Thatched Cob Wall

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Thatched Cob Wall' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Thatched Cob Wall' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Thatched Cob Wall' page

Gardiners Lane

by Ruth Rowntree

This unusual wall probably dates from the 18th century and was the boundary wall to the kitchen garden of Ashwell Bury.  It is built of a material known as ‘clunch’ or ‘cob’, a mixture of chalk, straw, mud, stones, hair, pieces of crockery, other rubbish and lime.  It is 18 inches (45cm) thick.  The white brick plinth dates from the nineteenth century.  Major repairs to the wall were carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries and it is now Grade II listed.

During the second World War pupils from the Merchant Taylors’ School in Mill Street attended the kitchen garden to grow vegetables.  They obtained access through the blue door at the western end of the wall.  The door is painted in its original colour.

The wall has at least eight different species of bees living in it.  These masonry bees are visible only in the summer months.  They do not sting and they are necessary for pollination in the surrounding area.

A range of colourful spring and summer flowers grows in front of the wall.

Repairs to the Masonry

The most recent masonry repair work was carried out over more than one season in 2005-6, one section of the wall being repaired each season in order safeguard the bees.  Initially, the areas of cement repairs done in the past were removed.  Masonry bees cannot bore into concrete. 

New bricks were made which are suitable for masonry bees.  These ‘bricks, were made on site on a plastic sheet on the ground, tramping a mixture of lime putty, sharp sand, scrapings from the original wall, local chalk dust and hay.  This mixture was placed to dry in a mould for 3-4 days.  These new ‘bricks’ were then inserted into the wall.  Smaller areas of repair had the mixture thrown on to the wall to ensure it stuck.  The wall had regular water wetting to help the mixture to stick.

The final stage of repair was to limewash the wall. 

These repairs were carried out by A J Goode, contractor for the repair of historic buildings, from Slawston, Leicestershire.

It is planned that the wall will be regularly limewashed.

The masonry bees have continued using the wall, as many new holes testify.

Repairs to the Thatch

The wall was also re-thatched in the mid 2000s.  The work was done in two stages:

1.     Coating, using Water Reed, Phragmatis australis.  The water reeds used on this wall came from Turkey but they can also come from Norfolk, France or Hungary.

2.     Ridging, using Devon Wheat, from Devon or Somerset.

The thatching was carried out continuously over six weeks by Master Thatchers Parkinson Blackwell, from Great Tew, Oxfordshire.

Ruth Rowntree

Gardiners Lane

This page was added on 11/01/2011.

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