Patricia Tutt’s recent Context article, ‘A pattern of building’, explores how the natural occurring building materials of the Isle of Man – an abundance of stone and the paucity of timber – shaped the development of a vernacular architecture and the rise of more sophisticated building skills.
image Battery, Peel Castle – P Tutt
Patricia Tutt writes :
‘For such a small island (45km x 16km), the Isle of Man has a complex and fascinating geology. The predominant stone used for building was the Manx ‘slate’, a mudstone which was difficult to work for general walling and difficult to cleave for roofing purposes. This led to a common use of mass rubble walling, often un-coursed and, of necessity, of considerable depth to accommodate large stones in a way that enable two vertical faces to be achieved. In the Isle of Man, the old builders’ rule of thumb was two foot (600mm), but wall thickness can vary from 450mm to in excess of 600mm, depending on local variations in the stone. When barns were built alongside farmhouses, longhouse style, they were invariably abutments and not bedded in…’
She concludes that: ‘The overall impression of the Manx rural built environment today is of isolated whitewashed squat two-storey, stone-built farmhouses with heavy stacks on both gables, alongside un-rendered mudstone farm buildings. In the towns, Victorian terraces predominate, mostly rendered, but there are a small number in imported polychrome brickwork. Many were built as hotels and boarding houses. Twentieth-century housing estates are mostly of characterless bungalows or houses on free-form layouts that pay no attention to aspect or orientation, a pattern from anywheresville that continues today, when most building materials are imported, all bearing a significant surcharge covering shipping costs.’
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