t want to crack your head on too often.

When our local baker decided to convert an old store-room to a coffee room, he deliberately left a portion of the old wattle and daub exposed, so that people could see how houses used to be built; there’s a picture attached. And, the oak frame was usually left exposed, as in my picture of Anne Hathaway’s cottage at Stratford upon Avon, giving rise to the ‘black and white’ house for which England is famous.

I can’t leave this subject without repeating the apocryphal tale about Jomo Kenyatta, then President of Kenya. In England for a conference, he was invited to spend the weekend at a country house.

He rose early, and, unable to get back to sleep, and with no-one else about, he got dressed and took a walk into the nearby village. He stopped to admire a pretty ‘half timbered’ thatched cottage, and the owner came out to speak to him.

When questioned, he explained about wattle and daub, and said he was having some repairs done around the back, and Kenyatta was quite welcome to come and see the construction for himself.

‘How much would such a house cost?’ he asked. The owner told him.

‘That’s remarkable!’ said Kenyatta ‘In my country, the poor people live in houses of mud and grass!’


Responses

  1. I so love those houses and I had no idea that was the technique employed for building them. Really interesting post!

  2. They only used wattle and daub in the older houses. In later years, they’d use stone or brick. They still occasionally use the technique today, but the wooden frame is covered with the brickwork.


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