Building parts, methods and materials

Building Parts, Methods & Materials

This part of the artefact collections is perhaps that which best compliments the original aim of the Museum which was to tell the story of vernacular timber framed buildings from the south east of England.

Our aims have broadened somewhat since then but these artefacts are a valuable source of information, not only about the methods and materials involved with general building work, but also with the history of our own exhibit buildings themselves.

Many of the artefacts in this section are generated from the dismantling and re-erection of our exhibit buildings whilst others have been donated from elsewhere, but all help inform those with an interest in traditional, vernacular building techniques.

They also provide a valuable tool for use in conjunction with our many courses which the Museum provides on Historic Building Conservation and the masters degree courses we run in partnership with York University.


Building Parts, Methods & Materials Collections

Brick & Tile Making

The brick and tile making collection is essentially of equipment used for manufacture by hand, as opposed to mechanised industrialised production. It is a highly appropriate collection for the Museum and is mostly well provenanced.

Not only does it represent the vernacular manufacture of a very important building material but it has been drawn together from eight local brick yards in Hampshire and Sussex, these being:

  • Ashpark brickworks at Kirdford near Wisborough Green
  • East Grinstead brickworks
  • Ebernoe brickworks near Petworth
  • Nyewood brickworks/glassworks at Rogate near Petersfield
  • Petersfield brickworks
  • Pitsham brickworks near Midhurst
  • Redford brickworks near Midhurst
  • Stedham brickworks near Midhurst

The largest number of artefacts coming from the Petersfield brickworks in 1979.

A large proportion of items in the collection appear to be handmade, reinforcing the vernacular nature of brick and tile manufacture by hand. This seems particularly prevalent amongst the moulds for making ridge and hip tiles and for land drains, illustrating the way in which local idiosyncratic requirements were met.

A wonderful example of field repair lies in the form of a wetting brush, which has had a wooden striker nailed onto it to act as a handle.

Groups of items within this subject include:

Brick Moulds

Wooden frames with removable inner ‘frogs’ which form the indent in the brick. The trick is to make the mould slightly bigger than the required finished article due to shrinkage when drying.

Tile Moulds

These vary greatly depending what sort of tile is required; ridge tiles have a semi-cylindrical mould whilst hip tiles have a triangular, bonnet-shaped mould.


The are relatively few tools associated with brick and tile making. ‘Strickers’ are bows which, when drawn across the top of a mould remove excess clay, whilst ‘cockles’ are used to scoop up a quantity of clay to be worked before manually filling the mould.

Building Components

The collecting, dismantling and re-erection of historic buidings generates a great deal of material which for one reason or another, cannot be re-used in our exhibits.

These items do however have an important historic value, helping tell the tale of the changes which have taken place to our buildings or standing alone as reference items within our collection and as such we have added these building parts, or samples of them, to our core collections.

We have a great many more building parts besides those which were left over from our exhibits and these have been donated by a great many individuals, ranging from single objects to larger groups of material.

We use largely the same guidelines to govern the collecting of these building parts as we do for the collection of our exhibit buildings themselves so that our collection represents vernacular material from the south east of England and provides a useful reference library for research into this subject.

Groups of items within this subject include:


Although buildings are mostly either brick or timber a whole variety of ironmongery was used during their construction such as wall ties, gutters, hinges and door furniture, straps, balustrades and banisters.

Bricks & Tiles

The appearance and make-up of bricks was very regionally influenced, depending upon what raw material was available and the local preference for the end result. For example the nearby town of Midhurst is know for producing a very while brick, known unsurprisingly as the ‘Midhurst White’. Bricks could also be manufactured for a variety of purposes such as perforated ventialtion bricks and assymetrical wall ties.

A cross between a straightforward roof tile and a brick, the Mathematical Tile was unusual in shape and designed to be attached to a wall to give a timber structure the appearance of being brick-built.

