Planning Library

Built Heritage Glossary

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Abacus The uppermost part of the capital of a column, usually parallelepiped shaped. The architrave rests on top of the abacus.
Abbey A collection of buildings such as church or cloisters that compose a monastery complex ruled by an abbot.
Abutment A structure that supports the lateral thrust of an arch or vault. (See also ‘Arch’ and ‘Vault’).
Aedicule In Greek Architecture, the Aedicule is an opening (door or window), framed by columns with a pediment. (See also ‘Pediment’).
Aggregate Material such as sand or small stones used, when mixed with a binder and water, to form a mortar or concrete.
Amphitheatre An arena surrounded by tiered seating from the Roman Era.
Anaglyptic Paper An embossed, decorative paper used on walls, dados and ceilings, particularly popular in the late Victorian period.
Anchor Plate A plate, usually metal, fixed to the face of a wall and to which the ends of structural reinforcement, or tie bars, are bolted. Also referred to as a ‘Tie Plate’.
Apex The uppermost point of a cone or triangle.
Apron A panel below another significant feature, particularly the area of wall beneath a window.
Arch A curved architectural element which spans an opening and also serves as a support. Depending on the symmetry of the shape of the arch, they fall under different categories such as: rounded, pointed or Tudor arches.
Architrave In classical architecture, the lowest part of an entablature immediately above the columns. The term is also commonly used to describe a moulded surround to an opening, covering, or the joint between the door or window frame and they wall face.
Arris A sharp edge at an external angle, produced by the meeting of two surfaces.
Art Deco A term used to describe a decorative style popular in the 1920s and 1930s, identified with the jazz age and characterised by strong geometric design.
Arts and Crafts An architectural, artistic and social movement which started in England by William Morris in the mid-nineteenth century, to revive the traditional skills of the medieval craftsman and to encourage the use of local materials.
Ashlar Cut stone worked to even faces and right-angled edges and laid in a regular pattern with fine joints.
Balconette A small iron balcony fixed to a window sill for either decorative reasons or to hold a window box or plant pots.
Baluster A small pillar/column supporting a rail.
Balustrade A series of balusters.
Bargeboard Inclined board fixed at the gable end of a roof to cover and protect the ends of the roof timbers. Highly decorated in some styles of architecture.
Bay A section of a building distinguished by vertical elements such as columns or pillars.
Bell-cote A small housing to hold a bell.
Blocking Course The course of masonry erected above a cornice to visually and structurally anchor it.
Brace A timber or steel element, set diagonally between two structural members, to strengthen the joint or to reinforce a structural frame.
Bracket An element designed to support, or to give the appearance of support to, a projecting weight. Some brackets are also called 'corbels' and in Classical architecture are referred to as 'Consoles'.
Buttress A reinforced projecting wall acting in compression, usually on the exterior of a building.
Cames Grooved metal strips, usually of zinc or lead, holding glass pieces together in lattice or patterned glazing or in a stained-glass window.
Casement A window frame hinged at one side to open like a door.
Cast Iron Also known as 'Pig Iron’, this is a ferrous metal formed by pouring into moulds which allows it to be made into decorative panels. Cast iron is also used for structural elements but, while it performs well in compression, it is weak in tension.
Cement A binding material mixed with aggregate and water to form a mortar or concrete. The term is usually taken to mean an artificial cement such as 'Portland Cement'.
Cheek The vertical side of a dormer window.
Coade Stone A ceramic material manufactured by Mrs Eleanor Coade and her daughter in Lambeth between 1769 and c.1840. It was widely used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in architectural ornament and has proved extremely durable.
Column An upright pillar, usually circular in shape whic provides structural support for an arch, entablature or other stucture. A column can also be free standing.
Concrete A strong quick-setting material made from cement, aggregate and water. Concrete can be cast in situ or in precast units. It can be used alone as mass concrete or cast around steel rods to increase its tensile strength, when it is known as ‘Reinforced Concrete’.
Console A carved or moulded bracket used in classical architecture.
Coping A capping or covering to the top of a wall to prevent water entering the core of the wall.
Corbel A projecting cantilevered block supporting elements over it such as a floor beam or truss.
Cornice In classical architecture, the highest projecting part of an entablature resting on the 'Frieze'. The term is also commonly used to describe any moulded decoration marking the junction between the wall and ceiling.
