Unlike paving slabs, setts or bricks, cobbles are raw stone lumps that are left in their natural state. Traditional cobble paving looks different from county to county because these roads were constructed using materials available in the local area.
Cobbles can still be seen in many UK towns, providing a distinct look that sets the space apart from more modern developments.
New Uses for Cobblestones
When cobbles are installed by contemporary planners, they tend to be used as a deterrent, keeping people and cars away from certain parts of the road or pavement. So why is this decorative natural material no longer used for general road surfacing?
Cobblestones are Not as Robust as Asphalt
One of the most important aspects of road building is creating a level surface that is hardwearing and requires infrequent pothole repairs. The top of a cobblestone road or path is always uneven, as each stone is of a different shape and this can lead to displacement.
Whether it is through cold weather, water damage or vibrations caused by cars, cobbles are prone to moving around.
Drivers May Have Higher Maintenance Costs
The experience of driving over cobbles is akin to driving on a dirt track. Over time, regular journeys on uneven roads can result in cars needing additional repairs to the steering and suspension.
Moreover, an uneven surface is generally louder than a smoother road when cars travel over it, which would bother local residents. In turn, these issues could lead to speed limits being reduced and more traffic problems, especially in a busy town.
Laying Cobbles is Costly and Labour-intensive
From the initial laying process to resetting and repairing, cobblestones are not the easiest of road surfaces to work with. As each of the stones being used has to be positioned and laid individually, the process is very time-consuming and expensive.
Cobbles are not found in a uniform size or shape, so fitting them together to produce a relatively flat surface has to be done by hand and it’s a skilled task. These issues mean cobblestone laying is now limited to small decorative areas of towns and gardens, or restoration tasks.