The Louth fence: cheap and cheerful

The 'Louth fence' as depicted in the Statistical Survey of Tyrone.

The ‘Louth fence’ as depicted in the Statistical Survey of Tyrone.

The construction of robust and economical field enclosures was a hot topic among advocates of ‘improved agricuture’ of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. County Louth had its very own type of fence (or enclosure) named after it. The Louth fence comprised a stone wall built into a bank. The following extract taken from the 1802 Statistical Survey of County Tyrone by John McEvoy sets out the benefits of the Louth fence (cheapness!) and gives some construction tips. McEvoy’s discussion of the Louth fence was based on its widespead use on the Tyrone estates of Lord Mountjoy in the 1770s-1800s.

Instead of a wall, built of lime and stone, this species of fence has been adopted several years ago; first on account of its being one-third cheaper built than a wall; second, it can be executed by common labourers; and thirdly, as it may be planted with thorn quicks when found necessary.

It was calculated, that a stone wall, of eight feet from the surface, would cost 2l. 8s. 3d. By the running perch. Upwards of two miles of the Louth fence have been made, and the average did not exceed 16s by the running perch.

To every foot in height, there are two inches and a half of a batter or slope, in the face of the stone work from a to b, making in the whole one foot, eight inches, from the perpendicular; the thickness of the wall at the bottom is two feet six inches, and reduced to about ten inches at top, which is always covered with a sod, to project a little over the face of the wall, and may be produced to any length down the bank, or the back F.

 

This sketch is represented as if built on level ground, or nearly so. When the ground rises bold behind the fence, less stuff will be necessary to form the back, and vice versa. The cheapest way of building these fences is, when they are placed against the hill, and in such situations there is no hazard of finishing them off at once; but when the whole back must be formed, as is the case in the annexed sketch, two seasons are necessary to complete them, in order to give the mould time to consolidate.

 

For my own part, I am a great advocate for this kind of fence, as an outward boundary to a demesne. Even without being quicked, it is proof against man or beast, and is certainly less subject to decay than a wall built of lime and stone.

References:

Robinson, Philip (1977), The spread of hedged enclosure in Ulster. Ulster Folklife vol. 23 pp.57-69

Pdf McEvoy, John. Statistical Survey Of The County Of Tyrone, With Observations Of The Means Of Improvement; Crawn Up For The Consideration, And By The Direction Of The Dublin Society. Dublin: Graisberry and Campbell, 1802
Size: 26.1M bytesModified: 16 April 2009, 13:18
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