Sunday, November 26, 2017

In Praise of The Pargetter's Art (updated)

Pargetting can be very bold in concept & execution, as seen in this example.
Pargetting is one of the less-common elements found in Tudor and Elizabethan buildings. Perhaps the inherent nature of exterior plasterwork and its comparative durability vs. brick, timber and stone makes this inevitable - but there are still existing examples to be found dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. New or old, it is always a delightful feature whenever it is found.

Any number of natural or stylized designs and motifs can be found in plaster.
The term Pargetting derives from the word 'parget', an old Middle English term that is probably derived from the ancient French 'pargeter' / 'parjeter', which means to to throw about, or 'porgeter'- to roughcast a wall. With the ‘wattle and daub’ method of construction (since pargetting is really best suitable for a lathed and timbered backing) the craft became an important and integral part of the building trade until bricks became more freely available. The term is more usually applied only to the decoration in relief of the plastering between the studwork on the outside of half-timber houses, or sometimes covering the whole wall.

In some cases, the pargetter would press the moulds of wet plaster (usually a mixture of slaked lime, sand, hair and the inevitable ‘secret ingredient’, known only to individual craftsmen) to the house exterior until it was fixed. In other examples, the ornate plasterwork is done in-situ totally freehand, in the still-wet lime render. In this case, the work is roughly outlined with a small trowel and then built up with the addition of hair in the lime plaster.

A particularly exuberant example of exterior pargetting.

The work is then brushed back into the wall to smooth it out and finally finished with a lime wash. Pargetting patterns came in a variety of forms including friezes (using ribbons of chevrons, scallops, fantails or dots); often there are overall frames enclosing motifs, geometrical or floral designs, and coats of arms. Occasionally devices were stamped on the wet plaster in varying degrees of relief, and work in the time of Elizabeth I of England will often represent figures, birds and foliage.

Today's craftsmen carry on an ages-old tradition. (Courtesy of The Pargetting Company)
Today, the Pargetter's art is kept alive by experienced craftsmen like Bill Sargent, based in Mid-Suffolk, who has been practicing pargetting and decorative plasterwork since the 1960's. Amongst the highest regarded pargetters in the country, Bill's work can be seen in Suffolk, Essex, Kent and Norfolk. He handles most all areas of Conservation Plasterwork and pargetting (also spelled pargeting) including conservation plastering for listed buildings, Lime washing, Lime plastering (mouldings etc.) Arches, Lime floors and Brick stone and slate work.

Note: This article was recently updated with new images, due to the fact that the original featured a gallery hosted on, which was shut down a few years ago.

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