Module: Survey, Recording and Analysis of Historic Buildings

Module details

  • Module code

  • Module leader

    David Hardwick
  • Module Level

  • Module credits

  • Min study time

    150 hours
  • Contact hrs

    30 hours

Module content

Historic Buildings form one of the most visible elements of our heritage and can be “read” as unwritten records of the past. In most case this is also supported by documentary evidence which can illuminate details of the story.  

This module sets out to introduce the methods and techniques for the investigation recording and analysis of buildings. It has several threads:

Investigating Historic Buildings: Approaches to Building Surveys, Standing Building Archaeology, Conservation Surveys, Dating & Dendrochronology, Architectural History and Archive research, Identification of conservation issues.

Context: The ubiquity of historic buildings and structures. The importance of contexts and relationships beyond the designated asset. Buildings as palimpsests and the influence, both conscious and unconscious, of the physical past on later activity.

Assessing Heritage Significance: Using and integrating multiple sources of data to assess the heritage value & significance of a historic building or structure. Both case studies and participatory fieldwork will be used to demonstrate how the heritage significance of buildings can be researched and assessed. 

Emphasis will be placed upon linking field evidence with other forms of heritage record to provide an integrated assessment.

Module outcomes

On successful completion of this module a student should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge & understanding of the historical context, chronological frameworks and significance of a broad range of historic buildings and structures
  2. Understand and critically evaluate the application of the range of methods and techniques used in the survey, recording and analysis of historic buildings and structures
  3. Undertake the survey of historic buildings from initial assessment to full record using a range of appropriate techniques


Assessment Description Weighting
Coursework 1 A detailed survey record of an historic building or structure to professional standards. (2000 words, excluding figures, tables and appendices and references) 50%
Coursework 2 An interpretive commentary on the survey record comparing it to other similar buildings, outlining its historical development and assessing its wider heritage significance. (2000 words, excluding figures, tables and appendices and references). 50%

Assessments may differ in 2020/21 due to adjustments for Covid-19. Please check Gateway for the latest regulations.

Key texts

Essential resources:

  • English Heritage: Understanding Historic Buildings: A Guide to Good Recording Practice (parts 1, 2 & 3), 2006
  • Watt, D.: Surveying Historic Buildings, Routledge (Second Edition), 2011
  • Worthing, D. & Bond, S. (2008) Managing Built Heritage: The Role of Cultural Significance.  Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell

Additional resources:

  • Barratt, N.  (2006)  Tracing the History of Your House. The National Archives
  • Barson, S.  (2018)   Understanding Architectural Drawings and Historical Visual Sources
  • Brittain – Catlin, T. How to Read A Building, Collins, 2007
  • Douglas, J. (2011) Building Surveys and Reports (4th Edition).  Oxford: Wiley- Blackwell
  • Hall, L. (2005)  Period House Fixtures and Fittings 1300-1900. Countryside Books
  • Harris, R. (2006)  Discovering Timber-framed Buildings Shire Publications
  • Heaton M., (2009) Building palaeopathology: practical applications of archaeological building analysis Structural Survey Journal
  • Insall, D: Living Buildings, Architectural Conservation: Philosophy, Principles & Practice, Images Publishing, 2008
  • Letellier, R. & Eppich, R.: Recording, Documentation, and Information Management for the Conservation of Heritage Places, Routledge, 2011
  • Pevsner, N. (& others): Pevsner’s Architectural Glossary, Yale, 2011
  • Pevsner N. (& Others): The Buildings of England Series, Yale/Penguin, various

These cover practically the whole country and are being extensively rewritten but whatever the edition they do provide a useful initial guide to a regions architectural history.  You will gain more from this module if you obtain the guide for where you live or for an area which you regularly visit and do some local exploring.  E.g.

  • Pevenser, N.  (2002)  Pevsner Architectural Guide: Suffolk (Revised 2nd Edition).  Yale & London: Yale University Press
  • Taylor, R. (2003)  How to read a church: a guide to images, symbols and meanings in churches and cathedrals. London: Rider