Cottage Orné A picturesque, rustic house usually built to an asymmetric plan form and characterised by decorative timber features and elaborate thatched roofing. In Ireland, this building type usually dates to the first half of the nineteenth century.
Coving A concave treatment of plaster at the junction between walls or ceilings.
Cramp A metal strap or pin built into a wall to hold together elements such as adjacent blocks of stone.
Cresting An ornamental finish, usually of iron, along the top of a screen, wall or the ridge of a roof. Sometimes known as ‘Ridge-combs’ when formed in terracotta.
Cupola In classical architecture, a small domed structure on top of a dome or a roof.
Curtilage This word is defined under different terms. In a general sense 'curtilage' refers to the land and area enclosed around or within a house.
Dado The lower panelled portion of an internal wall, often surmounted by a moulded chair, or dado, rail. The dado rail was often used on its own, without the panelling below.
Damp-Proof Course See 'Architecture' glossary.
Demesne The part of a historic estate associated with a country house, which was reserved for the personal use and enjoyment of the owner.
Door Leaf The openable part of a door. It may be connected by side hinges to a frame or slide horizontally.
Dormer Window See 'Architecture' glossary.
Dovecote A building housing pigeons or doves usually with small perching niches in the walls. Often a feature of country house estates.
Downpipe See 'Architecture' glossary.
Dry Rot The common name for the fungus ‘Serpula lacrymans’ which feeds on damp timber in poorly ventilated spaces, causing the timber to lose strength and to develop characteristic cracking.
Eaves See 'Architecture' glossary.
Electro-Osmosis A system to prevent rising damp within a masonry wall, consisting of anodes inserted into a wall and linked by earthed wires along the base of the building. A small electric charge running through the system is intended to have the effect of repelling water molecules rising through the wall.
Enfilade A suite of rooms, with aligned doors, opening off each other in sequence, which creates a vista through the rooms when all doors are open.
Entablature The upper part of a classical order, supported by columns or pilasters and consisting of three horizontal bands: 'Architrave', 'Frieze' and 'Cornice'.
Escutcheon A cover plate for a keyhole.
Faïence Glazed terracotta used as decorative cladding and usually fixed to the interior or exterior of a building in flat or moulded panels.
Fanlight A semi-circular or semi-elliptical glazed area above a door. A similar rectangular feature is generally called an ‘Overlight’.
Fascia A horizontal board. Usually given to the name-board above traditional shopfronts or to the flat vertical board that protects projecting ends of roof rafters at the eaves and to which the gutter can be fixed. Traditional eaves detailing in Ireland does not use fascia boards.
Finial An ornamental capping to a pinnacle, spire, gable etc.
Fire Mark A plaque or plate issued by insurance companies and fixed to buildings to enable an insurance company to identify buildings insured by it. In Ireland fire marks usually date to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Fireskin The protective outer layer formed during the firing process on the surface of bricks and terracotta units.
Flashing See 'Architecture' glossary.
Flitch Beam A timber beam with an inserted metal plate (flitch plate) to reinforce its structural strength.
Folly A decorative building erected in a designed landscape often with no specific purpose other than to be viewed as an eye catcher.
French Drain A trench filled with gravel or other loose material to collect ground water and deflect it away from a building.
French Window A pair of glazed external doors usually leading onto a garden, terrace or balcony.
Frieze The central portion of a classical entablature located below the cornice and above the architrave, which can be plain or decorated.
Gable See 'Architecture' glossary.
Gallets Also known as 'Pinnings’ or ‘Spalls’. Small pieces of stone or other material pressed into the mortar joints of a wall either as decoration or to reduce the amount of mortar required and to reduce the danger of shrinkage.
Gargoyle A projecting water-spout designed to throw rainwater from a roof away from the wall. Often carved into grotesque heads of human or animal figures.
Gauged Brickwork Precisely-made brickwork laid with fine joints often of pure lime putty.
Gesso It is a white paint which is made from a binder mixed with gypsum/chalk/pigment or a combination of all. It was used in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to add ornament to timberwork.
Graining A decorative paint technique imitating the grain of timber. It can also be referred to as 'Scumbling'.
Ha-Ha A ditch with one vertical side and one sloping side used in landscape design as a means of containing livestock while maintaining an uninterrupted view.
