and other horror stories or why you
shouldn’t stand in a bay window in
Brighton. Rob Fraser

However you spell this concoction, it is the
mixture which makes up many of the
structural walls of Brighton and is respon-
sible for much structural instability, dry
rot, dampness, and probably plague and
pestilence as well. It is the sort of cobbled-
together material that emerged from those
desperate days of cowboy (shepherd?)
builders, hurried and financially rocky
developments, and a lack of adequate
building regulations, that characterise the
Georgian and Victorian eras.
Up to the time when Brighton became
fashionable most houses seem to have
been constructed reasonably soundly in
the vernacular tradition. These include
timber framed (partly weatherboarded,
tiled or rendered), flint cobble in courses,
or knapped flint from the fields.
Perhaps learning from the speculative
builders of London, the builders of
Regency Brighton concentrated largely on
the front elevations. These were often
brick sometimes London stocks, other
times grey glazed or brown multi bricks,
probably from the brickfields towards
The party walls, however, seem invar-
iably to be bungaroosh. Often the rear wall
was bungaroosh too and if an owner was
singularly unlucky the front wall could be
as well, underneath the elegant render
The material is basically a freely inter-
preted flint rubble. A lime mortar was
made up, and poured into shuttering, and
anything else that came to hand was
bunged* in too. This could include old
bricks, bits of flint, odd lumps of wood,
lumps of chalk, in fact anything solid. The
spacing of the shuttering even seems to
have regularised after the coming of the
railways, since sleepers were conveniently
Lengths of bungaroosh walling were
usually supported by brick piers at inter-
vals, although on lesser houses these are
not always to be seen. Chimneys and flues
were always brick. Into the mixture in the
shutters were added whatever fixings were
required for supporting other structures,
so baulks of timber or brick courses could
be set into the bungaroosh to support
floors or plaster battening. It is not easy to
tie into bungaroosh, so if a series of houses
in a terrace was not built contiguously, it is
not unusual to find vertical joints between
the front wall and party walls. This can be a
boon if the front wall falls off, since it
leaves the rest of the house standing. Any
combination of brick, timber and bunga-
roosh (or flintwork etc) seems to have
been considered acceptable. I have seen a
bungaroosh wall with a timber lintel
surmounted by two or three courses of
brickwork (to enable corbeling to support
a cornice) and this topped by a bungaroosh
parapet. Not surprisingly this lot tried to
fall down after 150 years when the timber
lintel rotted and the weight of the cornice
pulled the brickwork out from under the
parapet. Most of the time, however,
bungaroosh stays in place probably
through force of habit. All the bits of
timber in the mixture tend to create a
rather pleasant breeding ground for rot
and exotic fungi. Since the mixture is very
porous, the rot circulates quickly, and can
usually find some damp somewhere to
feed on. In fact bungaroosh has to be a
little damp. Too dry and the now leached
mortar crumbles, too wet and it becomes
mobile. My predecessor considered that
on this basis you could probably demolish
a third of Brighton with a well-aimed
There is no way of repairing the stuff,
should you wish to. The only solution to
a blown area of bungaroosh is to fill the
gap in brick, blockwork, or reinforced
cement. No structural engineer would
justify a rubble repair, and most throw a
wobbly trying to justify the existence of
bungaroosh walls.
One of the main advantages of this type
of lime mortar based material, of course, is
that it moves, and it is usually when its
movement is sufficient to create a gap
against a more solid object, such as ad join-
ing brick construction, that the material
appears to fail. In very recent years with
very dry summers and stormy wet winters,
a number of bays have collapsed, due pro-
bably to this differential movement, and
the lack of any solid fixing between the
timber or brick bays and the adjoining

*The probable derivation of Bungaroosh, I believe.
bungaroosh wall. By the way, don’t stand
in a Brighton bay window (as opposed to a
bow front which is usually OK) since the
weight of the bay is often taken through
the window frames on the outside. The
only thing tying the bay back may be
couple of 6 in nails pulling the bay back
against joists running across the building.
Next time you admire the Regency
terraces, therefore, think of the innocents
who have bought one of these buildings
with that funny sounding material the
surveyor said was in the front wall can
you spell it?

Rob Fraser is Conscrvation Officer with Brighton
Borough Council.


Kent County Council has embarked on a
series of partnerships with several of the
county’s Districts and a range of private
sector organisations to seek ways of
improving both the physical environment
and the quality of life in town centres.
Around a dozen town centre initiatives
have been established, some including the
setting up of new posts of Town Centre
Managers, jointly funded by the public and
private sectors. Conservation will, in all
cases, be an important element in the pro-
grammes including elements such as Town
Schemes, Enhancement Schemes, ‘facelift’
grants, shopfront and advertisement
The initiatives aim to bring about
effective management in the public realm
by agreeing objectives and focusing the
activities and budgets of a wide range of
statutory and local authority organisations
towards a common goal. Traffic restraint,
pedestrianisation, public transport, polic-
ing, art, leisure and the promotion of town
centres are among the features of these
schemes, but the key to their success will
lie in the achievement of greater co-
ordination and wide support for a shared
vision of the future of each town centre.
For more details contact: Tony Wimble on
0622 696099.