Looking at Buildings

Materials & Construction


Materials and their Use

The appearance of all buildings is affected by the materials used to construct and ornament them. Before the 19th century, the dependence upon the availability, or otherwise, of building materials which could be sourced locally ensured that the regions of Britain were distinctive as much for their buildings as for their geology and landscape. Stone, timber, earth and clay all provided the basic materials suitable either for construction or to create secondary building materials, such as bricks and tiles.

Although major buildings might justify the importation of building materials, e.g. stone, most buildings continued to maintain a regional distinction until the end of the 18th century. But changes in national fashion and taste and improvements in transport soon reduced these distinctive local and regional characteristics.

Later, the development of man-made and industrial materials introduced the uniform appearances of iron, steel, glass, concrete and plastics but buildings of all periods may combine different materials to add ever greater variety. The pages in this sectionGlossary Term provide a guide to each of the principal building materials with information on their history, manufacture and use illustrated with specific examples.

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