Course News

Book now for our 2018 courses

Our 2018 course programme is now online and ready to book – hurry, as some courses have already sold out! Gift certificates and gift vouchers are also available to buy – call us on 01243 811021 to find out more.

Courses in traditional rural trades and crafts

Courses in traditional rural trades and crafts are inspired by the Museum’s collections, landscape and activities, and aim to keep the traditional skills and crafts of the region alive — as well as bringing them up to date with some new twists. With courses ranging from bee keeping to dairying, coppice management to stone carving, there is something for everyone. Visit our courses page and click on the subject areas on the left to browse the full programme.

There are a whole range of exciting new courses for 2018 including Willow Platters, Celtic Herbs, Cider Making, Victorian Patchwork, Garden History, plus many more. Download a pdf copy of the brochure here.

Courses in Historic Building Conservation

Our courses are aimed at craftspeople, architects, surveyors, conservation officers and owners of historic homes who are interested in carrying out or specifying repairs. Participants on all courses receive CPD certificates.

We are responsive to the needs of the building conservation industry and will set up bespoke courses for small groups on request. IHBC members receive a 10% discount on course bookings — please quote your membership number on your booking form. Please click on the links on the left to explore the course programme.

New courses for 2018 include: The Arts & Crafts Movement and Its Influence On Design And PreservationSymbolism And Meaning In Medieval And Early Modern BuildingsUnderstanding Vernacular Buildings and Introduction to Woodworking Hand Tools.

Download a pdf copy of the Historic Building Conservation courses brochure here.

Save the date

Our Annual building conservation conference will be on Tuesday 11 September 2018.

Book online

All our 2018 courses are now available to book online.

If you would like to receive the brochure in the post, or be added to our email mailing list please email [email protected] or call us on 01243 811021.

You can also receive courses news by email – click the following links to register for traditional rural trades and crafts or historic building conservation course news.


The Jowl Posts and Double Kerf Scribing Workshop

The Museum provides in-depth, hands-on opportunities to learn from our collection of rescued historic buildings. In terms of timber framing, this is made possible due to the large number of timber-framed buildings we have from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. These range from houses to farm buildings to craft workshops and they are all easily visible. A technique that unites many of them is the use of a scribing technique to join the jowl posts to the wallplates – the double kerf.

Our next course on this topic is:
Oak Timber Framing: Jowl Posts
Monday 18 – Friday 22 September 2017

This week-long workshop takes you through “step by step” from the fresh sawn local timber, to the reared up carcase. We start with the ground cills and use this frame to introduce you to the tools and techniques that underpin the scribing of mortice and tenon joints in large, wet, crooked and twisted timbers.

Next comes the lap dovetail joint between the wallplate and the tie beam; a joint with a 700 year usage, used to tie the frames together. Then onto the three tenons on the jowl post itself, starting with the tenon at the bottom of the post, followed by the two tenons at the top. By repeating the “double kerf technique” four times during the week,  the processes of the lining out, the numbering, the scribing and the cutting become more easily understood and familiar.

The proof of the pudding occurs when the carcase is reared up, using nothing more than muscle power and a maul to knock the timbers together. Each team then inspects their jowl post. Each joint should fit first time, have tight shoulders with a small tolerance at the cheeks. All of this using a very simple traditional tool kit, with no tape measures, chalk-lines, spirit levels or power tools.

The tips and tricks taught this week have been proven in over fifty jowl post workshops in the last 20 years. They are the essential rules that work time and time again, based on the evidence of the Museum’s Collections. There are many former students who have gone on to build either a one-off frame or work in the industry either on their own or as part of a bigger team.  This workshop shows you a tried and tested way to go from the timbers to the frame.


Book online for courses at The Weald and Downland Open Air Museum

We are pleased to announce that the new online booking system is now up and running for courses at the Museum.

Ingredients from tudor stillroom courses

Book now for the remainder of 2016, including Autumn herbal crafts with Christina Stapely, learn to weave your own bag or hat using locally sourced rushes from the river Thames, make an appliqué rose cushion, and a range of festive Christmas courses.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list in time to receive our upcoming 2017 course brochures for Traditional Rural Trades and Crafts and Historic Building Conservation please email [email protected] or call 01243 811021.

The Adult Learning and Courses Office is now closed for Christmas

The Adult Learning and Courses Office is now closed for Christmas. Tuesday 22 December was the last date to purchase courses and gift vouchers for Christmas. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We will respond to any telephone or email messages when we return on Saturday 2 January 2016.

2016 course dates announced!

We have published our 2016 course brochures and are currently adding all of the courses to our website, 24 of which are brand new this year!

In the meantime you can download our Traditional Rural Trades & Crafts and Historic Building Conservation course brochures here. To receive  one or both brochures by post, please email [email protected] or call 01243 811021.

