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Dry Stone Walling Demonstration At The 2008 Heritage Skills Fair, Gibside


Here is a demonstration of dry stone walling done at the 2008 Heritage Skills Fair in Gibside and it seems appropriate to have it on this particular site (even though we have nothing to do with the Heritage Skills Fair). In the video the viewer will see the various construction methods that are used in making a dry-stone wall.

The wall is profiled like an "A", being roughly twice as thick at the bottom than it is at the top. There are actually two layers of stones which, in effect, form two separate walls, with hearting stones, rubble or even earth in the middle. The hearting helps to lock the two walls together.

Once the wall is about knee height a series of large stones are placed on top. These are known as "throughstones" and they help to tie the two walls together at that height. When you get above that you need to make sure that the next stone across is the same height so that it can tie the throughstone to the walls at either side of the through stone. Sometimes the throughstones jut out on either side of the wall and some people might think that they do this so that it is easier to climb over the wall, however this is not the intention.

When it comes to building up higher the idea is to cross as many joints (the adjoining stones below) as possible. The trick is to interlock the stones as much as possible.

When the wall is almost at the desired height a series of "coping stones" are laid across the top. These stones are shaped so that they give a nice rounded finish to the top of the wall. The weight of the coping stones push directly down through the middle of the wall and help to lock it all together.

There are many types and examples around the world of dry-stone walling and the construction methods used depend on the available stone in the area and the skill of the dry-stone wallers themselves. In areas of good walling stone you can attempt the sort of ideal construction outlined in this video. The two skins of the wall rise up from the large foundation stones with an even inward lean. The best stone is used for the facing while the middle is packed with small stone debris (known as hearting). Much of the wall's strength comes from the throughstones, which are also called throughbands. As stated earlier these flat stones are large enough to reach through the full width of the wall at about half-way up its height. When the quality of stone is poor and cannot be easily broken or shaped the walls tend to be low and are devoid of strengthening details. As a consequence these walls often need regular maintenance to keep them intact.

If you take a look at many of the dry-stone walls of Great Britain and parts of Europe you will see that some of them have lasted for many, many centuries. Gaps will always occur in old walls so they must always be built up again before more of the wall collapses. The very nature of the wall construction lends itself to the ease of repair quite nicely.

Confused? Just watch the video and, hopefully, you'll get a better idea of how this particular drystone wall is put together.

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7 Responses to Dry Stone Walling Demonstration At The 2008 Heritage Skills Fair, Gibside

  1. Panterex on December 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    It’s a quite bad demonstration… if you’ll pause video at 40 sec, right in the middle of the screen you can see a stack of 3 and 4 stones right beside each other, which create so called “running joint” – a huge weakness in the wall. This wall would probably colapse after first winter. Also, as far as I know, you need to lay “cap stones” before you put “coupings” .

  2. Panterex on December 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    @dopeydiesel
    for any dry stone wall, for any hight, you need to dig 150mm deep foundation only.
    no concrete needed to form a foundation, just pack the soil with your feet.

  3. grizzwild1 on December 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    a full wall is a happy wall. asap ,as snug as possible. top uphill. and finaly…. lets fuck off before it tumbles. The golden rules of walling.

  4. MelanieHizzarris on December 11, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    @dopeydiesel I’d dig down to secure it.

  5. dopeydiesel on December 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    im Thinking of building a small dry stone wall out in the front of my garden, do i have to dig down for the footings or can i start at ground level ?

  6. tron365 on December 12, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Was the string line to hang washing ?

  7. pondguru on December 12, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Was this at Gibside near Rowlands Gill? If so when is the fair on, I’d like to go next year.
    Check out the walls on my channel.

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