BARD Users Guide (version 5)

Original by Rod Wild (Domestic Building Research Group – Surrey)


The Building Archaeology Research Database (BARD) mainly covers timber-framed building features from between c.1400 to c.1700. These features were initially selected during the precise dating of buildings in the Surrey Dendrochronology Project ( Some later brick buildings or features are now also included, up c.1850.

It is an internet-based database and aims to further develop the age estimation of timber-framed buildings in Surrey as well as providing a recording method for the key features of such buildings. The charting methods are proving to be a useful tool for researching the development of timber framing, century by century, as well as regional differences. It is being extended to other counties, although some changes may be necessary to better fit the fashions of each region. It will also be used for brick buildings from the 17th to the mid 19th centuries and initial facilities are included. BARD has been developed in a partnership between the Domestic Building Research Group (Surrey) and Tree-Ring Services, with the intention that any profits are reinvested in its further development. It has a high level of security with passwords for various levels of management.

The terminology used is ‘Recording Timber-Framed Buildings: an Illustrated Glossary, Practical Handbook in Archaeology 5’, published by the Council for British Archaeology, ISBN 1 872414 72 9. It is inexpensive and usually available on-line. If not, try the CBA on 01904-671417. BARD includes a simple glossary.

Accessing the Database

  1. The database is accessed at the following internet address:
  2. Individuals should contact the database manager Andy Moir at to arrange for a username and password. Please note that the database manager may need to liaise with a membership secretary for a username and password in the case of group members.

Main Categories of Activity

  1. There are three main categories of activity: ‘Search for a building(s)’; ‘Add a building’; ‘Update this building in the database’. The first two are actioned from the initial search screen, the third from the tick-sheet display having made changes.
  2. Be warned, there is a security time out for each of these activities. You will get thirty minutes but no more. You won’t be told, but when you eventually click on Search, Add or Update, you will be logged out and lose any just-entered data. It follows that, as a precaution so as not to get interrupted, when you are involved in adding your first tick-box sheet, or Adding or Updating, it pays to click the ‘update this building in the database’ button every ten minutes or so. The screen remains and you can carry on.

Searching the Database

  1. Enter the Search Criteria using as many fields as necessary. The text boxes (as distinct from the drop-down lists) work with part entry, i.e. ‘fros’ will do instead of ‘frosbury’. This will be particularly useful with post codes, although there are too few of them in the historic data for this to function well at present.
  2. A useful tip to take you back to the main search screen after a search is to use the ‘back button’ on your web browser.
  3. The building reference field also works with part entry but to avoid confusion the full number should be used. The current letter code conventions are as follows:
    • ‘DBRG’- followed by four digit number (Domestic Building Research Group)
    • ‘WBG’- followed by year of the report and number (Wealden Buildings Study Group).
    • ‘TRS’ followed by year of report and report number (Tree-Ring Services)
    • ‘EH’ followed by year of report and report number (English Heritage)
    • ‘VA’ followed by volume, page and item number (Vernacular Architecture)
    • ‘IOE’ followed by their reference number ( )
    • ‘BAR’ followed by a six digit number for most of Nat Alcock’s Wealden buildings list.
    • All new recorders or recording groups who wish to add records to BARD must be assigned a unique 3 letter code to be used at the front of the building reference field.

    A number such as DBRG1234A refers to an additional element such as a wing, or inserted floor. An entry of DBRG1234 will return all parts.

Note: where a building may have multiple references (for example DBRG & VA & EH) the first entry into the building reference field should not be altered. It is an aim of BARD not to have duplicate records for the same building. Where a building has been recorded by two or more recording groups, or one group has revisited a building and produced multiple reports on the same building, only one record is allowed on BARD. Where multiple records on a single building are identified by the database manager typically the most complete record will be used and additional records will be deleted. However, so that group can quickly link a BARD record with their building reports, the deleted records building record number is generally entered in the Key Features field. His means that most groups will be able to search this field for any buildings that they have made reports on, that are not identified as such in the building reference field. This sounds complicated, but just search using DBRG or WBG in the key feature field to see how this works in practice.

