Tuesday, 10 December 2013


In order to introduce EMESS via this new blog, the record of the meetings from the past two years (2012 and 2013) are being added to the site.  The events included the first two of the annual lectures held at the University of Lincoln, plus hands-on training days to carry out the repair of real buildings in Lincolnshire. 

2012, MEETING 1

Minutes of EMESS Meeting, at School of Architecture, University of Lincoln

Date : 7.00 – 10.00pm, Thursday 1 March 2012

Present : 12 EMESS members and 14 University members
Apologies : Bernard Martin, Kath Thomas and Simon Chesters

Welcome : The University members of Article 25 welcomed the EMESS membership to the School of Architecture.  The two groups have the common interest of sustainable building construction, and so the students looked forward to the talks to be given that evening.

The University tutor who is trying to develop the theme of sustainable construction, Marcin Kolakowski, also welcomed EMESS to the meeting.  In passing, he mentioned the possible link between the University, Hill Holt Wood, and EMESS, in constructing a building in the local vernacular earth building tradition, called mud-and-stud.

EMESS :  Rodney Cousins explained that this organisation was a voluntary grouping of those interested in earthen buildings, and mud-and-stud cottages in particular.  The membership consists of owners, mud masons, architects, and others who have been active in this field (such as Rodney, who has written the book on these buildings).  The society began in 1994 and grew thereafter.  It has a programme of about four meetings a year, when there might be a walk round an appropriate village, a repair day on a barn, demonstrations at a country show, a slide show and talk, etc.

AGM : It was necessary to start with an AGM, when the following officers were appointed :

Chairman : Rodney Cousins (but expecting to be absent for part of the year)
Vice-chairman : David Glew (to stand in for Rodney)
Treasurer : Neil Cook
Lincolnshire Shows Co-ordinator : Trevor Oliver
Tumby Moorside Co-ordinator : Derek Lane
Website Master : possibly George Oliver
Secretary : to be appointed
Newsletter Editor : to be appointed

Annual Review : Rodney mentioned that during 2011 there had been three repair days at the barn at Tumbey Moorside, although they had not been well attended.  There had been a stand for the two-day Heckington Show, which always attracts much interest.  Other meetings had taken place indoors during the winter, such as at Wragby Town Hall.  He said the membership should be grateful for the help provided by Derek Lane, Trevor Oliver, Neil Cook and David Glew, through the year.

His register of mud-and-stud building currently contains 407 still standing, and 518 lost in living memory.

He suggested that a new membership class – corporate – could be created to enable various members from one organisation to attend meetings; and this was approved.

The society’s finances stood at only £35.79, and so it was essential that subscriptions were collected as soon as possible, as, for example, the annual insurance premium for the public demonstrations was about £150.00.  For 2012, subscriptions will be : £10.00 individual, and £25.00 corporate.

Talk by Rodney Cousins
Through a slide show, Rodney gave an introduction to mud-and-stud construction in Lincolnshire.  He started with his role as Assistant Curator at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, when he organised the removal and reconstruction of the cottage from the village of Withern to the Museum’s site in Skegness, at Church Farm Museum.  He illustrated many buildings which he had researched for his book  “Lincolnshire Buildings in the Mud and Stud Tradition”.  This type of construction is very sustainable because of its use of sub-soil, timber, thatch, etc.

Talk by David Glew 
He explained that, as an architect, he came to this type of construction through other conservation work in his office in Lincoln.  He had written a paper for the Terra 2000 conference on earth construction, about compliance with the modern planning and building regulations.  He was following this with a paper for this year’s conference, Terra 2012, entitled “ New Mud-and-Stud Construction in England and the Problem of Thermal Insulation”.  He illustrated the background to this investigation in a powerpoint presentation, which concluded with three case studies to show the construction details of how insulation had been provided on real buildings.

There was a good discussion after the two talks, involving the students, a conservation officer, owners of cottages, conservation builders, and the two speakers.  This lead to the proposal for a hands-on training day for students, at the existing barn at Tumby Moorside on the weekend of 28/29 April, to be arranged between the University and EMESS.  This could lead to the possible construction of a new building at Hill Holt Wood in due course.  Over tea and coffee, the discussions continued for some time, and it was refreshing for EMESS members to see the interest and enthusiasm of the students.  

2012 MEETING 2

Minutes of EMESS Meeting at The Barn, High House, Tumby Moorside, Lincs

Date : 10.00am – 4.30pm, Saturday, 28 April, 2012

Present : Rodney Cousins, Neil Cook, David Glew, Derek Lane, + Trevor Oliver (all EMESS members).  Mr Philip Haines (owner).  Mr Paul Birchall (neighbour).  Prof Louis Nelson (University of Virginia, USA).  Dr Marcin Kolakowski and 20 students (University of Lincoln).  The students were not only British, but also from India, Malaysia, Greece and Romania.

