Scotland’s mudwall heritage: interdisciplinary research linking historical appraisals with novel scientific analyses of degradation

Simon J. Parkin, W. Paul Adderley, Craig J Kennedy

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    Scotland has a long tradition of earth building, with clay-rich subsoils and turf having been employed for millennia in the walls, floors and roofs of structures across the architectural spectrum. The study of Scotland’s earth-built heritage has been the reserve of a limited body of scholars from the second half of the twentieth century onwards. To date, technical considerations relating to processes of degradation have received less attention than surveying and recording of surviving examples. Reliance on anecdotal evidence has resulted in a rather ad hoc approach to the management of Scotland’s remaining earth buildings. Interdisciplinary research being conducted at the University of Stirling has sought to marry historical appraisals of Scotland’s lost and hidden stock of vernacular earth buildings with novel scientific approaches to understanding climate-related processes of degradation in walling materials. This article provides a synopsis of some of this research. Of particular interest has been massed earth construction traditions, with documentary evidence used to emphasise the past proliferation of vernacular mudwall buildings and assess how perceptions of such structures developed over time and related to their demise. Scientific investigations have aimed to complement current efforts within the heritage community to mitigate for the potentially deleterious effects of future climate on the built heritage. An investigative programme utilising laboratory-based experimentation and in-situ sampling in the field has been followed in accordance with this aim. Sampling procedures carried out at the Old Schoolhouse, Cottown, Perthshire, will be elucidated upon as a means of case-study example. Complimentary techniques including X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, microwave moisture meter analysis, optical micromorphological assessment and three-dimensional X-ray computed tomography have been utilised with some success, being used in the characterisation of materials and assessment of processes within them at the micro-scale.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2013
    Event3rd Historic Mortars Conference - Glasgow , United Kingdom
    Duration: 11 Sept 201314 Sept 2013


    Conference3rd Historic Mortars Conference
    Abbreviated titleHMC 13
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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