The enduring appeal of traditional building materials

  • Leeds Castle
  • White Tower, London

Nick Yandle, Chief Executive of the Gallagher Group, explores the enduring appeal of Kentish Ragstone in Museum and Heritage Magazine.

"Traditional but increasingly ‘rare and ancient’ materials such as Kentish Ragstone have made a positive contribution to some of our best-loved buildings – but how and why has the stone lasted as long as its appeal to kings and ‘commoners’ alike?

What do Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Rochester and Leeds Castle have in common? They’re all certainly major tourist attractions, and iconic worldwide symbols of Britain’s heritage. They’re all old stone buildings and they’re certainly very fine too. But if we add the Archbishop’s Palace at Maidstone, Igtham Mote and Knole House at Sevenoaks, the Keep at Dover Castle or the parish church of All Saints in Woodchurch, Kent or the wall of the railway bridge near Kemsing station (near Sevenoaks), rebuilt in 2011, what is then the connection?

While geographic proximity is one – they are all located in south-east England – the main connection is that they are all built either exclusively or partially using Kentish Ragstone, the local indigenous and high-quality stone found only in a limited number of seams across Kent and quarried in only two places.

So why was ragstone used and what are its endearing features? Kentish Ragstone was an important natural resource in medieval times. It has been used for over 2000 years because it is strong, attractive and a functional building stone that is good for construction purposes.

It is strong and enduring – dense, water-resistant and withstands the annual battering from the elements from the vagueries of Britain’s temperate climate well. In the days before creature-comforts like central heating or modern plumbing, ragstone building provided respite to wealthy nobles in their fine homes and to serfs and villeins worshipping in their village churches. The most obvious feature of ragstone is, therefore, its longevity: ragstone lasts!"  

Click here to read Nick's article in full.

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