PURPOSE : For the EMESS members to give the students hands-on experience of repairing a listed mud-and-stud building.

INTRODUCTION : The chair of EMESS, Rodney Cousins, gave an introduction to the site and the building, following the indoor meeting which had taken place at the University on 1 March.  That earlier meeting had presented slides and a discussion about these traditional vernacular buildings, including how they might be built anew to comply with modern standards.  The introduction also covered matters of safety on building sites generally, and dilapidated buildings in particular.  The students then split into four groups, lead by four separate members of EMESS, to give them about 75 mins with each one, to experience four different aspects of this type of work.

DAVID GLEW took the groups when they were carrying out measured survey work on the building.  Draft plans were provided, and the exercise was to carry out a measured survey of the three internal walls of the north end of the barn (the fourth side was a full-size opening).  This made the students study the method of construction in order to be able to draw it to start with, and then to measure it.  Mostly they used individual cumulative measurements, but one or two tried using overall measurements from one end, and others tried measuring off-sets from a plumb-line (as the building’s structure was anything but rectilinear).   This exercise meant that the students had experience of measuring an old building, to ensure that building was recorded in its dilapidated state before it was repaired.

TREVOR OLIVER lead the groups in preparing the timber needed to repair or replace the existing timber construction.  It started with taking down suitable straight branches from nearby trees, cutting them to lengths suitable for their use as laths, and then riving them lengthwise to a suitable thickness.  It was not necessary to use thicker timbers on this occasion.  The laths were then fixed to the main structural timbers vertically across openings in the walls, to form the armature which would eventually reinforce the replacement mudwork.  The exercise therefore showed the use of local materials for a local building, with some experience of the types of physical skill needed to repair such a building.

DEREK LANE looked after the groups when they prepared the mud mix which was to be daubed on to the walls.  The barn owner had brought sub-soil from elsewhere on his farm, which saved the time and effort of digging it up, but this would still be sufficiently local.  The soil had to be trampled to break down the lumps, to have water added to it, and to have straw worked into it.  Handfuls of straw were cut into short lengths using a hand-turned machine called a straw-chopper (and did not become a finger-chopper on the day).  The straw has to be in short lengths to allow shovel-fulls or hand-fulls of mud to be turned over when mixing and trampling, or when daubing it on to the framework.  The students therefore learned about the amount of labour and strength needed to prepare this material – simple materials usually need much input of labour or skill to make them work.

RODNEY COUSINS lead the groups when they finally had the opportunity to daub the mud on to the frameworks of the walls.  Previous areas of repair could be built upon, and other areas needing repair could be started.  The areas where the laths were repaired on this occasion would become the areas to be mudded next time.  Hand-fulls of mud were pressed on to the walls, and between the laths, and were finally shaped by being beaten with a stick to bond them to the layers below.  The nature of the existing original mud can vary from building to building, and so it is important to make a new mix that is compatible with the old one, to ensure they bond together well, and also so that they are the same material for good conservation reasons.  As a result, the students saw the skills and strength needed to start building a mud-and-stud wall.

LIKE-FOR-LIKE repairs are what are required on listed buildings.  If the repairs are not compatible with the original structure, then that original work would be changed into something different.  Eventually it would not be a repaired old building composed of old materials, but a building of new materials in the shape of an old building.  Through correspondence with the local authority conservation officer, EMESS has obtained agreement to carry out the repairs required at Tumby.  They must be carried out in materials and techniques which match the originals.

LOUIS NELSON joined the group at lunch-time and described the research he was undertaking in a one year sabbatical from his university in the USA.  He had found archaeological evidence for the early construction of mud-and-stud buildings in the Caribbean Basin, which he defined as the islands and the mainland of both North and South America.  Post holes indicated two types of timber construction, namely one with wide spacing (like mud-and-stud buildings in Lincolnshire) and one with narrow spacing (like huts in West Africa).  The deduction was that the builders came originally from these two different geographical areas.  Mention was also made of the discoveries in the first settlement in Jamestown, USA, where not only the archaeological evidence suggested mud-and-stud building, but the names of the settlers who went to America from England, could be traced back to Lincolnshire.

IN CONCLUSION it was thought by the EMESS members that this had been a successful day, and they were grateful to hear the students’ thanks before their coach took them back to Lincoln.  It was hoped that there could be future liaison and shared work experience in the future.

