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This web-based version of the Glossary is based closely on the printed second edition (1996). It has been produced for the Vernacular Architecture Group by See Green Media of York, under the direction of Nat Alcock and Lorraine Moor. Generous support for the project has been provided by Joyce Bishop, a long-standing member of the Group.

The lively interest that has developed in the last 60 years in historic buildings of all sorts, but especially in those of humble social status, has generated a large vocabulary to describe them. Much of this has depended on the regional and local researches of enthusiasts, and the names used to describe the timbers, the joints and the construction of these buildings include a rich mixture of dialect or local expressions, leavened with terms derived from polite architecture, and topped off with neologisms of the researcher's own coining.

Early in this process, Sir Cyril Fox in his pioneering work Monmouthshire Houses (1951-4) had to combine traditional terms with new ones, such as 'upper' cruck. Since then, in several books and innumerable journal articles, the variety and complexity of timber techniques has become evident. Intensive studies of particular regions obliged authors such as F W B Charles, working in Worcestershire, R T Mason in the Weald and Stuart Rigold in Kent to propose new terms or new elaborations of accepted terms. Alongside such regional studies, R A Cordingley in 1961 classified all forms of roof, and J T Smith has published several articles of fundamental importance, drawing local discoveries together and proposing relationships and nomenclature for them. A large and very complex set of terms has been put into circulation by Cecil Hewett to describe forms of timber joint. Each of these attempts at classification and explanation has led to the expansion of the terminology, and in some cases to conflict or duplication in the usage of names. As the product of so many minds, it is not surprising that the terminology of timber building lacks cohesion, and although the flow of new terms has dwindled, it has not ceased. Much of the investigation is now done by local groups, and their work naturally throws up favoured terms for types important in the region, which then acquire local currency. It can be taken for granted that any book on the subject of traditional buildings will have its glossary, and that scrutiny of them will reveal variations, even for instance in successive inventories by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England when they are the work of different teams of investigators.

This glossary has a two-fold purpose: firstly to illustrate and explain the meaning and context of the most commonly used words, and secondly to introduce logic, clarity and simplicity into a language which has evolved piecemeal. The glossary provides a recommended nomenclature which will not accord with every reader's current usage. However, we would emphasise that the selected terms have been chosen as the clearest available from the current vocabulary. The compilers are fully aware that some of the distinctions they propose are matters of controversy; they can only hope that their attempts at logical nomenclature will prove acceptable and that future workers will continue the trend towards clear and expressive usage. We have in particular tried to clarify face, side and edge, joint nomenclature, and the types of purlin (see the definitions of these terms). Because of this approach, readers who use the glossary to provide help with some of the older accounts may find difficulties: in this subject obsolete terms abound, and we have included only the chief of these. We have not attempted to identify terms used in historical documents such as accounts and contracts; for medieval examples, Salzman (1967) is indispensable, while for later terms Lounsbury (1994) is particularly valuable.

Some old fashioned terms used in antiquarian sources have wholly disappeared, but others have now been redefined more narrowly, and this may be particularly confusing. 'King post', for example, was in the past sometimes used for the timber now called a crown post; similarly, in some books any longitudinal roof timber may be described as a purlin, though it would be normal and more useful to call some of them plates. The glossary describes British usage; many of the terms have continental cognates, but their definitions may not correspond precisely to those given here For a multilingual parallel glossary, see Volmer & Zimmerman, 2012 (although we do not agree with all their definitions).

We have been greatly helped in preparing this edition by the comments and suggestions of many students and scholars. Almost all of these have been included, with only a few rejected as illogical or inconsistent with usage in other areas. There must be words which we should have included had we but thought of them in time, and the authors would be grateful if users could forward their suggestions to the VAG.

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