There are a whole range of exciting new courses for 2016 including Illuminated Lettering, Stone Carving an Ammonite, Anglo-Saxon Herbs, Arabic Influence – Exotics and Pharmacy, Modern Services in Period Buildings, The Roman Revolution in Timber Building, plus many more.

Traditional Rural Trades and Craft brochure 2016         BCC brochure cover


British Oak Conference

On 19th June, the Museum held the first UK conference celebrating the British Oak since the University of Sussex’s 1972 event. It was a great help to the Museum that this event was kindly sponsored by Woodland Heritage, which also enabled us to provide some very inexpensive bursary places for young people wishing to entry the industry.

The Downland Gridshell Jerwood Space, a timber structure whose main frame is oak, was packed with 110 delegates from all over the UK and some from Europe too. The attendees included woodsmen, tree surgeons, architects, surveyors, carpenters, builders, many people from large organisations such as Historic Scotland, and others who simply love trees.

British Oak Conference, 19 June 2015, Weald & Downland Museum

First up to speak were Jon Stokes of the Tree Council, Andy Pitman of the Timber Research and Development Association, and dendrochronologist Ian Tyers, who examined the taxonomy, science, properties, age and provenancing of oak trees to establish a base of understanding for the following sessions.

After coffee it was the turn of Neil Humpris, Head Forester at Leconfield Estate at Petworth. Neil has worked in commercial forestry all his life and his speech explored the joys and the challenges of being responsible for all the trees on the estate, with a special focus on the oaks. He stressed that, however much we love to see standing oak trees, we mustn’t be afraid to fell them as it is a new beginning – not the end! He was followed by Tom Compton of English Woodlands Timber at nearby Cocking. Tom developed his love of oaks while working in the forests of Normandy and he spoke about how his company has built its reputation by sourcing and supplying best quality hardwoods. He thanked the Museum for bringing about the serendipity of him speaking about oak timber in the Gridshell.

During lunch many people spilled out into the Museum’s 40-acre site to enjoy the sunshine; others simply enjoyed the ambiance of the Gridshell while networking or handled some of the ancient pieces of oak brought in by Damian Goodburn. Damian kicked off the afternoon session with a discussion on oak trees before 1200 AD. Damian is also one of the advisers on the Museum’s emergent Saxon Building Project.

Next to speak was Joe Thompson, the Museum’s Carpenter in Residence, who applied the work of Oliver Rackham (who published a paper with calculations for the number of oak trees used to build Grundell House), in working out the number of oak trees required to build the Museum’s exhibit building, Bayleaf Farmhouse. The answer is 232!

After tea and cake, it was the turn of Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Tony spoke about the flora and fauna that share a habitat with oak trees, and how this knowledge helps to promote conservation management. While the British oak is loved and celebrated, we must be aware of the modern threats to these noble trees. Sandra Denman of Forest Research took us through the research she and her team are doing to identify the agents that are causing acute oak decline and what can be done to mitigate the threats to this most noble of trees. All delegates received a copy of Sandra’s paper on the topic and her research, however serious, ended on an optimistic note.

The day was chaired by Archie Miles, photographer and author of The British Oak published in 2013, and closing remarks were made by Richard Harris, who has been involved with the Museum since 1975 and was Director for 10 years. A copy of The British Oak – published in 1973 as a record of the 1972 conference – was raffled at the end of the proceedings. Every delegate was given a copy of Woodland Heritage’s 2015 Journal and a free ticket for the Museum’s Wood Show, which took place over the weekend following the conference (a show returning to the Museum after a gap of eight years).

If you’d like to know more about timber conservation, framing and much more, take a look at our courses programme. To stay up-to-date with upcoming courses, sign up to our building conservation or traditional rural trades and crafts course newsletters.

MSc Graduation Weald & Downland Museum

MSc Graduation Day 2015

The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum has been delivering Masters level courses since 1994, however a remarkable ‘first’ took place in the Downland Gridshell on Friday 12th June 2015. The first graduates of the Museum’s Master of Science in Timber Building Conservation and Master of Science in Building Conservation, which are validated by Russell Group University of York, were conferred with their degrees by Dr Jane Grenville, Deputy Vice- Chancellor of the university. In attendance were their proud course leaders Richard Harris and Eddie Booth, the university subject contact Gill Chitty, some members of the academic team and, most importantly, the family and friends who had supported them through their studies.

Graduation 2015 seated

Most of the graduates were present at the ceremony with a small minority having to receive their awards ‘in absentia’. They were all resplendent in their grey mortar boards and gowns with pale blue hoods. Amongst the whole group there are seven Distinctions and ten Merits and the high standard of the work produced during the courses was remarked upon. The commitment, hard work and sacrifices made by all concerned were referred to in all the speeches including that of Museum Director Richard Pailthorpe. Notably, tribute was paid to partners and children for their forbearance during the last two years!