2012, MEETING 3


7.00pm Tuesday 18 September 2012

at Pow Cottage, 27 High Street, Tattershall, Lincs, LN4 4NP

by kind permission of Mrs Jane Pow

WELCOME : Acting chairman David Glew welcomed everyone to the meeting, in the absence of Rodney Cousins, who was recovering from an operation.  David thanked Jane Pow for allowing the meeting to take place in her mud-and-stud cottage.
APOLOGIES : Rodney Cousins, the office of GMS Architectue

PRESENT :  Jane Pow, Julian Millhouse and Mrs Millhouse (his mother), Arthur Fox, John Fisher, Dicken Bowers and Becky Crowley, Simon Chesters, Rob Walker, Richard and Stella Sivill (from Coningsby Local History Group), Chris Healy, and David Glew.

INTRODUCTIONS : In starting the introductions, David Glew explained that he had retired from full-time architectural practice.  However, his former office, GMS Architecture of Louth was working on the repair of, and an extension to, a mud-and-stud cottage in Mareham-le-Fen.  John Fisher had completed a course on straw-bale building, and so was looking for a project !  Arthur Fox had been working in his garden, but his m & s cottage could still do with some improvements.  Rob Walker, as the conservation officer for ELDC, had a significant caseload which included most of the m & s buildings in the world !  Richard and Stella Sivill had many photos of old buildings, including m & s cottages, in the Coningsby area.  Simon Chesters was hoping to build in Brant Broughton in either m & s or straw-bale.  Jane Pow was hoping to repair the back of her cottage in the near future.  Dicken and Becky are slowly repairing their m & s cottage in Mareham-le-Fen.  The Millhouse family used to own 27 High Street up to about 1967, and it was used to display antiques which were for sale.  It was thought that the date of construction was 1472, and that it was occupied by craftsmen working on the nearby castle (although the castle’s date of construction was 1440’s).  Chris Healy reported on seeing the on-going repair of a mud dovecote in Flintham, Notts by the conservation builder Anthony Goode.  He had also heard a rumour of a possible m & s cottage in Tickhill, Notts.

27 HIGH STREET, TATTERSHALL : After the Millhouses sold the cottage in 1967, it was owned by the Brewitts until 1987 when Jane Pow and her late husband John bought it.  Jane explained that they had been looking for somewhere to renovate which also had workshops from where they could carry on their crafts business.  They renovated the cottage back to its original form as far as possible, eg by replacing the later larger windows with new smaller Yorkshire sash windows.  The repair of the old walls with blockwork was removed.  Old timbers had new repairs spliced on to them, but some had to be replaced entirely.  The cottage is particularly long, and it is thought that the kitchen at the west end was originally a workshop, and so the present cross-passage wall was within the original external west gable end wall.  The living room and the study were on each side of the usual massive chimney with the entrance door facing the street on the south, but the ladder on the opposite north side was no longer there.  In the attic there were three linked bedrooms with restricted headroom relieved by dormers.  A tie-beam had to be stepped over to reach the bedroom over the kitchen.  The half-hipped gable ends had been raised to full-height gables.  The work of maintenance was always going on !

As the architect for the repairs, David Glew said that the owners did as much of the work themselves as they possibly could.  However, they received a renovation grant from the Council, via an officer who now (at the end of his career) was giving money to repair such cottages after (at the beginning of his career) he had been instructed to condemn such cottages (built of earth) as unfit for human habitation !  Jane and John were still left with much to do after the grant money had been spent on the main structural works.

None of the original builders were present, but there had been a general contractor (M J Green’s of Navenby) and a specialist m & s contractor (John Hurd Conservation of Swaby).  The remaining member of the original repair team who is still an EMESS member, Derek Lane, is now of the opinion that the mud repairs at No 27 had been too heavily compacted.

Jane Pow then gave a guided tour.  Padstones beneath the ground floor posts could be seen.  The visible new timbers included posts, braces and rails.  It was apparent that some of the original timbers had been re-used from elsewhere, through having mortices in them which would not be required now.  New oak had been used for the floor boards (as well as the kitchen table).  Beech worktops had been used in the kitchen as this timber has a natural ability to stay hygienic.

CONINGSBY PHOTOS : The photos of the cottage which were on display were very interesting.  They were complimented by the photos which Richard and Stella had brought, which were reproductions of old photos.  They showed the village long ago, with the windmill and the m & s cottages opposite No 27, where were now modern bungalows.

RECENT EVENTS : There was no-one present who had helped or organised the displays which took place at agricultural shows in the high summer months, and so news from those events will be reported at the next meeting.

FUTURE EVENTS : The next event will be a hands-on training day at the barn at Tumby Moorside, which is being organised for architecture students from the University of Lincoln.  The date needs to be confirmed, but it will be one of two Saturdays : 20 or 27 October.  EMESS members will be welcome to join in.  There will be three teams who will swap over to give everyone the experience of everything in sessions about 1.75hrs long each.  Trevor Oliver will lead the group doing timber preparation and the actual repair of the timber sub-structure.  David Glew will lead the group mixing the mud.  Derek Lane will lead the group applying the mud to the building to carry out the actual visible repairs. The day will start at 10.00am and finish at about 4.00pm.  Information will be sent out as soon as the date has been confirmed.  A charge of £20.00 will be made to the students, but only £10.00 for EMESS members.  A charge does need to be made to cover costs, the main one of which is the insurance premium for public events.

