The Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Dry stone walling

 

The building of stone walls and structures without the use of mortar or cement.

 

Status Currently viable
Craft category  Walling and hedging; Building crafts
Historic area of significance  Scotland; North Wales; North of England
Area currently practised  Scotland; North Wales; North of England
Origin in the UK  Neolithic
Minimum no. of craftspeople required
Current no. of trainees  6-10 (the DSWA currently has 5 training bursary trainees but there may be other trainees working with wallers outside of the Association)
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  201-500 (the DSWA has over 200 professional members but there are many wallers who are not members of the Association)
Current total no. of craftspeople  201-500

 

History

Dry stone walling is the building of walls and structures without the use of cement or mortar. The skills stretch back over three millennia and include places like Skara Brae and the brochs in Scotland.Dry stone walls are common in upland areas of Britain where stone is much nearer the surface and soils thinner.

Many of the skills used by early wallers are still recognised and used today. The skill of the waller is being able to use the local stone to its best advantage. Today dry stone walling is prospering with an upsurge in interest in the environmental value of walls and the growth in prestigious garden, landscape and artistic projects.

 

Techniques

Stones are placed lengthways into the wall to provide strength. Large stones are used for the base of the wall and the middle is filled with smaller stone as the wall goes up. Most walls have throughstones placed about half way up which tie both sides of the wall together and add strength to the structure. The profile of a wall is like a capital letter ‘A’, tapering towards the top.

 

Local forms

Most walls are built using the same basic techniques but it is the type of stone used that gives the walls their distinctive appearance. Some areas of the country do have different styles of building due to the nature of the stone, for example in far north of Scotland where some walls are built with large, single boulders and no small filling.

 

Sub-crafts

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The biggest challenge is finding placements for younger people wishing to take up dry stone walling as a career. Many of the existing wallers work as sole traders and are not always able to fund a trainee. The Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) currently has five bursary trainees learning the skills of dry stone walling.

 

Support organisations

  • Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain – which has has further information about the craft, training opportunities and a range of leaflets which are also available from the office at Lane Farm, Crooklands, Milnthorpe, Cumbria, LA7 7NH.

 

Craftspeople currently known

The Dry Stone Walling Association maintains a professional register of dry stone wallers on its website.

 

Other information

 

References