Local Distinctiveness, Building in Stone
The older buildings in the countryside or in the villages and towns of the South Downs National Park are a very good clue to the building materials available locally.
Until the coming of the railways (from the 1840’s) the cost of moving heavy and bulky materials (whether timber or stone) on carts pulled by oxen or horses meant that materials were gathered locally – unless it was a major building like a church or a stately home.
So building materials vary a great deal across the National park – from the timber-framing of the Weald (where the clayey soils were mostly used for woodlands) to the malmstone of Selborne and the flint of Alfriston. This can be called local distinctiveness and is something that communities want to maintain through Neighbourhood Plans and the Local Plan.
Keeping our buildings and settlements in good condition and conserving a local sense of place therefore needs us to understand the things that are special about a locality. For the most historic and special settlements this can be helped by designating Conservation Areas and the Appraisal and Management Plans for those places.
Using the right building materials for alterations, repairs and new buildings is also important throughout the National Park so that we conserve and enhance this part of the heritage. There have been difficulties nationally in people recognising the stones used, finding out where new supplies can be bought or what substitute might be acceptable.
So Historic England the British Geological Survey have worked together to undertake a review on a county basis – more information and the full databases can be found here.
Strategic Stone Atlas
South Downs National Park Authority has supported this work though a modest grant and the work is now completed for East and West Sussex – Hampshire is due to be completed by April 2017. There are summary reports called “Strategic Stone Atlas” for each county and these explain the building stones used, their geology and describe buildings in each village or town.