‘Ask the Fellows Who Cut the Hay’: Recent Research on Rural Buildings and their Context in Suffolk
with Philip Aitkens (Historic Buildings Consultant)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 22nd October 2016.


A study of farms, farmhouses and outbuildings in the Suffolk countryside using mainly unpublished case studies. Topics will include unexpected tree ring dates for early carpentry, surprisingly specialised farm buildings from the heyday of dairying, and unique tastes in colour and interior design.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:          Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:          Regionalism in the Vernacular Buildings of Suffolk

  • Availability of materials
  • The impact of topography
  • Sources of wealth – industry, agriculture etc
  • Social traditions and administrative boundaries

11.15 – 11.40:          Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:          Suffolk Traditions in Carpentry and Other Materials such as Brick, Tile, and Thatch

  • The conversion of timber – oak and elm
  • The main types of joint and their purpose
  • Roof construction
  • Planforms
  • Bricks and bricknogging
  • Daub and plaster
  • Thatch or tiles
  • Variation (within Suffolk) in materials and planning

12.40 – 14.00:          Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:          Suffolk Farmsteads, their Context, Planning and Construction

  • Farmhouses and backhouses
  • The layout of a dairy farm
  • Distinguishing farm building types
  • Daily life on the farm

14.50 – 15.10:          Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:          Interior Design down the Ages in the Suffolk Farmhouse

  • Moulding and carving of construction timbers
  • Paint and plaster
  • Panelling, cloth, paint and wallpaper

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Philip Aitkens

Philip Aitkens is a retired Historic Buildings Consultant based at Hengrave near Bury St Edmunds.  He trained with Conservation Architects the Whitworth Co Partnership in the 1970s.  After working on the Listed Buildings Resurvey of Suffolk for English Heritage in the 1980s, he began his practice as an architectural historian in 1988.  His interests have included medieval carpentry, early farm buildings, and interior design, especially Georgian wallpaper, in vernacular houses.  Philip is in the process of writing books on some of these subjects.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Dymond, D. P., & Martin, E. A. (Eds.). (1999). An historical atlas of Suffolk. Archaeology Service, Suffolk County Council.

Evans, G. E. (1956). Ask the fellows who cut the hay, Faber Paperbacks, Faber & Faber.

  1. Harris, Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings, Bucks (UK), 1978

Sandon, E., West, S., & Owles, E. (1977). Suffolk houses: a study of domestic architecture. Baron Pub..

Scarfe, N. (2002). The Suffolk Landscape. Phillimore & Co Ltd, West Sussex.

Stenning, D. F., & Andrews, D. D. (Eds.). (1998). Regional variation in timber-framed building in England and Wales down to 1550: the proceedings of the 1994 Cressing conference. Essex County Council Planning.

Walker, J. (2011). The English Medieval Roof: Crownpost to Kingpost, Essex Historic Buildings Group