The Ruskin Museum, Coniston, Cumbria

The Ruskin Museum

Telling the Story of Coniston Since 1901

Tel: 01539 441164

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Dry Stone Wall

Outside the Museum (next to the John Usher miniature village) is a fine example of a traditional Lakeland Dry Stone Wall. These walls can be seen all over the Lake District. This one was specially built as a "show wall" to illustrate the different techniques and features of a Cumbrian Wall. It was built by Andrew Loudon, a master waller and regular competitor in walling competitions. He lives at Bowmanstead , Coniston.

Dry Stone Walls are built without mortar or cement. It is essential that they have a good foundation. A shallow trench 4 or 5 feet wide is prepared. Then the FOOTING stones are laid on a firm sub-soil or rock foundation. These footings are large and usually square shaped boulders which are placed in two parallel rows- square ends facing outwards. The space between the two rows is filled with small irregular stones called HEARTINGS. These bind together under pressure. Subsequently COURSES of stones are laid, making sure that each walling stone rests on two stones in the course below. The two sides taper towards the top and are bound together with long cross-stones or THROUGHS. Well built walls often had two or more sets of throughs at different heights above the footing stones. When the wall reached the required height it was finished off with a final course of thinner slab-like stones on top of which the CAMS or COPING STONES were placed. These could be beck cobbles or slate-like stones stacked on edge and all leaning the same way. The main purpose of the cams was to discourage sheep from jumping over the wall.

This "show" wall here at the Museum was built from riven or dressed slate seen on the right of the gateway and beck cobbles seen to the left of the gateway. This gateway has one post or STOUP with round holes and the other stoup with square holes. Poles can be placed across the gap each having a round and square end so as to prevent cattle from pushing the poles out. Maybe this was the origin of the saying: a square peg in a round hole!

Hogg Holes, Step Stiles & Squeeze Stiles

Two types of HOGG HOLE have been built into the wall, a flat topped one and one with an arched top. Hogg holes allowed Hogs (yearling sheep) to pass freely from one part of the heaf or pasture to another. There are also two types of stile in the wall, a STEP STILE and a SQUEEZE STILE.

Bee Holes

A BEE BOLE is also featured in our wall. This is a small recess with a level base on which could be placed a straw SKEP. If a skep was put into the recess it would be better protected from rain and wind. The holes usually faced South to South East so that the morning sun would warm up the bees. These bee boles were often built into the walls of gardens and orchards beside farms.

Rabbit Smoots

At the far end of the wall at ground level is a rabbit SMOOT. Smoots allowed rabbits and hares to pass from the fell into the intakes (fields). Sometimes stone-lined pits were dug below the smoots having a wooden trough, above which was a counter- weighted trap door. The rabbit would fall into the pit and this could be used to supplement a countryman's diet.