Wattle and Daub

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Wattle and Daub is a simple construction method in which a fence is constructed by twining flexible sticks between (non-flexible) posts, and then covering the fence in mud. Wattle fencing is constructed in the same manner, but generally leaves off the mud.

The name 'wattle' refers the flexible wooden sticks, not to a species of wood, and 'daub' to the process of patting mud on the fence. The species of acacia in Australia called wattle got their name because settlers found them most suitable for use as wattles. (cf [1] [2])

The use of wattle and daub extended far beyond medieval Europe, for instance the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas.

Wattle fences and Wattle and Daub houses in 12th C Dublin


Some posts with fire hardened points, modern studies showed no anti-rotting benefit of this vertical posts- round, generally with bark still on, average spacing 15-30cm. Spacing is not bigger with bigger posts, but with a few very thin internal house walls it was smaller. Occasionally posts are paired, some could be repairs (unlikely - very awkward to insert), but many appear original, to strengthen weak points. The ends of posts adazed to rough points

Posts extend 20-40cm below ground. But that may not be original reading (don't need to be that deep) - may have been weighted down by house roofs. They were hammered into position (not inserted in dug trenches).


The size was somewhat dependent on size of posts. More lightweight walls - fences, walls as part of a double wall construction, used av 15-25mm diameter wattles. Heavy single house walls and other heavy uses, av 20-30mm. Thinner wattles required when posts closer together, or less gaps in weave required. Wattles most likely derived from long term coppising, especially the thicker ones.

Woven behind every second post (i.e. in front, behind, in front, behind, etc) In one wall lowest 3 strands (and probably top 3 on some houses) plaited together as woven to form a cornice. This known from other locations (16th C Flemish, modern Ireland). The strip binds the ends together better, and was probably on a movable wall - more wear and tear.

Figure-eight shaped knots of wattle found - probably used to bind tops of more roughly made walls, joins in fences and for simple joints. (similar shown in Lutrell psalter fl63b) Fibres are probably twisted as worked - prevents snapping.

In some cases Blackthorn was used as wattles in lower few rows of fences (not houses), possibly to deter vermin. Irish accounts (12th C story Aislnge Meic Conglinne, 8th C laws) mention crests of blackthorn on fences to deter animals.


  • Murry, Hilary, 1983, "Viking and Early Medieval Buildings in Dublin" (BAR, Oxford) ISBN: 0-86054-235-1

Other uses