Monday, 16 November 2015


LOCATION: Field Cottage, Moorby.

PRESENT : Jill Cousins, Alison Cousins, Ben Gadsby, Julian Millhouse, Tony Bonham, Nicholas Sherratt, Kelly Scott, Mike Summer, Richard Sivill. Stella Sivill, Derek Lane, Neil Cook, Eleanor Harris, Trevor Oliver, Marcin Kolakowski, Catherine Wilson, Graham Beaumont, Bernard Martin, Ann Marecombe, Robin Brittain, Erica Mallory-Blythe, Andrew Mallory-Blythe and David Glew.

APOLOGIES: John Hurd, Arthur Fox, Jane Pow, Chris Healy and Robert Walker.

ABSENT FRIEND: This was the first EMESS meeting since the sudden death of the chairman Rodney Cousins. The location was at the cottage where Rodney had been arranging a meeting which had to be cancelled because of his sudden illness. This was an opportunity for members to reflect on Rodney's contribution to the current knowledge of earthen buildings.

David started by remembering that Rodney had provided the location for the first EMESS meeting, at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, 21 years previous, which was attended by John Hurd, Keith Dean, Adrian Moody, Rodney and David. Rodeny became the organiser of meetings and latterly chairman.

Julian remembered Rodney as a very hands-on person. Tony recalled his great enthusiasm and said how much he would be missed. Mike and Kelly had met Rodney when they were repairing the very mud-and-stud cottage we were sitting in. Richard and Stella had met him through talks on family history, and remembered his famous quizzes when he brought old agricultural implements from the museum. Derek met him when repairing his own mud-and-stud cottage, which led to him joining EMESS. Through his work as a surveyor, Neil had met Rodney, joined EMESS and became its treasurer. Eleanor remembered Rodney's enthusiasm from the repair days at the barn at Tumby Moorside. Trevor thought EMESS was like a group of friends who carried out repairs and met for discussions; and that EMESS would not still be here if it were not for Rodney. Marcin shared Rodney's interest in conservation works and remembered his enthusiasm. He had met a number of cottage owners recently all of whom recalled Rodney's help.

Catherine was the person who actually appointed Rodney to the job as curator of the museum. His imagination and sense of humour shone through. It was Rodney who persuaded the local authority to save the Withern Cottage, which became the centrepiece of the museum at Skegness, and from which all the subsequent interest in mud-and-stud cottages has come. Graham felt as though he had known Rodney all his life (and it was 40 years actually), and recalled being welcomed at Tumby to talk to visitors. Bernard knew Rodney through Scouting originally, but then found Rodney was involved in so many parts of life in Newark. Ann, also, knew Rodney through various interests – EMESS, basket-making, Civic Trust, and the chapel at Spital-in-the-Street.

Robin was probably the most recent person to meet Rodney, and, through their shared interest in earth buildings, they were in the process of co-operating over the map of mud-and-stud cottages in Lincolnshire. Erica and Andrew had been in this cottage for over two years when Rodney turned up out of the blue, signed their copy of his book, and arranged the meeting here.

On behalf of Jill and Alison, Ben said the family had not known a great deal about Rodney's work with EMESS, but it had been fascinating to hear what everyone had said.

TALK : Mike explained the alterations he had carried out to the cottage to make it habitable. Not only were walls rebuilt in mud-and-stud, but the low internal first floor and vertical internal partitions had to be removed to make it feasible to walk about inside. Erica and Andrew are now building a straw bale extension.

TOUR : As so many people had come to the meeting, Erica showed them round in two groups, during the refreshments interval. She was very generous with her hospitality.

FUTURE OF EMESS : Like Rodney, Erica explained she was enthusiastic about earth buildings, and therefore she hoped the society which was a forum for these interests would be able to continue. Trevor commented that, as EMESS had done much repair and investigation work on historic earth buildings, one major area to consider will be building new earth buildings. As a representative of the national Earth Buildings in UK and Ireland organisation, Robin wanted to help regional groups with this interest. In this respect, EMESS stands beside other regional groups such as DEBA, EARTHA and HADES, and so help from EBUKI could be forthcoming. Marcin thought the national links should be maintained, but also thought that other natural and sustainable materials should be included, such as straw bales. He agreed about the past interest in historic buildings, but the future would need to include new buildings. David commented that the repair of old buildings (such as the barn at Tumby) would give students and builders the chance to learn the relevant skills before working on new buildings (like the shelter built at Hill Holt Wood, or the various substantial new extensions which have been built on existing cottages).


The notes noted above confirmed there is a future for EMESS, and so the following officers were agreed :

Chairman : Trevor Oliver (conservation builder from Welton le Marsh)
Treasurer : Neil Cook (building surveyor in Lincoln)
Secretary : vacant
Blog master : Eleanor Harris (student at School of Architecture in Lincoln)
Events organiser : Trevor Oliver
Planning consultations : Bernard Martin (private architect in Newark)
Contact for Vernacular Architecture Group (VAG) visit : David Glew (retired architect from Nocton)
Archives : Trevor Oliver


On the question of public liability insurance, two enquiries would be made :
Robin would check if the existing EBUKI insurance could cover EMESS events, if EMESS were to become a regional group of EBUKI.
David would find out if the VAG visit to Tumby (to be arranged by EMESS for next year) would be covered by VAG's own insurance.

It was agreed that EMESS subscriptions would be £10 per annum, and that those subs collected that evening would cover the rest of 2015 and the whole of 2016.

Fresh membership and contact lists would be compiled by Neil and Eleanor using information passed on to them by David. This might also take the form of current members, and past members.


Provisionally, the first meeting of 2016 would take place at the university. There had been previous annual lectures there, and this arrangement would continue. Rodney's family were pleased with the suggestion that these would be called “The Rodney Cousins Memorial Lectures”. It was suggested that the date would be Tuesday 8 March, which would be a nice commemoration of what would have been Rodney's 72nd birthday on 6 March. The proposed speaker was Erica, and the subject would be Health Benefits of Earth Buildings.

Other suggestions for meetings later in the year might include a practical repair day on the occasion of the visit to Tumby Moorside by the VAG, which will be on Friday 1 April. Erica offered to host a repair day on one of the buildings at Field Cottage. Visits could take place in the villages of Stickney and Burgh-le-Marsh. The Butterwick Cottage (which EMESS took down) and which has been rebuilt as Captain's Cottage in Elsham Country Park, could be visited. What is now called The Village, but was previously Church Farm Museum, might be having some new mud-and-stud construction, and so EMESS could be involved in that.


Members would be informed when the first meeting of 2016 was confirmed.


Everyone was very grateful for the generous hospitality provided by Erica and Andrew, and Erica responded by thanking everyone for coming. Robin said that help from EBUKI was available to EMESS. Julian commented that Rodney would be pleased to see the enthusiasm for a healthy EMESS to go forward into the future.

Erica finished the meeting with a toast to all the good works, through enthusiasm and dedication, which Rodney had accomplished in his life.

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