ARTICLES : Any news items would be welcome for the newsletter, as it is difficult to “make it all up” without contributions from the wider membership.

OFFICERS : The society is run by a very small group of volunteers, but they would be delighted if people could join them to carry out one of the following roles :
SECRETARY : as the chairman for the time being has to do this.
NEWSLETTER EDITOR : as the chairman also has to do this.
WEB-SITE MANAGER :  the web-site is in abeyance, and so needs to be brought up-to-date in the first instance, and then developed if at all possible.

SUBSCRIPTIONS : The cost is only £10.00 per year.  At the end of the meeting, Dicken and Becky took out a joint single subscription, and Jane Pow joined as well, so welcome to all three of you.

ANY OTHER BUSINESS : Chris Healy recommended the use of Turton’s Building Control Services (Bingham, Notts) for a sympathetic attitude towards the application of the building regulations to old buildings.

Jane Pow had used the colour umber on the beams and joists of the kitchen ceiling.  Julian Millhouse mentioned that this was a favourite colour of the Victorian architect William Weir who renovated the nearby castle and Kirkstead church.

Simon Chesters asked about m & s and the modern planning and building regulations, should he wish to build in this way.  David Glew explained that he had written two academic papers on this subject, based on his office work as an architect. Expertise on these matters is now available from GMS Architecture, Louth (the new name for David’s former office).

Jane Pow had been recommended a breathable paint for old walls, and brought a tin to show everyone.  It was : Johnstone’s Trade Jonmat Premium Contract Matt Emulsion.  A stabilising paint is available to use first on old surfaces.  There are external and internal versions.  Arthur Fox said he was still using the traditional limewash paint from tubs which had been left in his cottage by the previous owners.

Arthur Fox also mentioned that there was a m & s cottage for sale in the village of North Cockerington, should anyone be interested in a project.

NEXT MEETING : This would be on 20 or 27 October at Tumby Moorside, and would be confirmed shortly.
David Glew  

2013, MEETING 1 


This event was held on 7 March 2013 at the University of Lincoln, in conjunction with the School of Architecture.  The first lecture had been given in March 2012 by Rodney Cousins and David Glew, and it had focussed on mud–and-stud buildings in Lincolnshire, both those from the past and those being built now.  The second annual lecture was given by John Hurd under the title “Earth on Earth”.  It contrasted with the first lecture as it described earthen buildings throughout the planet (earth on earth – get it ?).  Many of these were not just old, but positively ancient, but there were modern buildings as well.

John started by reminiscing about the start of the East Midlands Earth Structures Society, nearly 20 years ago.  He thought the acronym (a mess) for EMESS might have come before the full name !  The first meeting had been hosted by Rodney Cousins at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life and was attended by five people (John, Rodney, David Glew and two others).  EMESS is one of the regional groups in the UK which comes under the Earth Sub-Committee of ICOMOS-UK (the international commission on monuments and sites).  In turn, this is part of UNESCO, which is part of the United Nations.  Those of us in EMESS therefore have a good pedigree behind us !

After working in Lincolnshire and then more widely in England for about 10 years, John was asked to visit Afghanistan to advise on the rebuilding of homes which had been damaged by an earthquake.  Once he had established some basic principles (such as building square plans to provide corner buttressing, not using round boulders for foundations as they would roll away, using maximum spans of 5m for both local timber supplies and to minimise the impact of any collapse) the local builders started to remember their old building techniques.  They also remembered the use of fibrous material laid horizontally in the walls to act as reinforcement, which had the benefit of stopping cracks running through the full heights of walls.  Another technique was to use stepped day-joints rather than straight vertical joints, again to minimise the chances of cracks induced by an earthquake from passing all the way through a building.  Consequently a common theme in John’s work became established, namely to remind local builders of their forgotten heritage so that their new constructions could better stand up to the earthquakes of the future.  John is very proud that thousands of the so-named “Mr John Houses” have since been built in Afghanistan.

After starting in that country, John was asked to visit other parts of Asia, then Africa and also South America, and this international consultancy has formed the later part of his working career.  He has found that sometimes the walls were built of rammed earth using shutters, and other times they were built of adobe bricks.  In carrying out repairs, adobe bricks laid in mud mortar as stitches horizontally across vertical cracks, were a very useful technique.  In Afghanistan, the earth building material was prepared by men, but rammed into place by women.  In other countries men did all the work.  Usually the layers of rammed earth seemed quite thin (but quite wide) although they alternated with layers of horizontal fibrous material.  In parts of the Great Wall of China, the layers were thin, but did not have fibrous reinforcement.  In other cases, probably where timber was more plentiful, there was a timber framework within the earth, and so it was more like the mud-and-stud construction to be found (almost exclusively) in Lincolnshire.

