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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 Tilberthwaite 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

Our activities include...

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

New for 2022 and 2023- Zoom talks, see our Events page for details, and our Links page to watch again.

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.

Low Fold House, Troutbeck

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 Events Diary for more information.

Social Media

Visit and follow our Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group Facebook group and join in the conversation!


2020 and 2021 publications (first copy free of charge to members)- now available to order

publications advert

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.

Meadowbank, West Curthwaite

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.

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.

Small Grants

The Committee has agreed to set up a grants scheme in support of the study and presentation of Cumbrian vernacular buildings. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) building recording, historical research and scientific dating.

Individual grants are restricted to a maximum of £200 with a total fund available each year of up to £1,000. Requests for 100% project funding are permitted but it is envisaged that applications will represent funds matched or supported by other grant-giving bodies eg the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (CWAAS)) or the Vernacular Architecture Group.

1592 datestone