According to the Yorkshire County Magazine, Simeon Ellerton was a notable centenarian who passed away in 1799 at the age of 104. His advanced age might have been enough to get him noticed on historic registers in the United Kingdom at the time, but he was also noted for more extraordinary reasons.
Ellerton was a fitness fanatic, and he liked to walk. Everywhere. He's described often in notices about his life as a "noted pedestrian." But it wasn't just that he liked to walk; he liked to walk long distances. And when he was on these long jaunts he would collect stones from all over England and bring them back to his property. Sometimes, these trips would see him carrying stones from up to 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. Upon his head.
With these stones, Ellerton built himself a stone cottage of his own design. Since he collected the rocks at the roadside and carried them back himself, his home would have been incredibly inexpensive.
Ellerton might have been centuries ahead of his time as far as building a home with found materials.
Andy Stauffer, owner of Stauffer and Sons Construction, explains to us via email that there are many advantages to using found, reclaimed or recycled building materials in their homes today: "Using materials that already exist on your land can be a huge advantage in that the materials are free and you don't need to ship them to your job site. ... The challenge, is that builders must ensure the items found on a property can be used for structural materials."
As an example, Stauffer cites a house he's working on that was built in 1913 that had burned down and needed rebuilding: "The foundation was made of river rocks that had been taken from the local river. We can't use these rocks for the foundation today, but we will be using them to create beautiful and natural-looking rock walls around the property."
He adds, "If we had wanted to build a natural stone wall but didn't have access to this collection of rock already on the property, it would have cost a considerable amount to import them, so in this case, having found materials was a great benefit from both a cost efficiency and beauty perspective."
Ellerton had this figured out long before the modern trend of building with found materials began. However, even the "eccentric" Ellerton didn't take his obsession as far as Colorado resident Jim Bishop did, though. Bishop didn't build just a cottage with stones he'd found, he built an entire castle on his property using stones he found there. Now he's the owner of Bishop Castle, a roadside attraction in Colorado.
Where Bishop has kept going with his castle into the present day, Ellerton stopped once his home was complete. But then, he had no reason left to carry stones on his head during his walkabouts. It's said that he still felt as though the extra weight was a requirement for him to enjoy walking. He would go on his walks with a bag of stones on his head to simulate the stones he used to carry.
Ellerton lived in that cottage until his death, which attracted the attention of many publications who sought to memorialize his advanced age and eccentricities. This is how we know of him today.