In Mali the exteriors of buildings could be seen to have projecting timbers, from the floors, which provide access scaffolding for maintenance.  In Morocco, however, the walls were plain earth.  In Peru, John illustrated both adobe and rammed earth construction, with, at the Temple of the Moon, the lifts in the rammed earth construction being visible.  Internally, there were hand-carved and coloured bas reliefs.  In a hacienda, he showed graffiti written by conquistadors.  Following an earthquake, he showed the damage caused to a church built of adobe where, because of the damage, it could be seen that actually the tower was built of mud-and-stud.  Back in Asia, in the city of Ur, from 4,500 BC, John illustrated a monument which was equivalent to about 17 Stonehenges.  There were standing stones, and stone retaining walls which had both mud mortar and mud plaster, where children’s finger-prints could be seen.

Bringing his talk right up-to-date,  John showed pictures of the building which received the Outstanding Earthen Building Award in Europe 2011.  John had been asked to present the award.  It is the Berlin Wall Memorial Site, which consists of an elliptical building of rammed earth, constructed using flexible shuttering.  In its surfaces it incorporates remnants of the church which had stood on the site before it was demolished to create the space for the Wall to be built.  This new building houses the Church of Reconciliation and was designed with the artist Martin Rousch.  Finally, and to illustrate people’s ingenuity on the one hand, and the versatility of the material on the other, John finished with a photo from Niger showing a pool table complete with pockets, made of earth, with a game in progress !

In the discussion which followed, it was noted that scaffolding of bamboo had been used as an external cage to support and then repair earthquake-damaged buildings.  Whilst bamboo might sound as though it could be a good material to build in to help to reinforce earthen construction, it can be damaged by insects, and so it would be best to use natural hemp or man-made carbon fibre, for instance, to reinforce mud walls.

It appeared that ring-beam reinforcement of construction in the UK is not common, as compared with other parts of the world.  However, by taking an overview of structural systems, it might be recognised that in, for example, a barn, the wall plates at eaves level running down the long sides, linked to timbers across the gable ends at the same height do, in fact, provide the ring-beam function, which is to tie the whole construction together.

The flexible/rigid subject was also discussed.  Traditional and vernacular buildings were all flexible, through the use of lime mortar (in stone buildings, which might be otherwise thought of as rigid) and earth plasters (in timber buildings, which were always known to be flexible).  The modern use of Portland Cement (in mortar and concrete) and paranoia about cracks (brought about by ignorance fanned into a flame by the press) lead to an expectation for rigidity which cannot be sustained.  In the same way, there will always be some movements in building materials, and ways of accommodating them have to be built in.  Modern materials have become brittle, and so lead to disappointment when aesthetic and structural cracks manifest themselves.  Therefore one of the  messages from this lecture was that traditional building techniques should not be forgotten, especially when carrying out repairs !

Rodney Cousins proposed the vote of thanks, after which the meeting broke up into small groups for informal discussions.

2013, MEETING 2

7.30 pm Wednesday 17 April 2013
at Langworth Village Hall, Lincs

Apologies were received from : Rob Walker, Penny Bowen, John Hurd, Chris Healy and Ann Borrill.

Those present introduced themselves as follows :

Arthur Fox, who is an owner of a mud-and-stud cottage in North Cockerington.
Trevor Oliver, who is a conservation builder in his firm of Millstone Restoration.
Graham Beaumont, who retired as an architect and conservation officer at Notts CC.
Bernard Martin, who is an architect in Newark with an interest in old buildings.
Derek + Sue Lane, who have owned and repaired two mud-and-stud cottages.
Tony Bonham, who is learning about mud masonry from Derek + Sue.
Kim Gault, who is studying architecture and working for Millstone Restoration.
Neil Cook, who is a surveyor.
David Glew, a retired architect who worked on a number of mud-and-stud buildings.
Rodney Cousins, who retired from the Museum of Lincolnshire Life where he had organised the removal of the Withern Cottage to The Village (formerly Church Farm Museum), and then wrote the book about mud-and-stud cottages.

Annual General Meeting
Chairman : Rodney Cousins was re-elected.
Minutes secretary : David Glew was re-elected.
Treasurer : Neil Cook was re-elected.
Tumby Moorside co-ordinator : Derek Lane.
Website manager : position vacant.
Newsletter editor : position vacant.

Treasurer’s report : Once the monies from the last training day had been received, there would be £248.13 in the bank, with £2.76 in cash.  Annual subscriptions could be received that evening, and the figure would remain at £10.00.  Last year’s insurance premium was £218.00 but this would last until June this year.

