Building styles in Norfolk and Suffolk

Natural building materials

Cob is a traditional building material, known internationally as 'adobe', made from a mixture of clay, sand, straw and water. More common is the East Anglian tradition of building with flint. Building stones are less available in East Anglia than in most other parts of England, but chalky limestones are quite commonly used.  The only sandstone quarried locally is a ginger stone known as carstone, which has the appearance of rust.   This is sometimes used as a decorative addition to flintwork, pressed into the mortar to look like rusty nail heads.

Bricks and brickmaking

Many towns and villages in Norfolk and Suffolk have cultural links to brickmaking histories and traditions, dating from the Tudor period to the present day. Today, with better transportation, there are much fewer brick producers than in the past; but before the railway, brick-kilns were widespread across East Anglia servicing local building needs. These smaller businesses were often linked to adjacent woodland, to fuel the firings, and to waterways which could transport heavy loads. The colour, size and texture of bricks varied from place to place, as did local bricklaying traditions, producing distinctive patterns and ornamental work.

Other characteristic building styles

Thatched roofs are common in the East Anglian countryside, reflecting both a lack of slate and the availability of reeds. Cultural reasons are also important, including close links to similar traditions in Germany and the Low Countries. This is also the most likely explanation for the unusual regional tradition of round-towered churches, also found in north Germany and southern Sweden.  Another influence from the continent can be seen in the prevalence of Dutch gables on the end of buildings in many villages near to the fens.

Cob building
Flint church