Wattle & Daub: Craft, Conservation & Wiltshire Case Study
3.6 Daub
4.1 Soils
4.1.3 Strength
4.2 Dung
4.2.2 Lignin
4.2.3 Urine
4.3 Fibre
5.4.2 Renewal

Title Page Previous Next | Craft >Diversity of Style

3.1 Diversity of Style

Identifying the origins of variation in wattle and daub is complicated by the multitude of influencing factors and their interactions. In fact, it was found that writing a full description was so prohibitively complex that the map of Figure 5 was depicted. Only a few of the secondary interactions (dashed lines) are shown, with others excluded fo[20]clarity.20
Figure 5. Interacting factors affecting the type and style of wattle and daub.

In considering some of the principal interactions, the dominating factor for wattle and daub style is panel type. This is primarily influenced by the type of construction, whether built during pre-framing or timber-framing eras and by the availability of timber. Access to suitable timber was regional, dependent on geology and past land use. The material chosen for rebuilding was increasingly influenced by availability of good building stone versus the scarcity of timber and the reluctance to timber due to fire risk. The distribution of today’s wattle and daub styles is compounded by the probability of building survival and, in turn, this is dependent on the eminence of the building.[21]

Where wattle and daub does survive, the materials used are dependent on the landscape and its historic uses. For example, the underlying geology not only determines whether a daub might contain chalk rather than other aggregate, but also determines the agricultural use of the land, such as shepherding on the downs versus woodland in the vales. Further, the availability of chalk or limestone would affect the likelihood of a daub being gauged with lime. It also follows that these factors affect demography, for example through the skill of hurdle-making for sheep penning, and is also recursive since the materials for penning take the sequence back to a dependence for coppice.

The availability of coppice woodland versus timber trees would also influence the use of withies versus riven (split) lath, but the latter is preferable for infill of close studding and hence selection is entwined with panel type.
Figure 6. Complexity of wattlework in arch-brace panel was avoided here by nailing three laths diagonally onto the staves (top-most lath is missing).
Figure 7. A lattice formed by weaving withies diagonally. South Cambridgeshire, c.1700 (Courtesy G. Murfitt).
Variation of wattle and daub is also affected by the multitude of methods available to the individual dauber or peasant cottage builder, even within a single locality. This may therefore mask the identification of regional variation since subtleties are difficult to identify without increasing the sample size of inspected buildings. Unfortunately, the scarcity of exposed wattle and daub makes studies difficult and the return on investment in time taken to increase sample size by seeking out additional examples becomes increasingly poor. However, on the positive side, it is because of this diversity of methods and materials that it is still common to find new variations when investigating infill panels in historic buildings [Figure 6 and Figure 7].

Figure 8. Soffit stave hole types: auger (a); augered mortice (b); chiselled mortice (c); V-groove either as a mortice or continuous (d).

Figure 9. Studs with V-grooves, 1531. From Salzman (1952).

[20] For example, climate also affects geology, such as the landscape of northern England being influenced by glacier action and deposits, but has been excluded for clarity.
[21] Brunskill developed a model titled the ‘vernacular zone’ that describes the survival of historic buildings in terms of their status and age.