Chairman’s report : During 2012, the repairs of the barn at Tumby Moorside were the main outside events.  Some progress was made, and this building provides good hands-on experience for everyone involved, as well as being an excellent base for the EMESS programme of events.  This is one of the best two mud-and-stud barns in the County (and therefore in the world !).  The contacts with the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln have been the main development over the last two years.  The two formal annual lectures have been hosted by the university, for which EMESS is grateful.

The chairman proposed that the society had a president, and the meeting agreed.  Rodney proposed John Hurd (seconded by Derek), and so Rodney would invite John to accept this position.

In Any Other Business, Trevor mentioned about being approached by The Village to carry out repairs to the Withern Cottage.  A discussion ensued about EMESS doing the work at no cost.  As this would take work away from contractors earning their living in this field, it would be best to have a contractor to do the work, with possibly a demonstration by EMESS to the public.  The Village could take out a corporate membership of EMESS, and attend our next meeting.  A demonstration could be carried out in, say, April 2014.  The Village would be more likely to obtain a grant to help pay for the work if a public demonstration was included in the proposal.  Trevor would discuss these points with The Village.

Ordinary Meeting
Following a break for refreshments and discussions amongst those present, Trevor gave a slide presentation on two topics.  The first was on earth buildings in Rumania, where he showed adobe blocks of earth laid in mud mortar with mud render.  As soon as cementitious render was applied as a repair, the walls started to deteriorate.  The second presentation was to show the repairs and new extension which have been carried out at Rookery Cottage, Mareham-le-Fen, Lincs (Mareham having the greatest number of mud-and-stud cottages still standing in the world).  This building was the location of the EMESS training day in October 2012.  The original cottage had been encased in brickwork, but had stood empty for 20 years before the current  work was undertaken.  Millstone were carrying out the work, and the university students joined in enthusiastically in very cold conditions.

The society’s meetings for the rest of the year are as follows :

Saturday 18 May, 10am – 4pm : Hands-On repair day at the barn, Tumby Moorside.  Everyone and their friends will be welcome to join in.

Saturday and Sunday 13 + 14 July : Churches Traditional Craft Event at Skidbrooke Church.  Volunteers needed to show the EMESS display.

Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 15 September : Heritage Open Days on the theme “Materials Matter”.  Withern Cottage (in Skegness), Little Steeping Cottage, and Pow Cottage (Tattershall) will all be open and looked after by others.  The barn at Tumby Moorside could be used as a demonstration and a display.  Rodney and David have volunteered for the Thursday and Friday, but others are required for the Saturday and Sunday (possibly three people per day because more visitors will be likely at a weekend).

Saturday 19 October, 10am – 4pm : Hands-On repair day at the barn, Tumby Moorside.  Training day for university students.

November : to be arranged.

This brought the meeting to a close, with thanks to everyone who attended.

2013, MEETING 3

on 18 MAY 2013

PRESENT : Rodney Cousins, Derek Lane, Tony Bonham, David Glew, Graham Beaumont (morning) and Neil Cook (afternoon)

GENERAL : The group was entertained in two unusual ways, unrelated to earthen construction.  Firstly, in the week commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Dam Busters air raid during the Second World War, was the fly-past (which Rodney said he had arranged).  We saw the Spitfire and the Hurricane in the distance, followed by the Lancaster taking off.  In order for it to land again, however, its approach was directly over the barn and so we had a perfect view of it.

Secondly, a group from a re-enactment society were based at the adjacent Home Guard Visitor Centre, while they were having a film made of their activities.  It would have been a surprise if we had met “German” soldiers (which we didn’t) but it was interesting to hear about the uniform and equipment of the “English” soldiers.

WORK : On the barn we started at the north-west end, where previous mud-and-stud repairs had been carried out.  They had survived the winter, and so this was the time to plaster over them with a mud and hay mix.  The final work on that wall will be lime-washing.

To minimise the effects of rain and dampness on the west wall, the undergrowth was cut back generally, and then the soil scraped away from the wall.  A rudimentary French drain was discovered, and so this was excavated further.  A trial length was dug and partly filled with salvaged rubble.  Salvaged shingle was raked up and left in piles to be washed clean by the rain, with a view to this being spread over the rubble on the next visit.

In the corrugated sheet steel shed on the north-east of the main building, a display area was set up in case any visitors came on the day, from Derek’s collection of artefacts.  Rodney contributed a display panel on this particular barn, which he had recently compiled.  The chaff-cutter was carried round to be located here for the future.  Through clearing this area it would be easier in the future to put up temporary or semi-permanent displays.

Finally, some general tidying of the site took place for both safety purposes, and to salvage materials for future use, eg bricks, old mud, and materials mentioned previously.