Chimney Pots

Following from completely brick-built chimneys, the pots we have in the collection are all of a very similar, local nature. Terracotta in colour, most have a thumbed decoration below the top rim and a painted white, wavey band immediately below.

Daub & Plaster

This is a very important part of the Museum’s collection with a variety of sections, ranging from quite small samples to whole wall sections.

The sample we have cover a wide date range and show many different methods of wall construction from cleft timber to reed.


A number of doors in our collection come from our displayed buildings, whilst the remainder have been collected to show differing styles of construction; boards with differing mouldings, edge profiles and jointing techniques. The variety of board edge details included combinations of t&g, loose tongued joints, halved and butt joints with beads, V joint chamfers, and fine feather edges.


A large collection of fireplaces and fire furniture including register grates, hob grates, coppers, ranges, bread oven fittings and firebacks, pothooks, chimney cranes and spits.


A relatively small collection of fairly random examples of which the most notable are several sections from Sutton Place – 1520–1650 and sections of 17th century panelling from Turners Shoe Shop (originally a pub) in North Street, Chichester.


A great many reference sample timbers from our collected buildings along with many others from outside the Museum.


A good collection of metal windows, representative of wrought and cast iron windows from 17th–19th centuries and from a good geographical spread over the Museum’s collecting area. This isn’t a comprehensive collection of timber windows, although we do have some good early examples.

Well Fittings

This group of items covers the wide variety of buckets we have in the collections and their often unusual variations to the locking mechanisms and also grappling hooks, used to retrieve stray buckets from the bottom of wells.

Builders & Decorators

The principal collections within this category are samples of builder’s yard inventories and as such within each collection is a wide diversity of artefacts, not necessarily only tools but also some materials and some personal effects.

For example, within the collection from Mr Mills’ builders yard from Bridge near Midhurst, donated by his successor Mr Karn, we have a variety of tools and materials but we also have a fire extinguisher, a photograph of Mr Karn as a young man, and Mr Mills’ cloth cap!

The tools alone though, in all of these collections, illustrate very graphically just how adaptable and versatile these people were in the types of work they were prepared to tackle. From the items we have here it is possible to deduce that the work of Mr Mills and Mr Karn ranged from roofing, brick laying and plastering to carpentry, cabinet making, wallpapering, painting and cobbling.

As it is also often difficult to separate the business of building from that of decorating, as clearly illustrated by three of the principal collections, both areas of work have been included in this survey.

For example, we have numerous paint tins and brushes from Mr Karn and from Mr Fosberry’s yard at Thursley near Godalming in Surrey, and we also have two wallpaper trimming machines from Mr Mills and from Mr Norton, a builder, decorator, undertaker and upholsterer at Shere in Surrey.

Traditionally of course the village builder has often adopted the role of undertaker and this is well represented in Mr Norton’s collection, within which we have amongst other things top hats, coffin trestles, coffin plates and frillings, and a coffin template!

The principal builder’s yard collections are:

  • Mr Fosberry from Thursley near Godalming, Surrey, donated by Mrs Kalinowski
  • Mr Mills & Mr Karn from Bridge near Midhurst, West Sussex, donated by Mr Karn
  • Mr Knight from Slinfold near Horsham, West Sussex, donated by Mrs Lindsey
  • Mr Norton from Shere near Guildford, Surrey, donated by Mrs Ray
  • Mr Wales from Albury near Guildford, Surrey

As well as the lerger builders yard inventory collections we inevitably have a considerable quantity of other, various tools, which again illustrate the flexibility and versatility of the general builder, but these come as small quantities or individual gifts from donors.

Some items of course are part of larger collections which cross the boundaries of other survey areas within the collections, for example The Robin Appleby Collection which is essentially a tool collector’s collection, of which a few items are now grouped under Stonemasonry.

Photo Gallery


1. Brick tile making pipe extruder, 2. Nortons decorator’s workshop, 3. Green Man jetty bracket, 4. Reigate, 5. Well bucket, 6. Well grappling hook, 7. Wattle and daub

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