Stone walls are very commonly used as field boundaries in England. Although there are many different types most were used centuries ago by farmers to contain livestock. Individual farmers would enclose land which was previously shared with all inhabitants of an area. Once this land was enclosed the right for the public to share it was lost. This was the farmers way of not only containing his sheep, etc., but setting boundaries from people.
Stone walls were built as far back as the Iron Age. Mostly in hilly and mountainous areas where plenty of rock was available. During the medieval period people began using stone walling in their houses. Many of these medieval walls still stand today. Some of these can be seen in Wales or Scotland. The product now is sometimes rough and often uneven or irregular in shape due to time. Many find this look appealing and believe the wall to have more “character.”
The higher elevated lands in the UK the larger the enclosed area, typically fields, mostly used for sheep dating back through the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. These are very regular, neat walls that may run for many miles. They occupy seventy thousand miles of the countryside to be exact.
Building these walls differed depending on type and location, but most ways to build were to dig a narrow trench, and lay a base of small stones in the bottom. Then of course, just continue building up in layers until desired height is reached.
Depending on the type of wall the practice would change slightly. For livestock the walls would need a natural opening sometimes referred to as a “sheep-creep.” This opening, usually square, would be on the bottom of the wall with rows of slanting downward vertical stones above it. This would enforce the wall and also make it easier for livestock to pass through. Sometimes the walls would be built with stones above the opening that one could move to create a bigger opening for cattle to pass through as well.
England’s most popular stone walls are just that. Walls. But stone buildings, bridges and other structures also do exist. The largest and oldest of them is Stonehenge, which is likely related to ancient pagan rituals. Unlike Stonehenge, not all of these beautiful sights are still surviving. Many of stone walls have collapsed or are in ruins and useless, but what is left some civilians do try to save by fixing as best they can. Within the past sixty-five plus years forty-five hundred miles of walls have been destroyed by multiple things such as: development, road building and also people dismantling for personal, decorative use.
Today, people have many more substances and tools available to create with stone. That said, creations now will last longer. Also, with machinery that is available walls are put up much faster. It is only due to the people that have since gone we are able to continue learning from their beautiful stone artwork and find ways to make it our own.
Image by Flickr