  1. The parish drop-down list is quite extended, but if a county is selected first, the list becomes much shorter.
  2. The general period field best use often in cutting down the size of very large searches, rather than something more specific.
  3. Some of the search fields will not yet show much data, as many of the earlier entries were from simpler tick sheets. These include the Key Features and, as mentioned, Post Code searches. The Likely Construction Year search only gives a specific year, but the similar option under Select Sort Order effectively gives a range.
  4. Select the Sort Order and Display Results options required.
  5. Click on the ‘Search for Building(s)’ text at the top or bottom of the page. If the search results in more than 350 entries, you will be asked to refine your search.
  6. In the Key Features Report option, there is sometimes a column alignment problem with Internet Explorer 9 and some older browsers. This can be corrected by clicking the Compatibility View button at the top of the screen. This report is very powerful if combined with Sort Order/Likely Construction Year as changes in fashion over time can be seen. Date Type Code DEN enhances the precision.
  7. In addition to the standard search features, there is a Report Feature which prints an index list of: either every building in the database, or just those in a specified county, parish, or building reference number series. The report output is ordered by county, parish and then alphabetically by building name and lists: Building Name, Building Ref number, NGR, Best Construction Year Estimate (where present), and Summary. This facility is not available on-line – so please consult the database manager Andy Moir (, if you require this facility.

Adding or Updating a Building or later phase

  1. Your Officer must first “deactivate” building for admin level users to be able to amend existing records. To list the “deactivated” buildings you must go to the bottom search option “Display Results As” and select “Summary listing of Inactive Buildings”.
  2. In the Summary Listing or Key Features displays, the building name is a hyperlink which can be clicked to display the full tick-sheet record. If the building has not yet had a tick-sheet completed and entered, only parts 1 and 2 will have any data. The data can be apparently changed or added to but will not be kept except through the ‘Add a Building’ process (see below). Only Administrators with their passwords can add a building record, and even then it will need to be activated by an Officer. Administrators and Officers can only add, or update, buildings within their own allocated building reference number series.
  3. It is possible to use BARD for simple listings of buildings with little detail, but the aim should always be to enter data from a fully completed tick-box form. Only then can some of the listings operate to their best advantage. There are two exceptions: a building that has been tree-ring or otherwise dated and contains a stylistic feature that is on the tick box; a building that is important to a particular line of research (e.g. examples of Wealden buildings, scarf joints or others to be agreed with the database manager).
  4. Start by clicking on ‘Add a building’ at the top or bottom of the opening page. This gives a blank tick-sheet screen. Remember, there is a security time out for this activity. You will get thirty minutes but no more. You won’t be told, but when you eventually click on Search, Add or Update, you will be logged out and lose any just-entered data. It pays to click the ‘update this building in the database’ button every ten minutes or so. The screen remains and you can carry on.
  5. Complete the Building Reference field according to the numbering conventions listed in Searching the Database (see above). Don’t drop leading zeros. An early DBRG number should be DBRG0026 rather than DBRG26. Use a number such as DBRG1234A to refer to an additional element such as a wing, or inserted floor. This enables an important later build or further tree-ring date to be included.
  6. The Building Name field is quite strict in that it will not allow the entry of most punctuation characters, such as / “ ( ) or ? Even a comma or full stop will be rejected. So, for example, when entering a building with a street number do not enter No.7 High Street, just enter the number, e.g. 7 High Street.
  7. If the building is also known by another name, or the building is now demolished, the convention is to place this information after the building’s current name in square brackets [ ].
  8. The Address field and most subsequent text fields are much less fussy than the Building Name field, but we hope to add text-searching facilities to some of them at a later date. A particular case is the Key Features box (see 14 below) but we may extend this to the Summary and Best Features fields. As a precaution, in any text field, avoid the use of known ‘string terminators’. These are: full stop, single or double quotation marks and forward slash /. It may seem strange not to put a full stop after the Address or Summary sentence but it’s a good safety measure. And if your ‘sentence’ is two sentences, separate them by a comma.
  9. Make every effort to enter post-codes in the postcode field as this will be a useful search field in the future. The Royal Mail postcode finder is good. Go to then personal customers>postcode finder. Google can also be useful.
  10. The OS Grid Ref field can be in the eight or ten digit format (no spaces). Periodically, the database manager converts the field to the latitude and longitude fields. This information is currently for off-line mapping applications (such as GIS), but on-line mapping applications are intended in the future.
  11. The ‘Timber & Brick sections completed’ boxes should only be ticked if there is enough data to complete much of Sections 3 and/or 6 respectively. Otherwise the Key Features Reports will contain too many largely blank lines.
  12. The 20 and 12 word limits for Summary and Best Features can be exceeded, up to a point, if necessary.
  13. The Best Construction Year Estimate is a vital field for the sequencing of the Key Features report option. A tree-ring date is clearly preferable, but a stylistic estimate is much better than nothing. This can be in the form ‘1550s’, which is close in meaning to circa 1550. Try to avoid ‘1500s’ as shorthand for 16th century as this will be date sequenced as 1500 in the listings. Better try to estimate as 1520s, 1550s or 1580s, which were the previous transfer values for E, M, or L16c respectively. Avoid stylistic date estimates such as 1520 or 1525, as these give a false impression of accuracy. The ‘s’ shorthand to the nearest decade is better.
  14. In Section 5, Compilation, ‘Compiled by’ refers to the tick box author (not the original report) and the author’s name should be entered if possible, along with a date using the calendar box. ‘Data entry by’ and ‘Checked by’ will be added by the system as each action takes place.
  15. The Key Features box, at the foot of Section 3, can be used for anything of significance. This could include rare items not on the tick-sheet, such as durn doors or louvres. But it can also be used to give a summary of the entries in Section 3. For all its virtues, the system is not a full database system and the Section 3 items are not search features in themselves. The Key Features search allows all occurrences of a feature to be listed, provided they it has been entered in the Key Features box. The aim should be to include in the box at least the main entry in the four sections: Building Type, Roof Structure, Framing and Carpentry, together with particularly important Open Hall Features or Miscellaneous Features. A typical entry could be, ‘smoke bay end, queen strut, down braces curved, jowled posts, curved step stops, bread oven’. Only put in first build features rather than, for example, later roof form types or any of the added wings or chimneys of Part 4. But it is worth including notable features in the Summary or Best Features fields which are not otherwise covered. Omit punctuation except for commas (no full stops). Use the same terminology as used in the tick-sheet form, if the feature appears there. Making a good summary in this way may take a few minutes but will enhance searching in the future. You can go up to about forty words if you wish and there is no harm in doing so.
  16. The Key Features box is usefully used at the moment to identify specific research collections (as agreed with the database manager). For example, PX1 is placed in this box to signify that the entry is a part of the Surrey Dendrochronology Project. Any searches which include PX1 in the Key Features search box are then restricted to such cases.
  17. One further use for the Key Features box is for questionable entries. You may feel that there are indications of a feature but cannot be sure. Put, for example, ‘smoke bay central?’ in the box. Use this facility sparingly and only for important points. As a rule, if there is no evidence, enter nothing.
  18. There is a Notes & References field at the very end of the form. This is self-explanatory and useful for many purposes.
  19. Finally, click ‘Add this building to the database’. Note that a building will not appear in any searches of the database until it is activated. If you are an Officer you will be able to activate the building yourself (see below), otherwise if you are an administrator you will need to tell your officer to activate the building.

