Knapped flint and sheeps teeth!


On a trip down to West Dean in Sussex last autumn, a small Coleshed contingent were taking in the grounds on what was a pretty dreary day. 

One thing that stuck us here was the scale of ambition of the people who owned and built these grounds. Wonderful buildings; acres of extravagant gardens; glasshouses, waterways, parkland and more.  Yes, in the nineteen century cheap labour was plentiful, and landowners had wealth to build on a scale which would rarely be possible nowadays; but some of the detail is still remarkable.

Now then. We live in a different time, but there is a strong (and growing) movement in our modern world for authenticity, for the vernacular, and for craftsmanship; but it’s a fight. The economic reality is that most modern homes are (necessarily?) cheaply made with tiny plots. Affordability* outweighs individuality and it doesn’t allow much scope for craftsmanship. Luckily it’s not always the case. One well-known recent example of architecture which does showcase the best of modern building, and 21st century design is The Flint House on the Waddesdon Estate nr Upper Winchendon in Bucks. This has won many prizes. Sure, The Rothschilds have been able to afford a level of craftmanship which could hark back to a different era, but its worth it: clad in flint the house is quite spectacular.

Well here’s the thing. It turns out that the flint was knapped by Sussex flint workers….. which brings us back to West Dean.

Perfectly crafted Sussex flint wall West Dean gardens
Shards of flint used between whole stones to create a more elaborate effect
Incredibly high levels of craftsmanship to create this effect
Perfect rectangular knapped flint stones set between cobbles
Detailed decorative effects…….

….its not just the flint knapping which catches the eye.

There’s something not quite right about the decorative effect above…

Oh Yes!

Sheeps teeth. About 200 of them in this decoration alone.

Who’s crazy idea was this?

Its either an interesting bit of natural science or frankly, slightly macabre :)

Sheeps teeth set between the flints

At least the paths are not made from human teeth – but chances are there is somewhere in the world where they are!

*but don’t get me started on the bonuses paid to the fat cats in the big house building firms!

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