Chalk plasters from the landscape

Materials, Site Design

We have been invited to develop a bespoke palette of materials for the repair and restoration of a 16th century manor house at the foot of the South Downs.

Materials testing by Local Works Studio

The building is Grade II* listed and was extended at the beginning of the 20th century by renowned arts and crafts architect Edwyn Lutyens.

Historic chalk plaster surface

The house sits on the boundary between the chalk of the Downs and the clay and woods of the Low Weald and this is reflected in the historic construction materials and structure.

View from the South Downs across the Low Weald
View from South Downs
Freshly dug chalk from the South Downs

Some of the original interior walls are made from chalk daub and we are developing a range of chalk-based mortars that are bound with plant material from the garden and neighboring farms.

Detail of chalk plaster sample
Detail of chalk plaster sample with straw

We propose to use repair materials gleaned from a tight radius around the site, so that new works on the house are sympathetic with the historic fabric and patterns of the wider landscape. Having produced a conservation survey of the condition of the interiors, we have also mapped, researched and tested these local material possibilities.

Track to historic chalk quarry
Historic chalk quarry in the South Downs
Historic chalk and lime workings in the South Downs

We often work in sensitive sites of ecological or historical conservation interest, or in landscapes where a building or garden must have minimal visual impact on its surroundings – using materials and plants that reflect the geological and ecological richness of a place, or employing traditional techniques based on local knowledge of materials. This is essential to the success of a project and can also improve prospects for planning applications.

Chestnut plastering laths made by Local Works Studio
C16th interior
External wall tiles
Blending materials to produce coloured plaster samples
Chalk and clay plaster tests
Collecting chalk and Barley straw
Chalk from near-by excavation works
Blending chalk and straw plaster
First coat of chalk plaster, with added plant fibre
Fine top-coat plaster made from chalk

Project: 16th Century Manor house, East Sussex



Date: 2019 – ongoing