In many parts of the world earth construction represents part of a continu-

ous centuries-old tradition. In most of Western Europe, however, as noted in

Chapter 1, this is clearly not the case. Up until the mid-nineteenth century

earth buildings were commonplace in many parts of Britain. In some areas

earth buildings were regarded as being of low status, suitable only for the

poor, who lacked the means to build more durable houses of brick or stone

masonry. However, in other areas, most notably south and south-west

England, earth was used, from the late medieval period onwards, to construct

buildings for and by people from a wide social spectrum, from the very

poorest landless labourers up to the most prosperous yeoman farmers and

minor gentry. It is probably for this reason that many more earth buildings

have survived in this area than in most other regions of Britain. Nevertheless,

even now in south-west England the public perception of earth buildings is

generally unfavourable, and most people would be very surprised to learn that

thousands of such buildings still exist in Britain.