The whole ceremony was much enhanced by the lovely variety of ‘music for brass’ which was played by Chichester City Band. It added so much to the feeling of importance of the day, indeed the ‘pomp and ceremony’ was tangible. The strains of music floated across the whole Museum site to the delight of visitors and volunteers. After the formal part of the proceedings everyone enjoyed a cream tea with the addition of a glass of local award-winning sparkling wine.

Chichester City Band

This graduation ceremony marked another important milestone in the development of adult learning at the Museum over the last twenty years.

Learn about the Museum’s adult learning courses and MSc Degrees here.

Exciting Evening Talks at the Museum

Tales of the Downs and Beyond is an exciting series of evening talks, which is taking place here at the Museum from 16 April to 10 August 2015.

Linked to the Museum’s key themes, each of the 60 to 90-minute talks covers a historic period or character, archaeology, plus local interest topics including literature. The Museum’s talks are highly regarded and over 600 people attended the Museum’s talks programme in 2014.

Highlights of the talk programme include:

William Shakespeare: his real life and influences on his work, 16th April

In the run-up to the release of the film Bill, in which the Museum features, this talk by Dr Duncan Salkeld, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at the University of Chichester, seeks to understand the real life of William Shakespeare and some of the influences on his work.

The King’s Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court, 12th May

The 1690s rebuild of Hampton Court included a King’s chocolate kitchen, which was lost until recently. New research has uncovered its true position – hear Marc Meltonville, Royal Palace Food Historian, discuss the reconstruction and gain insight into the making of Royal chocolate.

Historical Fiction: From Inspiration to Publication, 9th June

Since winning the Museum’s Historical Fiction Short Story Competition in 2012, Katherine Clements has become a published author. She returns to discuss her path to publication and how the past continues to inspire and influence her writing.

Agincourt: Exploding the Myth, 24th June

This year is the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. Discover the truth about the most famous English victory in the Hundred Years’ War in this talk by University of Southampton military historian Professor Anne Curry.

Richard III: The Man & Myth, 7th July

Hear Britain’s best-selling female historian, Alison Weir, talking about the reality behind the myths of Richard III – highly topical due to his imminent re-burial.

Ticket pricing and how to book

Tickets for each talk are £12 per person. If six places are booked for the same talk, the sixth place is free. Friends of the Museum pay £10 per talk and Museum volunteers pay £5 each.

For the full talks programme, please visit our evening talks page.  To book please contact the Courses team on 01243 811021 or email [email protected].


Drone filming

Midhurst Society Building Conservation Bursary 2015

The Midhurst Society has vested in the Museum some funds to provide half price places on selected training courses in the Museum’s 2015 Historic Building Conservation programme.

If you live and/or work in Midhurst (or the surrounding villages) and would like to undertake training in a conservation-related subject, here is how to proceed. Simply choose which course(s) you would like to attend and, on receipt of your criteria-matching application, an interview will be arranged.

The criteria

Bursaries will be offered to applicants who are keen to begin – or progress – their career in the building conservation industry and whose financial circumstances would prevent attendance on the course without the bursary. There is no closing date for the bursary applications – funds will simply be allocated according to the criteria until the total grant is spent.

Applications can be downloaded here and emailed to [email protected]

About the Museum and its building conservation work

The Weald & Downland Open Air Museum has earned its high reputation in the field of building conservation through its work in dismantling and reconstructing over fifty historic buildings over a period of more than forty years.

Over the last twenty or so years the Museum has also established a reputation as a centre of excellence in training in building conservation and the use of traditional building materials, tools and techniques. These day schools and longer courses provide practical hands-on elements giving students the opportunity to get the feel of the tools and methods of traditional craftspeople. The tutors are current practitioners who are also engaging communicators willing to share their skills and knowledge.

For further information contact [email protected]

New course and conference details announced

Architecture series

Good architecture can be defined as being “beautiful, durable and useful”. The Victorian and Edwardian surveyors, engineers and architects managed to achieve this successfully on a wide range of building types, using new and traditional construction materials for an increasingly larger, better educated and wealthier population. Many of their magnificent designs are still with us today, some still fulfilling their original function, others successfully converted to new uses.

The days focus on the buildings connected with Transport (Wednesday 20 May), Justice (Friday 5 June), The Seaside (Thursday 11 June), Entertainment (Thursday 18 June) and Public Service (Tuesday 23 June).

This exciting series of day schools for those interested in the subject and professionals in the building conservation industry will be led by a range of experts who have a passion for these specific building types.

The courses are £100 per person. However if all five courses in the series are booked together a reduced price of £350 applies.

Conference: The British Oak

The Conference the British Oak will take place on Friday 19 June, the full programme with the details of the speakers and talks has now been released, see below. Follow the link for further details.

Oak conference 2015 programme white unbold