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A Short History of Cobbles

Cobbles and cobbled streets have been an iconic part of British life for hundreds of years. Although technology has moved on and most of our roads are covered with tarmac and paving slabs, some have kept their historical charm. Have you ever stopped to wonder why cobbles are such a popular paving method? Despite their attractive appearance, they also have practical uses too.

Until the 15th Century, the UK had a wide network of dirt roads that were used for travelling by horse and cart and transporting goods. The roads were widely used and extremely popular but this became a huge problem for users. Eventually, the roads became worn, uneven and full of potholes, making many of them impassable. After the winter months and poor weather, landowners and the government faced huge repair bills.

Something had to be done to make travelling easier and safer. In London, wood-paved streets were tried in an attempt to replace the mud. However, when the wood became saturated, it exploded because it was packed in too tightly. The surface also became slippery, making it unsafe and difficult for horses to pass over.

The ideal road surfaces needed to be durable, easy to clean and non-slip. Stone cobbles became the perfect solutions. Initially, workers were tasked with wading through rivers and streams to find the roundest and sturdiest pebbles. These would then be used to pave the roads. The stones were laid in sand or mortar with no huge gaps between the cobbles. This created a smooth surface and ensured carts and horses could pass roads with minimal accidents.

Cobblestones were perfect for allowing horses more grip and traction on the roads. Cobbled roads were safer for transporting heavy loads and usable in the poorest weather conditions. Cobblestones also had another major advantage  – they didn’t freeze and crack like solid paved streets so there were never any potholes to repair.

The Romans recognised the many advantages of cobbled streets and built a network of over 50,000 miles of cobbled roads. They appreciated the hard wearing and durable nature of cobbled streets which made it much easier for horses and carts to pull through and removed the mud, dirt and manure roads that had been used previously.

Modern Cobbles

Technology has now advanced and whilst cobbled streets have made way for paving and tarmac which are more suited to cars and heavy lorries, some historic streets still remain and we now use cobbles for more decorative uses.

At Yorkstone Supplies, we supply a range of York Stone setts and cobbles which can be used for gardens, patios, paths and driveways. In addition to a practical and durable solution for many homes and gardens, York Stone cobbles are also extremely attractive and aesthetically pleasing.

Take a look at our range of cobbles and setts to find an attractive solution for your project.

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