Why should we care about old buildings?
An English Heritage quote states that
‘Historic buildings are a precious and finite asset and a powerful reminder to us of the work and way of life of earlier generations. The richness of the country’s architectural heritage plays an influential part in our sense of national identity’.
Wiltshire Buildings Record is a partly self-funded charity that was set up in 1979 by Pam Slocombe, addressing the need to archive historic buildings records in the county in order to stimulate interest and further research into the study of Wiltshire buildings. Our collection is not only a unique archive of the buildings people have lived and worked in over the centuries, but sometimes a history of the people themselves, how they lived, what they did there, and most importantly who they were.
The catalogued material includes photographs, reports, plans, maps and copies of historical documents. We also have a range of books about buildings in the county written and published by Wiltshire Buildings Record. We are very fortunate in that WBR is able to draw on the full resources of the county archives to reveal the history of buildings in the landscape. This is due to a special partnership with Wiltshire Council, with whom we have a service level agreement to provide specialist heritage service to the public, and within Wiltshire Council.
Many hundreds of Wiltshire buildings are already recorded (16,183 sites so far and counting…), but there remains an enormous amount of work to be done to identify and record buildings, some of which are at risk. November 12th saw an announcement that English Heritage would no longer receive applications to spot-list buildings unless they were in immediate danger from demolition.
If you are interested in recording and researching the built environment of Wiltshire, then please join us. Your subscription will contribute to funding a range of society activities, such as learning to identify and record historic features in what is an architecturally rich and varied county. Members of WBR receive a regular newsletter detailing activities, and a forum for discussion. We hold a symposium on a Wiltshire building-themed topic each year, which draws distinguished speakers from the Heritage sector. This year our study day focussed on the historic interior. Our speakers deal with a range of subjects including merchants’ houses in Bristol, the interiors of rather more vernacular buildings such as farmhouses from 1550 onwards, the grand interiors of the aristocracy, and Victorian middle-class tastes.
For those who wish to have a more hands-on involvement we have ongoing projects. The Farmsteads Project particularly uses volunteer effort to record farmsteads in Wiltshire. The challenge to farming today sees enormous pressures on resources, which means that unlisted historic farm buildings are being lost very rapidly. In many cases they no longer meet the needs of modern agriculture and they are expensive to maintain. The result is that many are being converted to other sustainable uses or are simply falling down. Full training is given, and the continuing support of a mentor, for those starting out in the field (forgive the pun!)
Wiltshire Buildings Record