The Verwood and District Potteries Trust

Local building - cob

Area index

Mud walls-cob cottages

Many of the cottages and virtually all the workshops and potters' drying sheds in the Verwood area are mud walled, cob as it is called. Heywood Sumner described the method in the early 1920's:

Mud walls should be made of sandy, clayey loam with small stones in it; and with heath, rushes, and sedge grass, or straw, thoroughly puddled into the mass by trampling. In the best-made mud walls this was dobbed and bonded by the mud-waller with his trident mud-prong in successive layers on the wall he was building. About two feet, vertical, being raised at a time (a "rearing"), then left for ten days to dry before the next rearing was raised on it. Walls built thus, on heathstone or brick footings, stand well. But often they were raised without any footings, and by inexperienced "mudders" who used the wrong sort of clay; who did not temper it stiff with heath; and who could not build a wall with a mud-prong, but trusted to board "clamps" and thus this serviceable walling material has been discredited; most unfairly; mud walls that have been well built stand firm and impervious for generations, and provide warmth in winter and coolness in summer within the cottages which they surround, and they cost less than walls of any other material locally available. There is excellent mud-walling still being raised, and for such requirements, I should go to Verwood; to Mr. Sims of Sutton Holms, Verwood, who has inheried the knowledge of his craft, and can point out this, that, and the other mud-walled, thatched cottage in his native village, as built by his grandfather, his father, or himself (to the last he has recently been adding). An outer-rough-cast coating of plaster and pebble-dash fortifies the weatherproof nature of mud-walls, and veils a coarse material with a serviceable finish.

From The New Forest by Heywood Sumner (1924)

Two potters standing in the doorway of a cobb built workshop.
Photograph: The workshop at Cross Roads pottery, Verwood in 1942. The lines between each 'raising' of the cob are clear.