If you have own an old building, you will no doubt be proud of its many fine heritage features and wish to look after these. However, you may also have only recently acquired such a structure and noticed that a substantial amount of historic property restoration work is needed.

Whether you need a small amount of maintenance to keep things up to scratch or a major job, it can help to know just how the building was constructed. Depending on its age, there may be some very distinctive features that mark it out as archetypal for its time.

When discussing medieval architecture, it is important to consider what we define as medieval to begin with. Generally the term ‘early medieval’ denotes the Saxon period before 1066, with the later medieval period starting with the Norman Conquest. Overall, it covers from the fifth to the 15th century, all the way from the end of Roman Britain to the Renaissance.

Over such a long time, there was bound to be many changes in architectural styles and materials used, as well as geographical variation. Moreover, as Lost Kingdom notes, the materials used might also be determined economically, with those of greater means having the options of better materials.

Mixing plant material like straw to bind clay or mortar became common in techniques like wattle and Daub, with lime mortar emerging later. While stone was often a prominent material – especially in more important Romanesque structures built after the Norman Conquest – timber was increasingly used in housing.

Because it is so good at binding slates to wood beams, in drawing moisture out of wood to prevent rot and also covering it to keep wood-chewing pests away, lime render and mortar proved a highly effective material to use with timber.  

The end of the medieval era was followed by the Tudor period when timber and lime mortar reigned supreme. It is small wonder that this should be so when such construction methods were so effective in creating durable buildings, which is why so many of these heritage treasures remain standing today.