Haunching The building up of a mortar fillet around an element such as a pipe or the base of a column.
Hipped Roof See 'Architecture' glossary.
Hopper Head A receptacle for collecting rainwater from gutters and channelling it into downpipes.
Icehouse An underground or semi-underground chamber built to store ice or snow throughout the summer and to provide a cold store to keep food products fresh. Usually associated with a large country house estate.
Indenting The process of replacing a damaged stone or part of a stone by inserting a piece of new matching stone.
Ironmongery The hardware associated with a door or window such as locks, hinges, handles etc.
Joists See 'Architecture' glossary.
Jostle Stones Usually cylindrical stones set adjacent to the corners of buildings or gateways to protect from damage by the wheels of passing vehicles. Also known as ‘Wheel Guards’.
Keystone The central stone of an arch, sometimes prominently decorated.
Kneeler The larger stone at the base of a gable which restrains the inclined coping stones above it and keeps them in place. Also known as a ‘gable springer’.
Laths Thin strips of wood, often chestnut or oak, forming a base for plaster.
Lime-Ash A floor-covering formed using the residue from the bottom of a lime kiln after firing, combining it with gypsum and water to produce a composite material which, when laid over a bedding material, forms a hard and durable flooring material usually for the upper floors of a building.
Lime (Hydraulic) Hydraulic lime contains a percentage of clay which produces a pozzolanic effect in mortars, that is, the mortar is set by its chemical reaction to water. Hydraulic limes can be naturally occurring or can be artificially made.
Lime Mortar A mortar made from lime putty, aggregate and water that, on exposure to air, carbonises and hardens.
Lime (Non-Hydraulic) Non-hydraulic limes are pure, or almost pure, lime. Mortars made of non-hydraulic limes can only set through contact with air, a process known as carbonation.
Lime Putty A soft putty made from slaking quicklime in water. Used as a binder in most traditional mortars and renders prior to the invention of Portland cement.
Limewash A form of thin lime putty used as a paint or protective coating. It differs from 'Whitewash' which is a mixture of chalk and water that does not carbonate.
Lintel See 'Architecture' glossary.
Louvre See 'Architecture' glossary.
Lychgate A covered, usually timber, gateway with open sides at the entrance to a churchyard which traditionally provided a resting-place for a coffin.
Mansard Roof See 'Architecture' glossary.
Mason’s Mark A symbol or initial cut into stonework by the mason executing the work. Usually associated with mediaeval masonry.
Mews See 'Architecture' glossary.
Modern Movement A functional undecorated style of architecture associated with the first half of the twentieth century.
Mortar See 'Architecture' glossary.
Mullion See 'Architecture' glossary.
Nail Sickness The widespread failure of the nails holding roof slates in place, usually due to rusting.
Newel See 'Architecture' glossary.
Nogging The infilling between timber studs in a partition to strengthen and stiffen them.
Nosing See 'Architecture' glossary.
Oriel Window See 'Architecture' glossary.
Overlight See 'fanlight'.
Parapet See 'Architecture' glossary.
Pebble-Dash See 'Architecture' glossary.
Pediment In classical architecture, a form of decorative treatment of a gable, often with sculpture to its tympanum. Although usually triangular, can also be arched or segmental. Also used above door and window openings.
Pilaster A flat column-like projection from a wall with the profile of the orders of the classical language of architecture and carrying an entablature.
Pinnings See 'gallets'.
Plaster A surface covering for internal walls and ceilings. Traditionally made of lime, sand and water, sometimes reinforced with animal hair or straw and applied wet.
Plinth The projecting base of a wall or column.
Portico A covered, open entrance in a Classical composition, with columns supporting the roof. It is often surmounted by a 'Pediment'.
Portland Cement An artificial cement invented by Joseph Aspdin in 1824 and so called because of its perceived resemblance to Portland stone. It sets rapidly and is very hard when set.
Pugging A coarse material, usually sand or mortar, added between the joists of a timber floor or the studs of a timber partition to enhance sound insulation.
Quarry In leaded-light glazing, a small square or diamond-shaped piece of glass.
Quarry Sap The moisture found in newly quarried stone which makes it easier to work.
Quoin A dressed stone forming the corner of a building, often decorated or raised.
Rafter See 'Architecture' glossary.
