Dry Stone Walls and Hedgerows

When you think about dry stone walls and hedgerows, do you think of a quaint little cottage garden? maybe a barrier in a farmer’s field? The popularity of these walls has increased over the years. Picket fences are not as popular as they once were. What is it about these walls that are so attractive to gardeners.
  • what are the benefits of a dry-stone walls/hedges?
  • why are so many in walls in disrepair?
  • where can you learn the skills to build your own?
First, we need to know the background. When you look around the landscape of Britain you can see a vast difference between the north and south. The south being more fertile for growing vegetation and livestock, the ground is relatively flat with a mild weather; where as in the north the rugged terrain and harsh climate is more ideal for livestock. Having livestock, you will need a way to keep them in. In the south, Farmer will grow hedgerows as a means of securing the land. With the mild climate the plants can grow quicker than the animals can eat them. Now in the north copious quantities of stone are easily found close to the ground surface, its here you will find evidence of dry stone walls. The walls are found where trees and hedges are difficult to grow. On lower ground where hedges could be grown, they take longer to mature and can be stunted if exposure to animals to early, the saplings and new growth could be eaten quicker than the plant can grow, making this method of security difficult to establish. Once a stone wall is erected, it will remain until neglected or dismantled. The walls would need little upkeep, if build properly. The materials were easy to get, this is the reason stone and hedges were used. Yearly maintenance checks would ensure the longevity of the walls and hedges.

Fact – when farmers/labours where building their stone walls, they would put a trinket or coin in-between the gaps as a time capsule.

Fact- Prince Charles hosted a hedgelaying competition on Highgrove estates, this allowed different skills to be exercised. More.

The Change

As the 21st century got underway, changes to farming where steadily increasing but the dry-stone walls and hedges where still the best security for the fields. When the first world war erupted in October 1914 many young men left to fight, but it was when the war continued that cause a strain on the country. Skilled workmen where unable to pass on their skills to their apprentices resulting in the loss of the majority of the knowledge, in this loss was the skills of dry-stone walling and hedgelaying. The little knowledge that survived the war the reminding walls and hedges were able to be maintained. In time, the preferred fencing for farmers and gardeners were wooden stakes and wire netting. Resulting in the neglect of the remaining walls and hedges, they fell into disrepair. Many walls are left as wind breakers for livestock and wife life, over time new boundaries were created making the wall null for purpose. While many hedgerows where removal and replaced, others were left to grow wild.

Benefits of dry stone walls and hedges

The benefits of having hedgerows and stone walls are that they are environmentally friendly, with there material being natural and not man made. The result of having these walls are that they make a great wind break which is beneficial for all animals, in many case’s they are used by a variety of wild life and plants as habitats. When you think of the British countryside are your first thoughts could be the animal, the lush green grass then the hedges and stone walls; If so you are not alone. Stone walls and hedges have a desirable effect wherever you chose to put them.

Training skills

Training in these heritage skills are hard to find, sympathetic works we are happy to help you gain theses skills. Our aim is to save as much historic construction skills that is possible. So, we are happy to provide these skills to those who wish to learn. Check out our Course page to see what else we provide.


All information Provide has been collected by a member of Sympathetic Works Ltd, with help from Wikipedia search engine, The National Hedgelaying Society, BBC CountryFile and Dry Stone Walling Association of Great Britain. All pictures are the property of Sympathetic Works Ltd.

The Cobbled Road

The Cobbled Road

What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of cobbled areas? Is it the path leading to the church you attended when young? maybe the main shopping road in a small-town centre you visited? More and more towns are ripping up the tarmac to reveal this craftsmanship. With the assistance of the heritage lottery small towns known for their historic gems can get the financial support they need.

“Cobbles describes the smoother, more rounded stones that were fashioned by natural erosion or running water and were used uncut, as found” Robin Russell Director of Corbel Conservation Ltd.