Updating a building

  1. Only Administrators with their passwords can change a building record, and even then only when it has been temporarily deactivated by an Officer. It will then be found in ‘Summary listing of inactive buildings’ (which is one of the ‘Display Results As’ options) when combined with a normal search entry. Open the tick-sheet in the usual way and make the changes. Click ‘Update this building in the database’ at the end of the form. Your officer will retrieve it and activate it (see below).
  2. An Officer can simply change a record in place without the need to deactivate and activate. It may be quicker to ask him to make a simple change.

Activating a building

  1. Only Officers are able to activate a building. To do this they must click the ‘Calendar Icon’ next to the ‘Last Date Building Activated’ field. This then populates the ‘Last Date Building Activated’ field with a date and the tick-sheet can then be activated by clicking the ‘Update this Building in the Database’ link at the top and bottom of the page.

Adding a photograph

37. It is not possible for you to add building photographs to the database. However, if you have a digital photograph of the building and agree to its use, please name the file with the same name as the ‘Building reference’ for the building and e-mail it (preferably as a small .jpg file) to the database manager ( for uploading.


38. Go to ‘Enter BARD’. Then on the main search screen enter whatever search you want. Maybe try Surrey and your own parish. Then in ‘Display results as’, choose ‘map’. The display gives the whole of the UK at first, and there will just be a coloured blob for your parish, but drag the blob to the centre of the screen and click +, which is ‘zoom in’, in the top left hand corner. All the cases in your parish will separate, with the colour coding for their age. Hover over a dot and you get the name. Click on the dot and you get taken straight to the building details in the form of the first screen of the main BARD record. Note after viewing or amending a record you can go back to your maps at the scale you selected by using the ‘BACK’ arrow of your browser.