The Suffolk Farmhouse

Picture (c) by John Ashley PhotographyThe term Suffolk Farmhouse or a Suffolk House instantly conjures up an image of certain types of buildings.

Medieval half-timbered houses with oversailing upper storeys and twinkling diamond panned windows. Or the large colour washed houses with small windows, which sit in splendid isolation in the highways and byways of the Suffolk Countryside.

In times past houses tended to be built from what was available locally in the case of the Suffolk region they had at their disposal large quantities of chalk and sand and also heavy clay. So local houses were built from these materials.

Wattle and daub was the traditional method used for filling the spaces between timber framed buildings. The term wattle is a woven latticework of wooden stakes and the daub, which incidentally used to be mixed by hand, consisted of clay and sand. Quite often lime and cow dung were added for good measure! This mixture was then 'daubed' between the latticework.

The colour of properties therefore would depend on the lime and iron content of the clay. Hence the different shades of orange that one sees in some old Suffolk Houses. Though it is fair to say that many Suffolk buildings are still coloured in the traditional Suffolk pink wash. Before the days of Dulux and Crown this pink colour, it is has been suggested, was achieved by mixing ox blood or sloe juice into the plaster.

Another "uffolk trait" though by no means exclusive to Suffolk is the use of pargeting, the ornamentation of plastered and rendered building. The term comes from the old French parjeter, from par- "all over" + jeter "to throw". This involved a design being stamped into the wet plaster to form a pattern such as foliage, flowers, geometric designs, fruits, or some other designs. These designs were then either embellished in relief or cut into the plaster. 

There are many places in Suffolk where old buildings can be seen for example Lavenham and Laxfield, but a drive around most Suffolk towns and villages will result in a wealth of interesting buildings to be admired and drooled over!