Reconstituted Stone A type of precast concrete which uses as aggregate a large percentage of stone particles.
Redressing The cutting back of a material, usually stone, to a new surface.
Render A mixture of a binder (such as lime or cement), an aggregate and water to form a coarse plaster which is applied to the external surfaces of walls (see also ‘Roughcast’).
Repointing The act of replacing mortar in the face joints of brickwork or stonework following either the erosion of the original mortar or its removal through raking out.
Reveals See 'Architecture' glossary.
Ridge See 'Architecture' glossary.
Ridge-Combs See 'Cresting'.
Roughcast A render covering for an external wall which is applied by throwing the mixture onto the wall. Also known as ‘Wet Dash’.
Rubble Masonry Walls made of rough unworked stones, often field boulders, of irregular size and shape. The stones can be laid completely at random or brought to courses.
Rustication In classical architecture, the treatment of a wall surface with strong texture. In ashlar, rustication is often achieved by forming deep grooves in the joints or by working the surface of the stone.
Sash Window A sash is one of a pair of glazed frames which slide past each other within a frame. The sashes can slide either vertically or horizontally but vertically sliding sash windows are by far the more common in Ireland, and are usually counterbalanced using pulleys and weights.
Scagliola A composition of gypsum or sulphate of lime made to imitate marble.
Scarfing The uniting of two pieces of timber to form a continuous length without increasing the depth or width of the beam at the joint.
Sett A rough-hewn cube of stone or timber used for paving.
Shake A timber roof tile, usually of oak or cedar, split along the fissures radiating from the centre of a piece of timber.
Shelter Coat A sacrificial coating of limewash or thin render applied to a surface to protect it from deterioration.
Shingle See 'Architecture' glossary.
Sill Guards A metal obstacle, sometimes decoratively treated, fixed to a ground-floor windowsill to prevent its use as a seat or to protect it from accidental damage.
Size/Sizing A liquid sealant for coating wood or plaster to prevent paint or varnish applied over it being too much absorbed into the substrate.
Solder Any easily melted alloy used for joining metals.
Spalling The breaking away of small chips or flakes of stone or concrete.
Spandrel A triangular panel in the corner between a vertical and horizontal structural member.
Specification See 'Architecture' glossary.
Splicing The letting-in of a small piece to repair a damaged element of joinery.
String Course See 'Architecture' glossary.
Strut See 'Architecture' glossary.
Stucco A plaster containing gypsum, lime and marble powder. It can be used externally to imitate ashlar or internally in ceiling or wall decoration.
Stud See 'Architecture' glossary.
Terracotta Translation meaning ‘burnt clay’, the term is usually used to describe a more finely grained ceramic than brick or tile and is used for wall facings, chimney pots and the like.
Terrazzo A hard flooring material containing marble chippings mixed with cement which is laid in situ, then ground and polished to a smooth finish.
Tie See 'Architecture' glossary.
Tracery Ornamental intersecting timber or stone mullions and transoms in a window, panel or vault. Typical of the Gothic or Gothic-Revival styles.
Transom See 'Architecture' glossary.
Tread End The vertical surface to the side of a step in a staircase, sometimes decoratively finished with moulded or carved work.
Truss See 'Architecture' glossary.
Tuck-Pointing A decorative form of pointing giving the effect of gauged brickwork. The joints are filled with a mortar matching the colour of the brickwork. A thin groove or tuck is then cut into the mortar and filled with white lime putty.
Tympanum The area enclosed within a pediment, or the space between lintel and arch above, often carved or decorated.
Veranda An open gallery or balcony on the outside of a building with a roof supported on light timber or iron posts.
Verge See 'Architecture' glossary.
Voussoir A wedge-shaped stone or brick forming part of an arch. The middle voussoir is called a keystone and is often carved and decorated.
Wall Plate A horizontal timber piece laid along the top of a wall to receive the ends of the rafters.
Wet Rot A generic term for fungi which feed on wet, or sodden, timber causing it to soften and lose strength.
Wheel-Guards See ‘Jostle Stones’.
Wicket A small door or gate set within a larger one to allow pedestrian access while avoiding the need to open the full door or gate.
Wrought Iron A ferrous metal smelted and then worked, or wrought, by hammering. Much used for elements such as railings and gates. It can also be used for structural members but while it performs well in tension, it is weak in compression.