Up to about the middle of the nineteenth century the ground floor of most buildings was formed on compacted soil or dry fill on which was laid a surface of stone flagstones, brick or tile or a timber boarded floor nailed to battens bedded in the compacted soil or fill. In lowland areas and on poorly drained soils most of these floors were damp and cold underfoot.
A raised timber ground floor was sometimes used to provide a comparatively dry floor surface of boards, nailed to timber joists, raised above the packed soil or dry fill. To minimise the possibility of the joists being affected by rising damp it was usual to ventilate the space below the raised floor. The inflow of cold outside air for ventilation tended to make the floor cold underfoot.