The Group's conferences are where members meet to study buildings and discuss their findings. Conferences are open to all members.
In the spring we meet in a different part of the country each year to visit a selection of buildings in the local vernacular tradition. Local experts are on hand to explain the background and more experienced members help others to interpret them. In the evenings, lectures and discussions allow the day's findings to be explored further.
Recent spring conference venues:
- 2000 - Staffordshire
- 2001 - Suffolk
- 2002 - Ireland-Dublin
- 2003 - Essex
- 2004 - Yorkshire
- 2005 - North Wales
- 2006 - Somerset
- 2007 - Cambridgeshire
- 2008 - Devon
- 2009 - Jersey
- 2010 - Northumbria
- 2011 - Oxfordshire
- 2012 - East Midlands
- 2013 - South Wales
- 2014 - Gloucestershire
- 2015 - Cumbria
- 2016 - Lincolnshire
Future spring conferences include:
- 2017 - Hertfordshire (11 to 15 April 2017)
- 2018 - North Wales (3 to 8 April 2018)
- 2019 - Cornwall
Spring Conference Bursaries
Bursaries are offered each year to enable a registered student or a professional in the early years of his or her career to attend the spring conference. Details on how to apply for a bursary for the next Spring Conference will be published here in due course.
The winter conference takes a theme of current interest and explores it in depth through papers given by experts in the field.
Recent winter conference themes include:
- December 1999 - The Use of Tree-ring Dating for Research
- December 2000 - Vernacular Architecture and Related Fields
- December 2001 - The Transition from the Medieval to the Early-Modern House Revisited
- December 2002 - News From the Regions
- December 2003 - VAG 50th Anniversary Conference: Celebration and Speculation
- December 2004 - Vernacular Buildings and the Church
- December 2005 - Buildings, Rebuildings and Vernacular Thresholds
- December 2006 - Houses of Mud and Earth
- December 2007 - Towns and Town Houses 1000-1700
- December 2008 - Marginal Architecture
- December 2009 - The Polite Threshold
- January 2011 - Service Rooms, Servants' Chambers, and Storage
- January 2012 - Where, When and Why? - Themes and Ideas in Vernacular Architecture Studies inspired by J T Smith
- January 2013 - The Medieval Peasant House Revisited
- January 2014 - Attention to Detail
- January 2015 - Farmsteads in Focus
- January 2016 - Vernacular Boundaries
Winter Conference 2017
The next winter conference will take place in Leicester on 7-8 January 2017. The theme is Seeing the wood and the trees: the management of timber from source to building site. We all spend a lot of time looking at finished timber in houses, farm buildings and churches, so this conference looks at how it gets there. An exciting range of speakers includes some familiar faces from the VAG and others from wider afield. Topics to be covered will include how demand for timber affected landscapes and how availability affected building types (Paul Warde from Cambridge University and Stuart Wrathmell); sessions on planting, woodland management and the conversion of structural timbers (Ian Rotherham from Sheffield Hallam University and Joe Thompson from the Weald & Downland Museum); what dendro-chronology can tell us about the changing nature of woodlands (Cathy Tyers); how wood was moved around (Nick Molyneux); on getting hold of the stuff – sourcing timber from Ireland for the roof of Salisbury Cathedral (Tim Tatton-Brown) and tenants’ rights to woodland and hedgerow (Chris Currie); revisiting Oliver Rackham and calculating the numbers of trees needed to build a house (Peter Varlow); and other demands on the resource such as providing fuel (Peter Brears). And did building in wood as opposed to stone convey a special meaning? It seems to have done so in medieval Wales (Richard Suggett). After the AGM, Maurice Howard, the President of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, will talk to us about the role of craftsmen and suppliers in the fitting and furnishing of houses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Full details will be circulated to members in autumn 2016.
Winter Conference Bursaries
Bursaries are offered each year to enable a registered student or a professional in the early years of his or her career to attend the winter conference. For further information on how to apply for a bursary for the next winter conference, please see Winter Conference Bursaries.
Oxford Weekend Schools
The Group contributes to an annual weekend school held in Oxford in the autumn and run by the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education. It is open to the public and topics have included:
- The Vernacular Workshop - from craft to industry, 1400-1900
- Housing for the Masses, 1800-2000
- Diffusion and Invention - vernacular building in England and the New World
- Estate Building: The Impact of Estates on the Built Landscape
- Vernacular Interiors in the British Tradition
- Markets and Market Places
- Medieval Domestic Cultures
- The Eighteenth Century Town House
- Medieval Communal Life and its Buildings
- Getting About: Buildings and Inland Transport
- Workers' Homes: Improvement and Technology
- Vernacular Revivals
- Recording Town Buildings
Oxford Weekend School 2017
The next weekend school, Cruck Buildings: Origins, Distribution, Significance and Derivatives, will take place from Friday 29 September to Sunday 1 October 2017. Cruck buildings form one of the most distinctive elements of British vernacular architecture. This weekend will present recent thinking on the origins of crucks, where and why they were used, in what types and dates of building they were employed and by what social groups, and what factors have led to their survival in particular places. Explanations will range from the practical to the cultural. Consideration will also be given to types of structure related to, and derived from, true crucks, as well as to the co-existence of cruck and other building traditions in the same geographical area. Preliminary details can be found on the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education website.
Tip: if all the residential places on weekend schools are already taken, you may be able to find alternative student accommodation in Oxford at various prices via University-Rooms.
Other Conferences and Visits
Visit to France 2016
We arranged a VAG trip to the Maine region of France on 23-27 June 2016. A report is available on the Members' Area.
Visit to Denmark
The VAG organised a trip to Denmark on 8-14 June 2014, visiting a number of historic towns and some of the many long-established folk museums, where historic buildings have been collected together to illustrate the regional differences.
Saeters and Stave Churches
The group organised a tour to Norway on 16-26 June 2011 to visit some of its notable timber buildings - and also see something of the scenery and the country. These images of Norwegian houses and scenery were sketched by VAG member Malcolm Birdsall some twenty-five years ago (copyright reserved).