Last year I had to repair a retaining wall which had done a good job for the better part of a century but poor quality bricks and and a large measure of town ash in the mortar finally caused it to succumb to weather and plant damage. It is probable that the bricks were made with local clay mixed with ash and fired by lop and top from nearby woods. I tried to rebuild with using English bricks, but at the time there was a brick shortage and I had to use ones imported from Europe which were probably fired with natural gas. Whilst the new bricks were good quality, they were the product of an international industry, not a local one. This started me thinking what other local materials were in use around 1900 when the house was built.
In Sussex, flint has been used for walls and road making. As few weeks back, a section asphalt got worn away in the street revealing what might be the remains of the original flint surface. I have read that horse drawn carts took the town’s filth out to farms in the countryside and returned with a load of flints for urban construction. Evidently, flint roads are well suited to horse traffic as the action of the hoofs compacts the surface. In contrast, the braking and acceleration of motor vehicles causes rapid degradation.
Iron shod horses moving along a flint road create traffic noise. One way of reducing this was to surface roads in residential areas with wooden blocks sealed with tar (from the local gas works?). Roads like this can be found in Europe and North America. The section below survived into the 21st century, possibly having been resurfaced several times:
The material discarded during the upgrading of urban roads sometimes get recycled as filling for holes in rural roads and tracks. Whilst out walking along a bridleway, I picked this wooden block from a pile of debris
A relative who had grown up in East London had told me about these blocks, being a combination of wood and tar they were a popular top-up for the domestic coal supply, being a combination of wood and tar they burnt well. Whilst reading around for this post, I came across the Wikipedia article at the end of the link shown at the bottom of the page, this suggests that a lot of the wood used for these blocks was imported from Australia.
What started as a search for local connections has ended up with a reference to forests on the other side of the world.