The Centre for English Traditional Heritage (CETH) developed from the Survey of English Tradition (SET) launched in 2000 as a millennium project. The Survey collects information on all aspects of language and tradition in England and throughout the British Isles on a continuing basis. The substantial amount of material gathered by the Survey is deposited in the archives of the Centre, which was formally inaugurated in 2005.

The Centre aims to encourage the collecting and recording of language and traditional material through individual contributors, societies and organisations, colleges and schools, and provide a forum for discussion on all aspects of language and tradition. It acts as a repository for contributed material in permanent archives accessible for reference and research. Through its archives, the Centre co-operates with libraries, museums, record offices, societies and organisations, to draw attention to our traditional heritage through publications, workshops, courses, lectures, displays and exhibitions.


Both the Centre and the Survey adopt a holistic approach to the subject, exploring the ways in which tradition operates and functions within and across cultures, at all social levels and in all age-groups, urban and rural, from the panoply of state institutions to the customary behaviour of everyday life. A central focus of attention is the impact of this traditional heritage on our perceptions of national, regional, and personal identity. The traditions we inherit are part of us, offering a sense of belonging and stability amid the flux of constant change and development.

Conversely, each of us is part of tradition, and we help to transmit our traditional heritage to future generations. As in all cultures, we are bound together by a common language and by our childhood experiences, our traditional customs, beliefs, performing arts, and material culture. Much of this heritage is transmitted by word of mouth and by customary example, but in recent times information technology has played an increasingly important role in the transmission process. Such developments, together with the heritage of many other languages and cultures in our multicultural society, offer unique opportunities to monitor continuity and change in tradition in this country, and to celebrate its extraordinary richness and diversity.

While emphasising the central role of language in the transmission of tradition, the study of cultural tradition is essentially interdisciplinary, acting as a bridge to a wide range of subjects, including anthropology and the social sciences, cultural studies, linguistics, history, literature, music, religious studies, archaeology, museum and heritage studies, and education. The approach employs a dynamic anthropological mode of cultural description, exploring how an understanding of the past and the present forms of tradition and language can provide insights into the future. The interface between high culture, popular culture and traditional culture is a particular focus of attention. The study of tradition is key to the establishment and maintenance of central aspects of the heritage industry, and knowledge of cultural tradition also serves the needs of public services, industry, and commerce, in addition to its academic role, quite apart from widespread public interest in the subject.

In association with higher and further education institutions, schools, national, regional, and local societies and organisations, and other interested groups and individuals, the Centre encourages projects in all aspects of the English language, including dialects, and in the general field of children’s language and traditions, such as the role of tradition in teaching linguistic and social skills to children. A Grenoside1Finalsystematic investigation of traditional verbal social controls is being conducted, attention being concentrated on the verbal constraints used by adults in controlling the behaviour of children. Through the Survey the Centre gathers information on occupational vocabularies and traditions, calendar, social, recreational, and domestic customs, the rites of passage, and on various aspects of belief, traditional health systems, and the lore of cosmic phenomena, animals, and plants, as well as on traditional narratives, music, song, and dance. The field of traditional drama is a special focus of interest, with particular reference to geographical distribution, textual variation, context of performance, and the influence of chapbook texts. The Centre is also investigating traditional foodways, arts, crafts, and work techniques in agriculture and the handcrafted trades. Questionnaires, bibliographies, and other finding aids are available on various aspects of English language and tradition.

The Centre has a working library of books and journals, focusing predominantly on English language and tradition, but including a wide range of publications on anthropology, sociology, onomastics, lexicography, history, and English literature. In addition to the data collected through the Survey, the extensive archives (LINK) include theses, monographs, studies and original research data, published and unpublished articles on various aspects of English language and tradition, copies of the field notebooks of the lexical data from the English and Welsh section of the Atlas Linguarum Europae, and an extensive range of photocopied material essential to the subject area, printed ephemera, magazines, newspaper cuttings, photographs, audio- and videotapes, DVDs, and CDs. Subsections of the library and archives contain published and unpublished material on language and tradition in Australia, the United States, and Canada, the latter with special reference to Newfoundland.

The library, archives, and facilities of the Centre are available for scholarly reference and research, by arrangement. The Centre is staffed entirely by volunteers, and users may be asked to make a contribution to postal expenses and search fees where appropriate.

The Centre publishes an occasional ejournal, Tradition Today. Members of the Survey Team, together with Local Representatives and Correspondents, receive a free paper copy of the newsletter, trad., which links the voluntary contributors to the Survey and the Centre, gives updates on their progress, and includes short articles on aspects of English language and tradition, plus notes and queries on relevant topics. We invite you to become a contributor to our collections (click here for details) so you can play a vital role in recording and preserving tradition.

Back to Top




Tradition Today

Research Projects

Survey of English Tradition

Survey of Yorkshire Dialect

Kelsey Collection of Traditional Games of London Children

Traditional Drama in Newfoundland

Become a Contributor



Contact Us