Pargeting (or sometimes it is spelt pargetting) is a decorative or waterproofing plastering applied to building walls. It is particularly common in Essex, as well as in Norfolk (where it is sometimes referred to as pinking) and Suffolk.
‘Parget’, is a Middle English term that is probably derived from the Old French word porgeter, to rough cast a wall, which is funny when it is such a detailed and technical craft!
The term is now more usually applied to the decoration in relief of the plastering between the studwork on the outside of half-timber houses, though it sometimes covers a whole wall of a building.
The designs are stamped, combed or modelled freehand into the wet plaster.
Anna Kettle is a Pargeter who has recently completed a study of the detailed pargeting work, which can be seen on the buildings around Saffron Walden.
She found that 17th century parget was either a repeated combed pattern, or else beautiful freehand work as can be seen on the Old Sun Inn.
Pargeting then went out of fashion until the late 19th century when Arts and Crafts stamped pargeting appeared around Saffron Walden.
21st century parget is usually stamped, but there is some freehand modern parget to be seen around the town too.
You can check out her YouTube channel for videos about creating the specific different types of pargeting Anna Kettle Pargeter – YouTube
In July, the museum ran two free practical skills based pargeting days for young people aged 10-18 years. These were kindly funded by Paul Fairhurst and the New Homes Bonus scheme. They were run by The Pargetting Company, who also demonstrated pargeting at the museum’s Heritage Crafts Day event in August.
Pargeting in the museum collections
Pargeting stamps from Anna Kettle in a range of designs: flower, saffron and basket-weave.
The comb and the basket-weave stamp are interesting because they are two tools which can be used to make the same design. The comb would have been used in the 17th and 18th century with chalk and lime plaster, whilst in the 19th and 20th centuries the stamp would have been used with sand and lime or sand and cement plaster.
To accompany these examples, we also have examples from our own collections.
Some examples from a collection of pargeting tools largely Victorian in date, including mallet, comb and stamp designs. The stamps in the collection include the fleur de lys, saffron crocus and other floral and geometric patterns. They were used in Saffron Walden and Uttlesford by the donor’s family for generations
The large brush is a splash brush, used for wetting the wall. The items which look like paintbrushes are lime-wash brushes.
Fragment of Pargeting
A section of raised plaster with pricked surface, originating from The Close, Saffron Walden
Print, The Old Sun Inn
This print was presented to the museum by Councillor Collar. The original image was published in the book, Sketches of Ancient Street Architecture in 1845.
The Old Sun Inn was established in the 14th century. The diarist Samuel Pepys and the writer John Evelyn both recorded visits to the Inn, and Oliver Cromwell is said to have stayed there during the Civil War.
It is especially renowned for the ornate plasterwork, or ‘pargeting’, on its facade, depicting the legendary figures of Tom Hickathrift and the Wisbech Giant.
Images of the Sun Inn renovation work
Black and white photographs of workmen renovating the pargeting on the Sun Inn, Church Street, Saffron Walden, pre-1952
In the collections we have several sections of original pargeting. However, the majority of these are too worn and fragmented now to display unfortunately.
On display in the Local History Gallery
Pargeting stamp with the Saffron crocus design, and the finished design which is commonly seen on buildings in Saffron Walden
This modern plaster panel was decorated using the wooden stamp by Tom Cook and Jed Duff during filming for the BBC TV programme ‘Six More English Towns’, which featured Saffron Walden in 1981.
A steel comb used to create straight line marks in the plaster.
Pargeting stamp used to create a wheatsheaf design in relief.