No brief guide to building design can be any substitute for the
years of study and observation which goes into successful building
Architecture and building design is a huge subject, therefore these
few paltry paragraphs can hardly claim to give the would-be developer
all he or she needs to know. The Society maintains that there is
a need for some control of building character in the Vale and the
following paragraphs are intended to give some guidance. As with
all matters of such far-reaching importance, there is no substitute
for consulting an architect or designer with a proven track record
in this type of work.
The Society recognises the need for occasional building works on the
scale of extensions, modern and unsuitable dwelling replacement and
also cases of development where sites have been ear-marked. The new
buildings must be in a sympathetic style, have a suitable plan and
form and be constructed of materials using building methods that will
conserve and enhance the area.
New building should accord with the local vernacular. As the Dedham
Vale Society uses the life and work of the great artist, John Constable,
as its benchmark, we mean that the buildings must be of the tradition
in building which existed in the Vale up to his time. Constable has
lent his name to the area and his faithful record of the landscape
villages and buildings gives us a clear reference point for conservation
Constable came at a turning point in the Vale's history. During his
life-time the rise of the Industrial Revolution with railways, mills,
industrialists houses, and the worsening poverty of the unfranchised
produced a hiatus in the relationship of the country people with the
land. The present trend for commuter suburbs and estates grouped near
railway stations giving fast services to London is part of the trend
of urbanisation. This demographic shift commencing with the dissociation
of the population from the land in the early nineteenth century and
subsequent urban encroachment into rural areas, now at its worst, threatens
the rural character of the Vale. The Society exists to help protect
this fragile character.
The layout, by which we mean the site planning and general co-ordination
of buildings with respect to their site and adjacent buildings, should
follow vernacular models. This would exclude ribbon development although
replacement of existing post-war bungalows would be advantageous.
It would also exclude the Ranch-style house with prominent, double
garage and extensive concrete turning area in front of the house.
Dwellings should have gardens to the street, where space allows,
in preference to hard paving. The anti-social street frontage of
many new buildings giving space solely for motor cars, boats, etc.
is destructive of the rural atmosphere. The garage should be sited
in a subordinate position and should be designed to give the appearance
of a free standing building of lower importance than the house.
The proportions, form and ornament of dwellings should be based
on one of the traditions of architecture, for example the orders
architecture or construction based on oak timber frame. The size
and bulk of the building, eaves or parapet heights, plan configuration
and roof pitch should pay due regard to vernacular precedents.
Size and proportion of windows and doors, chimneys and all
elements should be faithful to the particular type of building
whether house, cottage, terrace house, or extension.
The scale of the building should recognise historical patterns
of development. Existing large houses are either set in large grounds
or along High
Street frontages. New large houses shoe horned into small plots
very rarely successful.
Materials and Workmanship
Roofs: Normally pitched roofs would be constructed of hand-made clay plain
tiles at about 48 degree pitch, pan tiles or other traditional tiles,
thatch done in the traditional way, natural slate at about 22.5 degrees
minimum. Flat roofs should be confined to small areas.
Walls: Hand-made buff facing bricks to match Suffolk
white brickwork, soft red or other hand-made bricks in traditional
bond using stretchers,
headers and closers, traditional mortar joints (not weather struck)
to the mortar which should be a lime mortar. There should not be
a great show of different colour bricks forming patterns except,
for example, traditional diapering stretcher and header patterns
subtle colour variations. The arches over windows and doors should
not be soldier courses supported on steel members. They would preferably
be pointed, round or shallow ungauged or rubbed and gauged arches.
Lime-washed render which can be lined, panelled, pargeted or rough-cast
render or otherwise textured and in traditional colours using lime
or mineral based washes or paints.
Flint panels, stone ashlar, stone dressings.
timbering in the traditional manner should have rendered or brick
panels inside the timbering
or be rendered over externally.
Weatherboard either painted or in some cases stained or clear treated.
Other traditional methods of wall construction may also be appropriate.
Joinery: Windows and doors should be
purpose built to traditional profiles. Sash windows and casements
would be normal but large ranch sliding
doors, excessively large pane sizes and plastic or anodised finishes
would not be suitable. Traditional leadlight panes are acceptable
in the appropriate context. Doors should not have half round fanlights
in their upper panel. Porches should be either glazed as a small
or open. Garage doors should ideally be side hung in painted timber
joinery. Conservatories should be of traditional design and construction.
Drives should be in hoggin, shingle, stone setts, stone flags or
gravel dressed tarmac where hard. Concrete should not be used
as a finishing
Garden and boundary
walls should be brickwork as described above, wooden either as shiplap
or pickets, or iron railings. Cement mortar,
stretcher bond brick walls with expansion joints should not be used.
Hedges of the appropriate species greatly add charm. The arboriculturalist
at the appropriate Local Authority is normally willing to give
Tree planting in the grounds of new houses should be appropriate
local species and exclude hybrid Cypress such as leylandii.
The Vale is not a place for architectural innovation
and improvisation which is so often destructive of the highly valued
such buildings are allowed, they must be erected under the control
of a designer of proven and sympathetic capabilities. Architectural
modesty resulting from the applied observation of the area’s
buildings, street configuration and cultivated countryside is necessary
to maintain the Vale's distinctive character. The prospective developer
must bear in mind that this is a unique landscape, designated an
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is the smallest in the
United Kingdom. In spite of the most dramatic development pressures,
exist to defend it from being permanently scarred.