Built heritage

20 Dec 2012

Various natural features.

The Ardennes plateau extending beyond our borders towards Germany and France forms the sandstone shale massif. Shale is associated with sandstone in our part of the world, where many walls are made out of these materials, producing different “shaley sandstones” in varying proportions.

The hard sandstone forms large rough and solid blocks. The rocks comprises a cluster of grains of sand welded together as a result of the passing of time, compression and high temperatures in the bowels of the Earth 350 million years ago. To the touch these grains of sand appear to be closely packed together, making them exceptionally resistant.

Unlike sandstone, shale is a fissile stone. The word “shale” is derived from the Middle English schale ‘shell, husk, scale’. It takes the form of a succession of fine, juxtaposed layers, like flaky pastry. It was originally formed of clay, the mouldable earth used to make pottery. Owing to tonnes and tonnes of pressure from soils and intense heat during geological folding, the clays solidified into successive layers to form shale stone.


The quarries supplying the stones for the various villages were once very localised, as reflected in the old structures being grey or bluish (presence of more shale), browner (more sandstone), red (presence of iron oxide), pink or slightly greenish (presence of arkose).

Owing to its attractiveness, rough shale is often revealed in many architectural features. It has a close connection with the lives of the Ardennes people in some regions. The stone lends a grey-blue colour to their landscape, covers their roofs with thick, protective slabs, is seen in their thick walls intermittently protected with a bright white coating. It populates the cemeteries and rural pathways with their heavy crosses full of memories …

People walking around this area gain a clear impression of the local identity from the wide range of local colours.

Traditional architectural features..

The traditional farms generally had the main building and the farm buildings side by side.

The dwelling with several south-facing openings in the gable was attached to the cowshed on the north side, while being close to the animals provided the home with some warmth during the cold winter months. Next came the barn characterised by its high, wide door for the passage of the hay cart and, sometimes a sheep house with its very low door. The feed supplies were stored at a higher level. These stone farmhouses were often coated and white-washed.

The traditional dwelling generally comprised merely a very plain rectangular building, with a lower floor and, if finances permitted, one or two higher floors that were often very low. There was often an adjoining or separate bread-baking house.

The slate roof had a slight pitch, less than 35°, and it was frequently a hipped-gable style of roof, which means it had small triangular sections at the top of the gable.