Oak leaf and acorn motifs in pargeting on a house in Halesworth, Suffolk.
Pargeting is a term that today is given to surface decoration on the external wall
of a timber-framed building that has been rendered in plaster. The plaster is typically
made of lime, sand and animal hair. Special tools, such as wooden combs or templates,
are used to create patterns in the plaster while it is still wet. The word ‘pargeting’
comes from an Old French word ‘parjeter’ which means ‘to throw around’. Initially
a rough, semi-skilled job, pargeting gradually evolved through its popularity into
a highly skilled craft.
The above picture shows another example of pargeting in Halesworth. Like other bas-relief
work, pargeting is enhanced when light falls on it, bringing out its three-dimensionality.
The practice of pargeting expanded in England about four hundred years ago when good
quality green oak was in short supply. This led to an increase in inferior timber-framed
buildings and this, together with an increase in older buildings that were deteriorating
with wear, made rendering necessary for both practical and aesthetic reasons.
This broad frieze of pargeting decorates Bishop Bonner’s Cottage in St. Withburga’s
Lane in East Dereham, Norfolk. The cottage dates from 1502, but the pargeting was
probably executed in the seventeenth century. It consists of trailing stems, leaves,
roses, flowers and grapes, all coloured.
Below is a picture of a recently executed frieze of pargeting at Old Buckenham on
Norfolk. It also has flowers, fruit and leaves.
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The friezes shown here at Halesworth in Suffolk and at Old Buckenham in Norfolk
(below left) are both the work of local plaster pargeter, Trevor Clarke. Specialising
in traditonal lime hair plastering, he was taught his trade by a Suffolk expert in
the early 1980s. Trevor uses his own designs, which, inspired by nature and the
local countryside, mostly depict flora and fauna. He has decorated a large number
of buildings in East Anglia and you can identify his work by his initials (TC) which
he usually tucks into a corner of his friezes and panels. Trevor doesn’t have a
website of his own as a showcase for his work, but if you want to get in touch with
him about any aspect of it, you can send me an email via this site’s Contact page
and I will provide you with his telephone number.