How a toadstool-shaped stone transformed itself from utilitarian farm object to coveted garden ornament.
|A small hay rick with thatching at Bunratty Folk Park, Co. Limerick|
photo by Jessamyn via Flickr
|The granary at Weald & Downland Museum, Singleton, West Sussex. |
Photo courtesy Oast House Archive licensed for reuse.
The same was true for small buildings that were used to store grain and other crops. Structures called "helms" that were supported by staddle stones and used for the storage of crops are mentioned on a number of occasions in 15th-century court rolls in England.
|Photo of hay barrack courtesy of Wikipedia.com|
Other structures, known as "barracks," had adjustable roofs that could be raised or lowered to accommodate the height of the hay stack.
|Photo courtesy of Bill Searle via|
Felbridge & District History Group
|Photo by Robin Tucker|
|Photo by Benjamin B. Turner courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum|
The above photo, taken at Compton, Surrey in England, shows a huge corn rick on the left. It has been raised on staddle stones to protect it from water and from rodents and has been thatched to further shield it from the weather until it could be threshed. There is a smaller rick of hay on the right, which would have been intended as winter feed for the livestock.
Originally, staddles that were used to support buildings were made of wood. Over time, stone became the preferred material, both for its durability and its ability to support greater weight. Stone staddles are known to have been used as early as medieval times.
Staddle stones are almost always made of two parts, a base and a top. The choice of material used was dictated by what stone was available in a certain area. They could be made of granite, sandstone or, in some cases, slate. The tops of staddle stones were usually rounded and curved-- giving them their mushroom appearance--in order to deter rodents from climbing into the hay or grain that was being stored above. Unlike simple square or rectangular foundation stones, rodents have a difficult time climbing up and around the mushroom shaped tops.
|Staddle stones line a drive at Rodmarton Manor, in England.|
Once newer methods for the production and storage of hay and grain were developed, the use of staddle stones fell out of favor and many of the existing ones were either discarded, once the storage buildings deteriorated, or they were used ornamentally around the farm. The many thousands of staddle stones that, in a manner of speaking, once "supported" England's agricultural economy were now scattered across the country being used as ornamentation to line driveways and fencerows, to mark entrances and walkways, as makeshift seats, and as features in the garden. I can recall not long ago on a visit to the Cotswolds in England, climbing the steep hillside that connects the lower garden to the house at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, where the entire path was paved using just the tops of staddle stones!
|A line of staddle stones decorate the top of a stone wall on this Cotswold farm.|
|A grouping of antique staddle stones offered for sale.|
Photo courtesy of English Garden Antiques.
The word "staddle" is derived from the Old English "stathol" meaning a base or support. I have heard these stones referred to as mushroom stones, toadstool stones, and mispronounced as saddle stones and straddle stones. But whatever you choose to call it, if you're lucky enough to have an antique staddle stone in your garden, you can not only cherish it as an object of great beauty but also as an important link to Europe's agricultural past.
Post a Comment
Thank you for your comments!