During a recent survey of a property in the Lake District, we noted that the construction of the main external walls was in a style known as ‘Watershot’. This type of building technique is a common feature seen in the Cumberland and Westmorland areas and is often seen on buildings in the Lake District National Park. The main purpose of this type of construction is to prevent precipitation and moisture penetrating the external walls, therefore reducing the risk of penetrating dampness. ‘Watershot walling’ is a technique that became popular in the late 18th and mid-19th centuries particularly in the areas mentioned above. The technique consists of slightly angled courses of stone bedded as part of the external wall, effectively causing precipitation to be ‘thrown off the walls’-not allowing penetration; this construction method is used to make up the building’s external walls. It is said that this decorative method of walling is very effective in terms of resisting dampness, hence its popularity in the lake District- an area that is renowned for high levels of precipitation. The technique ‘Watershot Construction’ has several name variants that change from place to place depending on location, for instance; other known names of the technique are said to be ‘T-Masonry’, ‘Ramped’, ‘Overshot’, ‘Weathershot’ and in Saddleworth the technique is historically known as ‘The Yorkshire Tilt’ (ValleyofStone.org).
In terms of how Watershot walling appears; The stonework that makes up the wall is slightly angled and the mortar/pointing is often set back from the external facing edge of the stonework, traditionally the amount of stone that is ‘Watershot’ and standing proud of the mortar/pointing is 2 to 2.5 inches- although there are several variants of this design/thicknesses that have been adopted across different area where the method is used since the techniques popularity began. To put it as simply as possible, buildings with Watershot walls have individual stones that make up the wall that appears to be tilting downwards. Buildings that use this technique often have mortar to match the colour of the stone and consequently the pointing is relatively hidden, mainly because it does not stand proud of the stonework as this would defeat the object of angling the stonework.
Watershot construction was originally adopted in the Lake District as a method of coping with continuous rainfall. Carole Ryan in her book ‘Traditional construction for a sustainable future’, mentions how this type of construction should be considered nationwide in the future when constructing new housing in anticipation of the effects of climate change and the inevitable increase in precipitation across the UK. This theory would seem to be logical as a method to mitigate the secondary effects that climate change may have in terms of causing damage to infrastructure via weathering, especially in the form of precipitation.
A list of References with further information regarding Watershot Construction
Traditional Construction for a Sustainable Future – By Carole Ryan (2011)
McKay’s Building Construction – By William Barr McKay (2015)
Historic England: Historic Farmsteads Preliminary Character Statement: North West Region https://content.historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/historic-farmsteads-preliminary-character-statement-north-west/north-west-part1.pdf/ (2006)
Valley of Stone http://www.valleyofstone.org.uk/journey/stoneinthelandscape/fashions (2009)