There has been a breathtaking variety of materials used for building over the course of history. On the whole, building materials have steadily improved as societies have learned more about architecture and how to make consistently sound constructions. Remarkably though, some properties remain from the days when people tried to cut corners with cheaper materials. These examples provide a fascinating window on the history of building practices in the British Isles. One intriguing example of this kind is bungaroosh, which some experts have dubbed the worst building material in the world.
What is Bungaroosh?
Bungaroosh is almost exclusively found in Brighton, which is something you should be glad of if you live in London or other parts of Britain. It became popular between the mid-18th and the mid-19th centuries, and was a response to hefty brick taxes. The main component of bungaroosh was hydraulic lime, although it was typically created from a variety of other miscellaneous items.
Builders of the time tended to take a relaxed approach to the composition of bungaroosh, adding all manner of materials like pieces of brick, wood, stones, sand, flint and other flotsam they found lying around. This eclectic mixture was then put into a matrix of hydraulic lime and left to set as best it could. As you can imagine, bungaroosh with a particularly low lime content and low quality filler materials was especially structurally unsound, but even the higher quality recipes left a lot to be desired.
What are the Problems with Bungaroosh?
Buildings made with bungaroosh can suffer from a multitude of problems. It’s not as resilient as most other building materials, and properties built from it have an increased incidence of just about every structural problem you can possibly imagine. Bungaroosh is not very water resistant, either: water can easily soak through the walls, leading to chronic problems with damp. In some cases–for example if the walls become too saturated with water–elements of the bungaroosh can dissolve and move, undermining the structural integrity of the building.
In houses built with bungaroosh, it’s especially important to reduce opportunities for penetrating damp to occur. On the other hand, if the bungaroosh gets too dry, there is a chance that the walls might crumble. Given these limitations, just imagine how difficult it must be to fix shelves or pictures to bungaroosh surfaces. All things considered, it’s not an optimal building material for a house, and the real surprise is that so many bungaroosh properties are still standing.
If you’d like to see bungaroosh for yourself, head to the Kemptown region of Brighton. Treat yourself to an ice cream or splash out on tea and scones, and marvel at the charming Regency architecture of this small community. Then return to your solidly-built, damp-free London home and utter a prayer of thanks that—unlike houses made from bungaroosh–it’s likely to remain standing firm for many decades to come.