Does "the plaster stripping off the walls" mean "a wall with fallen chunks of plaster"?

The rumours of the strange doings which occurred in the Eddy homestead had got abroad, and raised an excitement similar to that caused by the Koons's music-room in earlier days. Folk came from all parts to investigate. The Eddys seem to have had ample, if rude, accommodation for their guests, and to have boarded them in a great room with the plaster stripping off the walls and the food as simple as the surroundings. For this board, of course, they charged at a low rate, but they do not seem to have made any profit out of their psychic demonstrations.

From The History of Spiritualism, Vol. I by Arthur Conan Doyle.

1 Answer 1


It's not rhetorical or metaphorical, but rather a description of what is. Do a search for "1930's plaster walls". In the later 19th and early 20th Centuries, in America (and I'm not sure where else), before what we now know as drywall panels were developed, a lot of houses were built with their interior walls actually plastered on. Plaster 'mud' was troweled on to a mesh and smoothed and when dried could be painted or wallpapered.

If you've ever watched a American home DYI program, or one of the popular 'flip this house' programs, and seen a scene where they are removing a wall, and instead of seeing drywall, like you would expect, you see many slats of thin pieces of wood (lathes), it was on these lathes that the plaster would be put.

So, in A. C. D.'s description of "with the plaster stripping off the walls" he is simply describing an older room that hasn't been properly cared for and has been allowed to start 'peeling' or chunking off.

Drywall is also known as plasterboard, because they are simply easy to use, easy to carry, pre-made boards, of plaster. Now, when there are holes in the drywall, we take a small amount of what is basically the same as was used before, to 'plaster' the holes. Before, the same stuff, the plaster, was spread over the whole wall.

  • Even today, some people still choose to have real plaster walls. It is better quality than drywall, but far more labour intensive to install, and therefore far more expensive. Feb 19, 2021 at 1:47
  • "If you've ever watched a home DYI program" You realize the world is a diverse place, right? Where I come from (Germany), most interior walls are stone walls as well. You wouldn't expect to find either lathe or drywall, and would get much heavier tools to remove a wall.
    – Polygnome
    Feb 19, 2021 at 13:11
  • @Polygnome You are quite correct. I was too tunnel-visioned into my own knowledge-space. I have added indicators of where in the world I was referring to. There are many places in the world where houses as we know them in the US, are simply not.
    – CGCampbell
    Feb 19, 2021 at 13:57

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