FUTURE : It was arranged that the next works would be mud repairs in the middle of the west wall; continuing the recovery of the French drain; lime-washing the north-west end and possibly the middle of the east side which had been repaired in the past; and general site clearance to make it easier to keep the site safely accessible in the future.  Consequently good provision had been made for the October visit.  The September visit for the Heritage Open Days would not be a hands-on working one.  A plan of the building for September would be a useful display, and perhaps the first of the permanent display items, if sealed in plastic.  David would arrange this.

The agreement of the owner to these repairs would be obtained as usual, which Rodney would arrange.

2013, MEETING 4


The Heritage Trust for Lincolnshire organises and publicises this event each year, and for 2013 the dates were Thursday 12th to Sunday 14th September.  Each year has a different theme and as this year’s was “Materials Matter” it was a suitable one for mud-and-stud buildings.  About 15 years ago EMESS joined in with a similar theme, when “The Muddy Trail” was organised with about seven cottages or building sites available for visitors. 

This year, our former member Rob Ley did demonstrations in his wood at Ailby near Alford.  Jane Pow opened her cottage in Tattershall.  EMESS members opened the mud-and-stud barn at Tumby Moorside.  They showed the mud-and-stud heritage of the county through display panels, artefacts and the county map record of the locations of the buildings.  They also showed the on-going repairs taking place, all by the kind permission of the owner of the barn (Mr Haines) and the owner of the caravan site next door (Mr Birchall).

Rodney Cousins and David Glew were on site on the Thursday and Friday, with Trevor Oliver and Derek Lane taking over on the Saturday and Sunday.  Altogether there were about 170 visitors, with good attendances on the Thursday and Saturday (when the weather was good) but poor numbers on the Friday and Sunday (because the weather was poor).  What was heartening was that so many people wanted to specifically see mud-and-stud building repairs in progress.  Whilst we were not actually doing that on these days, the visitors could see the problems of the old structure, and then see the repairs which had been carried out so far.  The enthusiasm of the visitors showed that mud-and-stud buildings are of real interest to members of the public who want to see the heritage of the county preserved.

It was very beneficial to EMESS to have the chance to join an event arranged by a larger organisation, as publicity, for instance, was included by the Trust.  In addition, the HOD’s have such a momentum from year to year, that the public looks out for them and obtains the explanatory brochure.  In fact, some people actually spend all the four days of the event going out to visit as many of the different buildings as they can manage.  If EMESS had tried to undertake its own open day, the amount of work involved would have been very great, and there would have been no real guarantee of success.  Next year’s theme will be “The First World War” and so that will not be appropriate for EMESS.  

2013, MEETING 5      


PURPOSE : This event was arranged to provide practical experience in carrying out repairs to a mud-and-stud building.  EMESS members were welcome to attend, but the largest group came from the School of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, with their tutor, Marcin Kolakowski.  There were about 18 of them in total, and they came from all over the world. 

PAST EVENTS : The equivalent event last year had taken place at Rookery Cottage, Mareham le Fen, where Millstone Restoration of Welton le Marsh were carrying out the repair of the building and constructing an extension to it, following designs by GMS Architecture of Louth.  This year, the day took place at the barn at Tumby Moorside (by kind permission of the owner, Mr Haines) and with the use of the facilities next door at High House (by kind permission of the owner, Mr Birchall).  This is a listed building grade II.  EMESS can carry out the repair work (with the agreement of the owner) as they are undertaking work by using the principle of “like for like repair”.  As a consequence, listed building consent is not required.  Nonetheless, EMESS keeps the local authority informed of its work, as the conservation officer is a member, and he made a visit during the Heritage Open Days in September.

ARRANGEMENTS : The visitors were divided into five groups which were lead by EMESS members acting as tutors for the day.  After about 45mins, the groups moved round and in that way everyone should have received training on each of the five themes.  Trevor Oliver lead the teams preparing and fixing laths into place.  Graham Beaumont had the teams mixing and applying mud walling.  Rodney Cousins helped people to apply limewash.  Derek Lane lead the groups applying mud plaster.  David Glew lead the groups looking at the barn itself.  In addition, Graham Beaumont gave a talk at lunch-time about timber-framed buildings, focussing on a house in Nottinghamshire which he illustrated using a scale model of the structure.

FEEDBACK : At the end of the day, the university thanked EMESS for arranging the training day for them, and also for providing transport (as the cost of travelling by coach to the same event at Tumby in 2011 had been very great).  It had been very helpful to have the practical experience of carrying out real repairs on a real building, as the university course does not include this within the curriculum.  It was recognised that to carry out the stages of the building work on an unused barn was a great advantage, compared with the equivalent work on an existing house.  Here, the structure of the building was laid bare, the repairs were accessible, they did not all have to be carried out as quickly as possible, and previous work could be seen, discussed and assessed.  This was all possible through working on a humble barn.

