Wattle and daub is one of the oldest building crafts and used in timber frame construction.
This technique is an ancient one used around the world in construction. Dating from Roman times to 19th century Britain.
In Britain it has been used since the 12th century for filling in timber frame construction.
A craft that began with peasants evolved into a skilled craft in its own right. The 'dauber' was also known as 'daubatores', 'mud-plasterers' or 'torchers' they would have worked with carpenters and stonemasons to build houses.
As there are records of an a old title being used; ‘Thatcher and Dauber’ from this we can assume the Thatcher did the work too.
Once the timber frame was up and the panels in place they would need to be filled in.
First you make the hurdle- panels of pliable twigs, or 'withies' weaved together.
The dauber would use localy sourced wood normally hazel but willow and ash were also used.
Upright hazel, oak or elm rods were placed into grooves cut into the horizontal timbers and then thinner hazel wands were twisted around them.
This was then filled in with daub; a local mix of whatever was available, for example in Surrey they used a filling of marley clay and chopped straw.
Other ingredients that may have been locally sourced were subsoil, cow dung, chopped straw, crushed chalk, crushed stone, sand and water.
It would be mixed by foot or by animals treading into it adding dung to the mix; if you wanted it or not.
Then it was covered with a layer of lime plaster or colour wash.
Lime plaster allows the building to breathe and move with the wood when it ages and twists with time. The plaster work was normally finished flush with the posts, some times it was set back and the projecting timber frame post moulded.
On the inside, the plaster was normally the thickness of the timber posts.
A white wash was normally added but there are some local varieties of colour.
White was is made from slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) and chalk (whiting). It cures through a reaction with carbon dioxide.
There are many local varieties of colour used in old cottage paint, here are a few examples:
Suffolk: Pig or ox blood and herbs were added to the lime plaster mix to create pink cottages and the stencil like decoration on the exterior is called Pargeting.
Derbyshire: Berries and other juices created the light green of Derbyshire cottages.
In the North: Ochre yellow was common, made from juices and herbs added to the lime plaster mix.
‘Orchil’: In the remote parts of Yorkshire and the North a deep shade of blue described as ‘Rickett’s Blue’ was extracted from liverwort, most properly used more in the interior than the exterior.
‘Noggin’: Kent, ‘brick-noggin’
Kent is famous for ‘brick noggin’ in which the outside walls of the timber frame were infilled with brick, they had a traditional patterning of white flowers against a background of red or black plaster.
Photo below: A beautiful example of 'pargeting' (decorative plastering) on the 'Old Sun Inn' in Saffron Walden in 1955
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