Sunday, June 12, 2022

Pershore, Worcestershire


You can’t beat an old brick wall as a boundary to a garden. The pleasant, variegated colours of old brick, the feeling of warmth, the shelter, the sense of seclusion – all of these things can be fostered by an English brick garden wall. But for something even more special, how about a crinkle-crankle wall, one that undulates like this one in Pershore?

Crinkle-crankle walls have been around at least since the 18th century. They’re unusual, and more common in Suffolk than anywhere else (‘crinkle-crankle’ itself is said to be a Suffolk dialect term meaning ‘serpentine’). I have read that people built them because a sinuous wall can be built soundly with only one thickness of bricks, saving materials. A straight wall built this way would easily fall down – you need a double thickness, and sometimes buttresses too, to give it strength. A curving wall can stand up on its own, its curves providing rigidity, like the corrugations in corrugated iron. With a serpentine wall the total length is greater, but not double that of an equivalent straight wall, so you need fewer bricks. On the other hand, the wall also needs more land.*

Another reason to build such a wall might be that it’s aesthetically appealing – many people find curves more pleasing to the eye than straight lines. Yet another might be that a crinkle-crankle wall, oriented correctly, is good for growing fruit against – the indentations provide a bit of shelter from the wind, and if the wall is south-facing, it catches the sun and makes pockets of warmth. This brings us to the town of Pershore, in the part of Worcestershire (the Vale of Evesham and nearby) which is traditionally a fruit-growing area. In this region there are numerous fruit farms and commercial orchards (and were once many more); Pershore itself is famous for its pears. Private gardens had fruit trees too, so the town’s crinkle-crankle walls could be part of this story. For those of us who appreciate these things, it is not just Pershore’s impressive Georgian houses where bricks have born attractive visual fruit.

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* Money-saving might possibly a factor that became more important when bricks were taxed.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I think the aesthetic reasons would outweigh the others. Even with one brick thickness, a long wall would take an awful lot of bricks, and be expensive. Lateral buttresses would surely still cost less than a double thickness? Expecting fruit trees to behave and keep inside the curves as they grow? - well, if you're so bothered about cutting them into shape, a straight wall might be better anyway. Any old fool (I know - I've done some) can put together a straight wall, given the time and the equipment, but for a curvy one you'd need a specialist "crinkle-crankler" surely? Chances of finding one in the Yellow Pages, or whatever equivalent back then? Such expertise should come at a price.