Two students asked if they could carry out a measured survey of the barn, which could lead to a model being made of the structure.  This was agreed, and two of the tutors were to meet the students to help them get this project started.  It would be a tremendous step forward to have the building drawn up in this way, as it would be available for future reference for all sorts of purposes, not the least of which would be the recording of the dates when the various repairs had been carried out.  Computer-drawing expertise would be needed, however !  Nonetheless, if the model could be made, that would be a most striking feature of any talk, demonstration or other event arranged by EMESS in the future.

It was agreed that the next meeting of EMESS would take place at the university in November, and the format would be short presentations of ideas about the use of earth as a building material, by the students to the EMESS membership.  An idea for the subject of a design project using earth might be welcome.  For the annual spring lecture in 2014, also at the university, the students asked if EMESS could make presentations to them, possibly on timber-frame construction, and possibly on the future of earth as a building material.

2013, MEETING 6

On 28 November 2013 there was an EMESS meeting in the University of Lincoln, hosted by the School of Architecture through the good offices of one of the tutors, Marcin Kolakowski.

STUDENT PRESENTATION : The first presentation followed the mud-and-stud training day at Tumby Moorside in October, as a group of students wished to carry out a design-and-build project using sustainable materials.  In other words, instead of simply repairing an old building, they wanted to build something new.  They have sought some funding and, having noticed, for example, that the university campus does not provide a bike shed, they thought such a small simple building could be a first project.  This had been accepted in principle by the university’s estates department, and so further projects could follow from future generations of students.  Research could be carried out on the materials and techniques being proposed.

To round this off, Marcin showed illustrations of alternative building technologies in progress, on projects he had worked on before coming to Lincoln.  They included the use of straw bales, geodesic domes, bamboo canes and rubber bands, bags of earth, etc.  This was all very inspiring.

EMESS IN 2014 : Secondly, the chair of EMESS, Rodney Cousins, gave a brief outline of the expected programme for 2014.  It would start with another indoor event at the university, being the third annual EMESS lecture in February or March; an event outside in May or June; another outside training workshop at Tumby in October; and a final indoor event in November.  This programme was similar to the one just finishing for 2013.  This year, however, advantage had also been taken of the theme for the Heritage Open Days in September, namely “Materials Matter”.  Consequently, there had been displays at the barn at Tumby, as well as two other mud-and-stud events.

MUD BUILDING IN ASIA : One of the EMESS members, namely Bernard Martin, then gave the third presentation, which was a tour of the mud buildings of Uzbekistan.  He started in Khiva, with a picture of mud bricks on a lorry, to show that building with mud is a modern building technique.  The heyday of Khiva was in the fourteenth century as it was on the so-called Silk Route from east to west.  It is a rectangular city with its ancient walls still standing.  They are built of a mixture of unfired bricks and mud, with rounded turrets and crenellations, with buildings inside having mud walls.  There is also a fortress within the city, with rendered mud walls.

Bernard also visited Bukhara where there is a medieval madrahsa incorporating a mosque and a mausoleum, all built of mud.  There are many redundant Islamic buildings and so new uses need to be found for them, to help keep them in good order.  There are massive mud walls around the city, but with much deterioration.  The houses have a courtyard plan, and as the walls are made of mud, they temper the air through their thermal mass.  There were photos of the timber sole plates at the feet of the walls.

Travelling through the countryside, many mud-built agricultural buildings could be seen.  They appeared to be of cob, ie mud piled up each day on the previous day’s mud, as they had horizontal day joints visible.  They also appeared to have a deliberate angled junction from one mass to the next, within any one course.  They used shallow pitched roofs of corrugated sheet steel.

On visiting Samarkand, the glazed decorations were very striking on the buildings around the main square.  As Islam forbade the display of the human form, there were intricate geometrical patterns used as the decoration.  Use was made of glazed bricks, glazed tiles, and large glazed tiles which had to be cut up to enable them to be fixed.  Some of the mosques were now derelict.

SURVEY : Arjun Chpra, one of the students, provided the fourth presentation, which was the work he had done so far on the measured survey of the mud-and-stud barn at Tumby Moorside.  The isometric view was very striking, and he will be asked to provide the survey in a form which can be used in the future by EMESS.

BLOG : Finally, the new EMESS “web-site” which is really a “blog-site” was revealed, and it was a relief to the person setting it up, that it could be found by the large number of IT-literate students in the room.  The address is : www.mudandstud.blogspot.co.uk.  The site has only an introduction and contact details for EMESS at present, but a discussion followed about the future content, and ways to make the site easily found by those who do not yet know about it.  EMESS is expected to add more to the site as soon as possible; but it also needs to close down the previous site (which is still accessible even though no maintenance fees are being paid) as the information on that site is out of date.

In conclusion Rodney thanked the university for providing the premises to hold the event, and he thanked everyone for coming.





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