Dry stone walling is an ancient craft that dates back thousands of years. It is a building method whereby structures are made from stone but use no mortar to hold them together. Although not physically joined, dry stone structures are stable because of the traditional and unique method that is used during their construction; this is distinguished by interlocking stones that form a load bearing facade. It is the interlocking of the stone coupled with the compressional forces at work that give dry stone constructions their structural integrity. Although this method is most commonly known in the application of walling, it can also be found in buildings, bridges, artwork and other bespoke stonework.
Dry stone walling is commonplace throughout the British Isles, and in many foreign countries where stone is found on or closely beneath the surface of the ground. For many years stone has been used to construct dwellings, as well as enclose farmland to create fields in order to control the movement of livestock and other animals; the gathering of these loose stones scattered over the land also meant that crops could be grown on and around the area from which they were sourced.
An ancient example of dry stone walling and construction can still be found today at the Prehistoric Village of Skara Brae in the Orkneys - this amazingly dates back to almost 3200BC. Many would find the level of design astounding given the purpose that each stone was bestowed; beds, seats, hearths and doorways show the careful consideration that was given to the construction even back then.
Britain itself reportedly has around 125,000 miles of dry stone walls, the majority of which are field walls that were built during the 18th and 19th century. However, dry stone walling has changed noticeably over the last 30 years or so; with its roots in agriculture it now has a firm foothold in the arenas of bespoke decorative stonework as well as public arts.