Still working on transcribing the weekly accounts books for the building of an early 18th century English stately home, and I realise how unaware I have been of the labour, logistics, and scale of the work involved in building before the days of the builders’ merchants.
Look up at that brick facade and remember that each and every brick was dug out of the local clay, put in a mould made by the local carpenter and blacksmith,
fired in a kiln built by local labourers,
stacked in a clamp, and manhandled up to the masons who fixed in it place with mortar made from lime, the product of a lime kiln that was built on site also, mixed with sand dug from local sandpits.
And then think that at every stage from raw material through to the hands of the masons, the bricks were transported, by the thousands, in carts, barrows and by hand. The accounts tell me that in one week alone 30,000 bricks were needed! And for each firing of the brick kiln and the lime kiln fuel had to be brought in, whether faggots of wood, made by the thousands in the local woods, or coals, brought in by the ‘chalder’ (a measure varying in quantity from 32 to 40 bushels), cart load after cart load.
I had never given much thought to the fact that buildings were created out of the raw materials of the local area, and that meant digging them up, cutting them down, quarrying for them, and transporting them.