The History of Street Setts and Cobbles
When it comes to using stone paving setts to create an outdoor space there is one option that stands above all others if you’re looking to create an authentic British look- and that’s Reclaimed Street Setts. Sometimes referred to as cobbles this type of paving has been used for quite literally millennia throughout the UK and Europe. If you’ve visited a high street and found your feet rolling around beneath you on worn cobbles the chances are you would have encountered this historic landscaping material. It was actually the Romans that first started using this method back in 250BC – it was their preferred method for creating roads and formed the backbone of the transport network that enabled them to conquer most of Europe. The Romans liked these cobble stones because they were strong and relatively easy to quarry. Although nowadays there are quicker and easier ways to create a path or road there are none that can give the same authentic heritage aesthetic.
Using Reclaimed Street Setts in Modern Day Landscaping Projects
As time goes on development and construction in the UK means that some of these historic streets and paths are being built upon. That’s where we come in. We purchase these setts so that they can be re-used in modern day projects – this lovely aged stone can not go to waste! This process gives rise to the name Reclaimed Street Setts as they really are reclaimed from old installations. And this is why, if you’re looking to create an authentic heritage look, you can instantly take advantage of material that is pre-worn. The reclamation process is also why we do not commit to stating the type of stone our reclaimed setts are made from. In practice they are mostly old granite setts however these have been quarried decades, potentially centuries earlier and we have no practical way of checking the composition of each sett. Some may well be limestone or sandstone instead of granite. This difference in composition and the different wear and stresses each cobble has been under give them their multi-coloured and textured appearance. Reclaimed cobbles like this are particularly well suited to older properties and projects within villages that have history. If you have a listed building you’re working on in some cases these setts can be the only legal choice for newly paved areas.
In modern day applications we find that the most popular use for Reclaimed Setts is to create attractive driveway entrances or aprons. When used like this they can create a very grand looking approach to a property. If the rest of the driveway comprises of gravel or loose stone chippings they can also be very functional too – if laid so that the finished level is 20mm or so above the level of the loose stone the setts act as a retainer preventing the gravel from migrating off the driveway.
They also look very attractive when used to edge gravel areas and driveways – creating an effective barrier between a drive or a path and an adjacent area of lawn or planting.
Beautiful cobbled paths can also be created and when combined with the right planting you can imagine you’re in a Jane Austen novel. You don’t have to imagine that, it’s just something we think about when seeing projects like this:
If you’re creating a stable yard or want an entire driveway space to be paved then Reclaimed Setts combined with skilled installers can create stunning expanses of paving like this one in Winchester:
How to lay Reclaimed Street Setts
The pictures on our website look absolutely stunning (if we do say so ourselves) but creating these beautiful landscapes is not easy and requires some preparation and planning. Unfortunately working with old paving setts like these is not like working with block paving or even new quarried setts. In most cases setts you can buy these days are roughly gauged for thickness and that thickness might not be much more than 65mm or so with variation between the setts being minimal. Reclaimed Setts are a whole different thing – and you should procure these armed with the knowledge to do them justice.
How they look when they arrive
Some of our clients have actually been a little shocked when our Reclaimed Setts arrive at their project. They don’t look very pretty when they’re out of the ground and if you’ve been browsing lovely pictures of well cleaned and installed street setts you may well be a little shocked to see them in their ‘raw’ state. You have to remember that until recently these cobbles were in the ground and although they’ve been cleaned off enough for them to removed and ready for a new installation they are not pristine. We always recommend they are treated to a deep clean once the install is fully complete. The other thing to be aware of is that only one of the six sides contains the beauty of a Reclaimed Paving Sett – the other five sides haven’t seen the light of day. And it can be a little difficult some times discerning which side is the worn one. If in doubt give them a light clean off or rub the surface – the smoother surface is the one that should be laid sunny side up.
Sizing – Thicknesses and Depths
It’s very important to enter into a project using setts like these with eyes wide open. If you’re in any doubt or your construction team has never worked with this product before we always recommend you take some time out of your day to visit our yard to see the cobbles for yourself before your project is undertaken. One thing we can’t stress enough with these setts is that sizing is in no way gauged or calibrated. Hundreds of years ago when these setts were quarried they were not thinking about uniformity of depth and ease of use – sizes do vary and some can be as deep as 250mm! In the odd case a sett is too deep for the sub-base level we recommend you cut the bottom of the sett to reduce it but ideally you will have undertaken ground work deep enough to allow for the large variance in depth.
Sub-Base for Reclaimed Setts
There’s a lot to consider when preparing the base for Reclaimed Setts – not least allowing enough room for the setts themselves when it comes to laying those. You need to consider what the area will be used for – this will have an impact on how deep the sub-base needs to be and what it might need to be constructed from. Although these setts are strong the sub-base still needs to be providing the support. You will need a sub-base of at least 100mm to support foot traffic and more if you plan to have vehicles driving over the setts. There is also drainage to consider. If you are not using a permeable jointing compound in conjunction with a permeable base then you will need to install drainage to manage surface water. Depending on the property you’re working on there might be restrictions on drainage too so this is best researched before embarking on using Reclaimed Setts.
Gauging & Laying Styles
Consideration needs to be taken when the size of the setts in relation to one another when they are laid. A sett that is thin will not work well in the same course as a sett that is thick. It’s for this reason that setts need to be ‘gauged’. Gauging is the sorting of setts into broadly similar thicknesses so that each row ends up containing setts that are roughly the same (thickness/height wise). This allows joins to look more uniform, enables joins to be smaller and looks a lot more pleasing to the eye.
When planning and designing your project you should also consider whether you want your setts to be framed or edged. It can look very attractive when there’s two courses or more of setts running perpendicular to the main paved area.
If you require the area to drain freely then you will of course need to use some kind of permeable jointing compound that works in conjunction with your sub-base. If this is not a concern for your project then this is really down to personal choice and budget. These setts can look fantastic pointed by hand with the pointing striked to shape (this is very time consuming) or you can have the jointing gaps slurry pointed to create a smoother more ‘lived in’ look. This really is down to the overall aesthetic you want to achieve and something you should discuss with any construction team at the outset.
The Final Clean
Once you’re lovely new setts are pointed up and construction is complete we recommend a full clean of the paved area to bring it to life. This is where the magic happens! We recommend using a stone safe chemical like Stone & Masonry Cleaner in conjunction with the SMC Boost on the surface, agitating with some kind of stone safe brush or pad and then using a pressure washer to rinse down the area. When using a pressure washer be sure to keep a safe distance from the stone and the mortar joins – around 50cm should be optimal.
Want to know more about how we can supply Reclaimed Setts for your project? Give the sales office a call on 023 8061 3178 or visit our stunning show gardens in Eastleigh, Hampshire.