Cost: Free


'Three giants: Iorwerth Peate, Cyril Fox and Peter Smith, and the study of vernacular architecture in Wales'

Lecture by Dr Eurwyn Wiliam FSA


Vernacular architecture was not studied in Wales as early as it was in England, with hardly anything of lasting value published before the 1930s. However, three individuals, Iorwerth C. Peate, Sir Cyril Fox and Peter Smith – all Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries, and Fox President 1944-49 - made seminal contributions during the next fifty years, with their work influential not merely in Wales but further afield. This lecture will consider the relationships and tensions between them and attempts to assess their respective contributions and influence.

Peate published the first synoptic survey of the subject in Wales in the form of The Welsh House in 1940, but his main contribution to the subject lay not in his writings on the topic (which was but one of many he wrote on) but in the development of the first national open-air museum in Britain at St Fagans near Cardiff, a branch of the National Museum of Wales, from 1948 until his retirement in 1970. The institution recently celebrated its 70th anniversary with a £30,000,000 redevelopment.

Smith’s seminal work of 1975, Houses of the Welsh Countryside on behalf of the Welsh Royal Commission (the only one of the three Commissions to survive to this day; Smith had been a member of staff since 1949, and Secretary 1973-89), showed that there were distinct regional building cultures within post-mediaeval Wales. The book and his other writings has influenced all subsequent work in Wales as well as providing a basis for conserving historic buildings, but its typology has not been adopted elsewhere.

Fox, the polymathic Director of the National Museum of Wales 1928-53, was to prove the most influential of the three, both theoretically in The Personality of Britain (1932) by developing the concept of a Britain divided in prehistory between highland and lowland zones, and practically through the innovative, in-depth study, Monmouthshire Houses (1950-54) which he carried out with Lord Raglan – the first detailed regional study of vernacular architecture carried out anywhere - , which also served to provide an analytical model to which amateurs as well as professionals throughout Britain and indeed the world could aspire.

Please contact Jola Zdunek (admin@sal.org.uk) if you wish to be formally admitted to the Society at this meeting.

The meeting will be held at Cardiff University. The schedule will be:



Restaurant (ground floor), Main Building, Cardiff University

The evening will start at 17.15 with light refreshments.



The Wallace Lecture Theatre, Main Building, Cardiff University

The Society Meeting will begin at 17.45, including the opportunity to be formally admitted. The evening's lecture will follow the formal meeting business and admissions.

18.00 (approximate time)

Lecture will begin (guests welcome).

19.00 (approximate time)

Restaurant (ground floor), Main Building, Cardiff University

Wine will be served to guests following the lecture.