The main material used for hard standing areas e.g. court yards, paths and road ways, for millennia were cobble stones. The humble cobble stone was kicked to the curb, as cheaper materials became more available. The common misconception is that a sett are a form of cobbled road. Setts are commonly found were you have steeper streets, this is to help houses to climb the road ways easier. A sett is a smooth quarried stone that is cut to shape. In this article Cobbles with refer to both setts and cobbles. Popularity rose for smoother roadways the cobbled streets were removed or covered. Viewed as inadequate to cope with modern life styles. The knowledge of laying cobbled path and roadways disappeared when they were covered. This skill is largely lost with many other techniques. Conservation is now more popular. The cobbled stone areas that have survived today are viewed by many as precious, and beneficial so safety on busy streets. the sound of an approaching vehicle can be heard louder on the cobbled streets, letting pedestrians know a vehicle is approaching. But with revealing this material unearths the problems of keeping them maintained.

Maintenance of Cobbled areas

Taking care of our historic gems is very important as many have fallen into disrepair and resulted in damage. When undertaking repair work on the cobbles you need to use the right materials. Both for the cobbles and the bedding; this is so that you can preserve as much of the original area as possible.

Note – Do not remove more then what is necessary, the goal is to keep the path looking original as much as possible. It is beneficial to taking notes, sketches and photographs before the work commences, this will limit damage.

Our goal is to use as much of the original stone and bedding as possible, with repairing in mind instead of replacement. Any alterations and additions made should be reversible and case little to no harm to the original. It is also advisable to document the process of the repair work, as a reference for future reflection. This will aid others who will continue the conservation work you conducted. The appearance of the repair work should be almost invisible. Modern repairs once aged can add character and appeal in the same way as the historic stone.
Further information:
If you require a specialist to conduct cobble repairs we are happy to help you with consulting on your project. Training course are available on our courses page. Building Conservation
Construction Development Alliance awards- Nominees required!

Construction Development Alliance awards- Nominees required!

It’s that time again when the Construction Development Alliance Award, those Young Persons in the Construction Industry.

Do you know someone who will make a great candidate for the awards?

The deadline is the 20th of April, 2023.

Send your nomination today…


Every two years, The Construction Development Alliance (CDA) host’s an awards evening to award five young construction individuals for their hard work and determination in the construction field.

If you know of an exceptional young construction individual, why not nominate them today?

 Guest host

Image result for charlie luxton

The guest host for this year’s event is Charlie Luxton, Architect and TV presenter of Building The Dream on More4; along with the award sponsors, Charlie will hand the award to the winner.


The categories are:

  1. Overcoming Adversity
  2. Apprentice
  3. Construction Professional
  4. Young Construction Environmentalist
  5. Designer

Nomination Form

CDA Nomination Form Online

Local History – Rawtenstall – Whitaker Museum

Local History – Rawtenstall – Whitaker Museum

A Gift to the Children of Rawtenstall – Local Free Man Richard Whitaker bought and donated Oak Hill House and its grounds for the Children of Rawtenstall as a place of recreation and learning.
On the edge of Rawtenstall perched just off Haslingden road is a house and a beautiful garden park. Many know this place as Whitaker Park. We asked locals what comes to mind when they think about ‘The Whitaker’?
The common theme is the museum – that is found in the house. The people highlighted exhibitions such as the baby elephant, the snake and tiger, and the shrunken head. Only a few people know the story of how this home became a much-loved museum. In our research, it took time to get the history of this building. What we found was working people who were proud and still are of their heritage. We see this pride in the care given to the grounds and house.

What was the original purpose of the house?

In prime location to overlook the Working Mill at New Hall Hey; known to us today as the grade II listed building Hardman’s Mill. The 1840’s family home was built; originally standing on a 28acre park, which held cottages and farms. The Whitaker Park house was originally called Oakhill and was home for Major George Hardman (1794-1852) and his family. Oakhill had been a family home until Richard Whitaker bought the house and grounds in 1900, he wanted to create a museum and public park for the children of Rawtenstall. Mr Whitaker was born into poverty in 1829, one of thirteen he was working in Rawtenstall’s local mills at 6 years old. By the end of his career, he was a director of an Accrington company manufacturing mill machinery. The museum and public park where gifted to the children of Rawtenstall in 1902. Many Local mill owners gifted Items for the Museum and gardens.
When Richard Whitaker died in 1906 he had seen the growth of knowledge among the children of the needy. Richard not only Donated the Park and the Museum but also donated money for Almshouses, exhibitions, scholarships and allowances to the needy in the area.

What is it now?

