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Defining a historic buildings survey process

PROJECT 2010-2 : COMPLETED NOVEMBER 2011
Click here to read the completed download the Survey Guide Step-by-step Survey Guide for Historic Buildings

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AIM: To produce a short step-by-step guide on how to view and record a historic building, whose steps will follow the ‘natural process of discovery’, and which will be intended for people with an interest in historic buildings but without a lot of experience.

PROJECT TEAM: Peter Marsden, Andrew Muir

In October 2010 members of the Historic Buildings Group at the Wingrave Historic Buildings Workshop considered a survey form that had been produced by a similar group in Surrey, a county rich in medieval and early modern timber-framed buildings - and equally rich in experienced in historic building surveyors. The general conclusion was that for those with more interest than experience this was too complex.

The workshop suggested therefore that:

  • The Historic Buildings Group should draft its own survey guide;
  • This should be organised to mirror the natural way of approaching a building: starting with the view from outside in the street or the fields, then progressing inside, and so on;
  • This should guide the survey both by posing questions about what historic features might be visible and by setting out possible alternative responses;
  • The guide should also be flexible enough to produce useful observations and preliminary conclusions even if the interior of the building is inaccessible or time is limited.

Starting from these principles, and informed by recent surveying experience in both Wingrave and Hedgerley, the guide was worked and reworked through eight drafts. The final draft of the resulting Step-by-step Survey Guide for Historic Buildings is now available to download.

If you do use this guide to do a historic building survey, you will find two other resources useful:

Some medieval roof truss types

Some of the most common types of medieval roof truss.
FROM AN ILLUSTRATED GLOSSARY OF HISTORIC BUILDING FEATURES BY TREE-RING SERVICES