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Welcome to the Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group Home Page

Patron: The Hon. Philip Howard


Glencoyne farmhouse, with Ullswater beyond

About us:

The Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group was launched in June 2013.

Membership is open to all individuals and groups that have in an interest in Cumbria's rich building heritage. Please see below for details of our aims, our activities and how to join us.

Take a look at our events diary and past newsletters to see information about our study days, recording sessions, village walkabouts and visits to vernacular buildings.

What are vernacular buildings?

Whilst precise definitions vary, vernacular means 'local' and in building terms relates to the period before which the aesthetically 'polite' designs of professional architects became fashionable at a national scale. Traditionally, buildings in town and country were built in accordance with local custom from locally derived raw materials and to suit local needs.

Limewashed farmhouse in northern Cumbria Ona Ash, thatch and red sandstone in the Eden Valley

As we can see from our historic landscapes in Cumbria, the materials available in particular areas dictated distinctive building traditions. In Cumbria, many of these traditions resulted from the needs to protect buildings and their inhabitants from the weather!

While there are many similarities in vernacular architecture across the region, each area of Cumbria has styles of building influenced not only by the traditions of particular periods but also the availability of local materials; clay dabbins on the Solway, slate buildings in the central Lakes, red sandstone in north eastern Cumbria and the west coast and limestone on the south Lakeland peninsulas.

Traditionally, lime mortars and plasters were used to bind together all types of construction materials, and to provide external renders, internal plasterwork and finishes.

courtyard farm

There are many common features incorporated in vernacular buildings at local, regional and national scales. Over time, alongside wider economic and social changes, the relationship between local and wider traditions changed the character of our buildings.

By recording traditional buildings in Cumbria we can learn more about the region's vernacular styles and how these changed over time.

Our Links Page includes details of useful books about vernacular buildings as well as links to related websites and organisations.

Our aims

Low Fold House or Thwaite, Troutbeck

Our activities include...

Guided walks and visits to villages, farms, industrial sites and houses across Cumbria.

Lectures and study days on particular aspects of building history. Building materials, documentary evidence, dating from external features, vernacular interiors and urban and farmhouse architecture and plan types are amongst the themes covered.

1592 datestone

Recording sessions involve measuring and drawing up plans and elevations, writing up the likely development of a building and researching old maps and other documents. Training will be given where needed and skills shared.

Whether you are an experienced draughtsperson, have research skills or simply enjoy visiting old houses and are prepared to hold one end of a tape measure, you are most welcome to join us!

Please see our 2018 Events Diary for more information.

Social Media

Search Facebook for Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group and Twitter @CVBG2013

Articles and newsletters

Sleddall Hall, Wildman St. Kendal: Building Survey and Tree-Ring Dating by Clive Bowd and Mark Basey-Fisher. Tree-ring analysis report by the Nottingham Tree-Ring Dating Laboratory.

A history of Crosby Garrett and Musgrave Tithe Barns by John Dunning, Peter Messenger and Mike Lea.

Our past Newsletters are available to download.

The articles and newsletters download as pdf. files and require Adobe Reader. Click on the link for free Adobe Reader download.


Individual membership costs £10 per year.

Meadowbank, West Curthwaite

For two people at the same address: £15.00 per year.

For groups (e.g. Local history societies) £25.00 per year

Download .pdf membership form (requires Adobe Reader). Click on the link for free Adobe Reader download.

Our patron

The Hon. Philip Howard of Naworth Castle, near Brampton, has been our patron since 2016. He has a great interest in historic buildings and has been generous to CVBG and VAG in allowing visits to buildings on his land. Our fifth AGM in September 2017 will be held at Naworth Castle and includes a visit to nearby Lanercost Priory. Please see our Events Page for more information.

cruck, Cross Farm, Burgh by Sands, drawn by Richard Wilson

Our founding patron, Ron Brunskill, sadly died in October 2015. Although ill health prevented him from attending our events, he encouraged and supported CVBG and wrote a paper which was read at our launch in 2013. Brunskill was at the forefront of establishing vernacular architecture as an academic subject at a national scale, much of his early research being based in Cumbria. We are grateful for his encouragement and support, which was a major factor in establishing our group. CVBG hosted the national Vernacular Architecture Group conference, held at Penrith in July. The conference marked the 50th anniversary of the first VAG visit to Cumberland, led by Ron Bruskill, to whom the 2015 conference was dedicated.

out of the ground

Contact CVBG

June Hill (formerly Hall) (Chairman) email Telephone 07547 081631

Mike Kingsbury (Treasurer and bookings) email Telephone 015242 76434

Mike Turner (Secretary and membership) email

Page last updated 12.04.18 by Helen Evans

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