MSc Timber Building Conservation

Delivered by the Weald & Downland Living Museum and validated by the University of York

Please note: the course runs part-time on a 2-year calendar. Applications open in Autumn 2024 for the 2025-2027 cohort.

How to Apply

Visit our MSc Applications page for details on the application process and entry requirements.

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About the Course

“Timber has been a valuable material in the past and will continue to be so in the future. To conserve and sustain its cultural importance, however, we need to fully understand it. The MSc at the Weald & Downland Living Museum provides you with the opportunity to learn from expert tutors and craftspeople, and gain new skills, knowledge and understanding to take forward into your future career. On completion you will never look at timber in the same way again!”
Joe Thompson, Programme Leader

Over the past 30 years, the conservation of historic buildings has gained great importance in the building and heritage industries both in the UK and overseas. Virtually every pre-modern building used timber in its construction, and there is a widespread need for conservators with specialist knowledge of timber and associated craft and repair techniques.

Established by specialists in the field, the MSc in Timber Building Conservation has a long history at the Weald & Downland Living Museum. It is suitable for students and mid-career professionals seeking to develop or enhance an academic or professional specialism in the conservation of timber buildings.

Previous students have gone on to become specialist conservation architects, surveyors, engineers and crafts people.

Course Content

The course covers the following topics:

  • Timber-frames and their regional and chronological variations
  • Timber science and decay
  • Timber-framing systems
  • Conservation process, site and workshop practice and associated materials
  • Conservation of structural timber
  • Conservation of non-structural timber
  • A personal research project – dissertation

Previous students have come from a wide range of professional and craft backgrounds and include surveyors, architects, archaeologists, carpenters, engineers, specialist builders and heritage project managers.

Course Structure

The course consists of six taught modules plus one dissertation module taken over a 2-year period.

The six taught modules run for 5 days (Wednesday to Sunday), allowing students to balance work and other commitments. Module 7 consists of research, which is presented for examination as a dissertation.

Teaching & Delivery

Teaching takes place at the Weald & Downland Living Museum and consists of lectures, seminars and workshops. Learning is further enhanced through site visits and hands-on experience of materials and processes where possible.

All taught modules include contributions from leading practitioners in the field and ample time for discussion with these experts.

The programme leader, Joe Thompson, has over 37 years’ experience in the conservation of historic timber-framed buildings. He has lectured on both of the Museum’s MSc programmes since 1998. He also delivers a wide variety of specialist practical courses on historic carpentry practice at the Museum.


Teaching takes places in the unique and beautiful surroundings of the Weald & Downland Living Museum. The Museum offers an inspiring learning environment with over 50 re-erected historic buildings and over 15,000 artefacts in its stores. In addition, there is a comprehensive reference and lending Museum Library that supports the nationally designated collection of historic buildings. Students can also access electronic library resources at the University of York.

The Weald and Downland Living Museum has always been at the forefront of developing innovative approaches and physical interventions aimed at conserving timbers. The timber repairs on the Museum’s buildings are the result of a deep and thorough understanding of the building, the timbers, the historic value and the effects of time and moisture. As such, these repairs provide an invaluable teaching resource in for the course.

2025-2027 Intake

Induction days: TBC

Course starts: TBC


Assessment for the six taught modules consists entirely of coursework. The assignments address problems and simulate tasks likely to be encountered in the professional environment.

To gain the MSc students must also successfully complete a dissertation of 15,000 words based on their research into an approved topic.


The fees for the 2025-27 MSc course – TBC

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