About Earth Building

Earth building is the practice of construction using unfired, untreated, raw earthern materials such as earth, chalk, lime, gravel or sand, which can be mixed with other raw materials such as fibrous materials and water as needed to bind it all together.  Different material use, methods and techniques exist, some similar, just with variations of included and added materials.

Earth building comprises four broad categories:-

  • Monolithic / Massing:
    • Formed such as mixed material built up within formwork, e.g. Rammed Earth or poured and,
    • Piled – mixed material as lumped or formed balls, thrown, or laid and shaped / beaten into place e.g. Cob (having different variants),
  • Framed Infill: with mixed material within timber framing, e.g. Wattle & Daub and Mud & Stud
  • Moulded and pre-formed/fabricated: with mixed material cast or compressed within moulds, e.g. Adobe or Clay Lump brick/block.
  • Applied: with mixed material finishes or decoration, for example, plaster, render, and flooring.

The UK has an extensive history of earth construction, with regions tending to have their own traditional and heritage construction depending on the nature of materials, variety available and conditions –  thus a ‘vernacular’ style. The result is a wide variety of techniques, and in addition to principle methods, subsequent variations and hybrids exist. And just as varying and unique with extent of construction methods themselves, traditional nature, background, and their locality, are the names of them, often being seen with a degree of quirkiness.

  • Cob, is found predominantly in the West Country.
  • Clob, of Cornwall.
  • Wattle and Daub of various localities.
  • Clay Lump or Clay-Bat of East Anglia.
  • Mud and Stud of Lincolnshire.
  • Mud and Frame of Leicestershire.
  • ‘Mud’ (unshuttered mud walling) of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.
  • Clay Dabbins of the Solway Plain and area’s either side to the north and south, including Cumbria.
  • Clay Dab or Clay and Dab of Scotland.
  • Cloy and Bool, of Scotland.
  • Auchenhalrig Work of Scotland.
  • Clunch primarily of Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire, and beyond.
  • Clom of Wales.
  • Whitchert, alternatively spelled, Wytchert or Wichert of the Chilterns / Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, particularly between Oxford and Aylesbury.
  • Clam Staff and Daub of the Lancashire plain + Cumbria.
  • Mud Wall, including the Carse of Gowrie, Scotland.
  • Rammed Earth, of the South of England, significant numbers in the Winchester and Andover areas of Hampshire.

Wattle and Daub variations (often subtle in nature) are known by so many names, probably more so than any other method and technique. Beyond the examples given above such as Mud and Stud, Mud and Frame, and Clam Staff and Daub, there also includes a profusion of names;

Raddle and Daub, Clay and Wattle, Clay and Mott, Stake and Rice, Clot and Clay, Stab and Rice, Daub and Stower, Rice and Stower, Riddle and Daub, Keeber and Mott, Caber and Daub, Strae and Rake, Rod and Daub, Split and Daub, and Cat and Clay.

Thus, earth building has wide-ranging forms of construction, quite possibly more so than use of any other building material/type of building, in particular that of natural material use, geographically across the UK.