From that first museum opening in 1902 by Richard Whitaker, the house has stayed as Richard had set out. Sadly, the house fell into disuse and in 2013 the Whitaker was brought back to life and transformed into the Rossendale Museum & Art Gallery. Under the leadership of the newly formed ‘Whitaker Group’, a journey began with the restoration and enhancement of this prized park.
The Whitaker Group are passionate that the aims of the museum remain true to its original 1902 declaration; to educate and enlighten the people of Rossendale, providing a focus for learning and cultural activity into the 21st Century.
The Whitaker house is now a privately owned business that runs the museum with a small café open Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am-5pm. The Whitaker Park is owned and maintained by Rossendale Borough Council. See what treasures the house has for you to learn from. Maybe enjoy a nice hot drink with a lovely view or a leisurely stroll around the park, the Whitaker is your place.

Learn More

To learn more about the local history and the traditional building works check out our Training courses. For More information please follow the links below. Public Art Collection North West: A history and Guide By Edward Morris – p.g. 153, Mill Guide, The Whitaker Official Website. Notes on the Hardman Family, Fishink blog.

Weavers Cottage

The Weaver’s Cottage is the building we will discuss in this article. It’s a building that to some seems out of place between a modern Health Hub and a converted cotton mill.

Have you ever wondered what the weaver’s cottage was?

Weavers Cottage Rawtenstall

The Cottage can be found on Bacup road between Ilex Mill and Rawtenstall’s Health Hub; this cottage would have been common during the time it was built.

Many people have seen this building but they don’t know anything about it or its history.

Some brief history
  • The ground floor would have been used as a lodging place for the workers.
  • The first and second floors would have been used as a workshop where large weaving looms would have been operated.
  • During the industrial revolution, it was split into four separate dwellings.
  • In the 1940’s the first murder in living memory recorded in Rossendale and one of the tenants of the cottage was the convicted murder.
  • Was used as a Police Box.
The Cottage is
  • Dated around the 18th century when English weaving was at its height.
  • A three-story Stone building
  • The first and second floors have six large windows.
  • Built with two large floors with an open plan layout for working.
  • South facing
  • Access to the working floors was at the rear of the building.

 What was the cottage originally used for?

The cottage name tells us that the main use was for Wool and/or silk weaving. Though known as the Weaver cottage, the main purpose of this building was the housing of the large loom machines, locally it could have been known as the loom shop.

Weaving was a trade common among the working people. Therefore the cottage work area’s were available to all the weavers in the province.

It seems like the designer had taken in the risks of this profession when they had planned this building. A good building design is necessary for specialised work.

You can see this in the used of windows so that the natural lighting would reduce the number of candles needed in the room, this will minimise the risk of possible fire. A fire was a major worry in the weaving business, just one spark could lose your livelihood and your home.

Some weavers employed their own or local children to assist with the weaving process as children could easily reach more difficult areas on the loom.

Until the introduction of the powered loom, this cottage would have been in constant use.

At the height of the industrial revolution, work in the mills was encouraged. With mills able to produce large quantities of fabric it became harder for those who worked in these cottages to earn a living.

As a result, the weaving profession began to be abandoned and more people began to work in the large cotton mills. Some of these mills can be found around Rawtenstall today, one is the Ilex mill next to the weavers cottage.

English weaving is a traditional skill among those in decline.

Resulting in the cottage workshop being left vacant, the large space was partitioned off to create homes. But, as more desirable homes were built, the weaver’s cottage again was empty.

Just outside The weavers cottage was the location of the first murder in Rossendale’s living history. The shocking murder of Nancy Chadwick in 1948. Find out more Click here.

Rawtenstall illex mill and weavers cottageWhat is it now?

In the 1970’s the area was under an urban renewal.

This council approved arrangement resulted in several old buildings being demolished.

The Rawtenstall Civics Society saved the cottage from being completely demolished. Unfortunately, the rear sloped roof was lost.

The civic society was able to restore the cottage to as much of its original format. Now using it as a heritage centre for the local area.

The cottage became a grade II listed building registered on the 16th October 1970. This gives the weavers cottage the status of a building of national importance and special interest.

Learn More
To find out more visit The Rossendale Civic Trust’s website. If you would like to learn more about historic building why don’t you check out our course page and see what we can do for you! There is a video provided by the Rossendale civic trust marking the history of the weavers’ cottage.