How often do you look at the buildings around you? That is, really look? So often they are ignored, a backdrop
to our busy lives, familiar, constant and rarely given a second glance.
But take a moment for a closer look and you might be surprised. Above the impersonal shop
frontage may be a building of character, interesting architectural details will reveal themselves to the enquiring
eye, changes in use, style and fortune may be detected.
Buildings can provide a wealth of information as they hold up a mirror to the society that
built and used them. They tell us about the people who lived, worked and worshipped in them - their priorities
Valuable records were collected by our house detectives as they took to the streets to note
down details of buildings old and new, like a structural census.
HOW TO BE A HOUSE DETECTIVE
Simply a notebook and pencil is all you need to start, though a camera is useful if you
have one. Start by looking at the place were you live – what can you find out about how it was originally
built and has it changed over time? Remember to ask for the landowner’s, or householder’s permission,
if you go onto private property.
• Building materials – can you detect what it is constructed from? Are the
materials local or have they been brought in from afar?
• Does it show characteristics similar to other buildings nearby?
• Looking at historic sources may help to establish its age – does it appear
on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map?
• Can you identify it on the census returns or in a trade directory?
• By carrying out a rapid external survey of a number of buildings in a small area
you will get a feel for the different styles and construction methods.
Don’t forget to deposit your records at the local HER, as these will add to the body
of knowledge for your local area.
Download our recording sheets and guidance notes in PDF format - all open in a new window.
Building Recording Guidance
Building Recording Form Instructions
Building Recording Form