From the Fellows’ sketchbooks

Throughout their 26 week long conservation tour the Fellows keep a sketchbook journal that they fill with notes and drawings from their travels to sites and workshops across the UK and abroad. Below are a few sketches from Tyrone Oakley and Johnnie Clarke from the first few weeks out on the road.

At Hampton Court Palace

TO_Hampton Court Palace2

by Tyrone Oakley

TO_Hampton Court Palace

by Tyrone Oakley

JC_Hampton Court

by Johnnie Clarke


The Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College and The Great Hall Westminster Palace

JC_painted hall

by Johnnie Clarke

TO_Painted Hall

by Tyrone Oakley


On site sketches


by Johnnie Clarke

JC_orchard barn

by Johnnie Clarke


by Tyrone Oakley


by Tyrone Oakley


Pargetting and Blacksmithing

by Tyrone Oakley

The Scholars and Fellows were recently in Audley End near Saffron Walden, Essex working on an unlisted 18th century house. Bill Sargent, a master pargetter, showed the group around the site. Bill and his team had carefully removed all the cement render from the property and were given the artistic freedom to put a banner of pargetting around the entire building. The client chose the images and symbols. What was most impressive was how little time it took Bill and his team to make the client’s ideas a reality.

Pargeting in Audley EndPargeting

Later that week the group arrived at the Fransham Forge where Nigel Barnett, artist blacksmith, introduced us to blacksmithing, forges and the use of blacksmithing in conservation. Nigel creates decorative and functional hand forged metalwork, including sculptures, architectural metalwork, ornate iron gates and traditional ironwork for historic buildings. He heads up the team of highly skilled metal craftsmen at his forge in Great Fransham.

forge2Nigel’s forge was incredible and all of his staff were very knowledgeable and welcoming. We had a go at making a coat hook and Nigel gave us a demonstration, producing a leaf shaped keyring from a bar of iron. We definitely all have a deeper understanding of metals and their use in conservation after visiting Fransham Forge.


Cathedral Week

by Hannah Reynolds

Each year the Scholars spend a week at a cathedral. Cathedral week is organised by the Cathedral Architects Association, who generously donate to the Scholarship fund. We returned to Lincoln Cathedral to build on the knowledge gained on our earlier day trip.

The nave at Lincoln Cathedral

The nave at Lincoln Cathedral

Our visits were organised by cathedral architect Nicholas Rank and included days with the cathedral consultant engineers, Geoff Clifton and Garry Willis of Ramboll; the cathedral archaeologist, Philip Dixon and Lincoln City Council’s heritage team leader, Arthur Ward. We were also lucky enough to return to the cathedral’s works departments to learn more about the conservation of medieval glass and protective glazing from conservator Fernando Cortéz Pizano; stone conservation from Neil Bywater and masonry in the work shop with the masons team.

Medieval glass conservation withFernando

Medieval glass conservation withFernando

Cathedral week gave us a thorough grounding in the history, running and funding of Lincoln Cathedral and the wider ecclesiastical system. We were able to get up-close and personal with the works being undertaken on the cathedral which meant we were able to get to grips with the philosophy and approach to conservation and repair of Lincoln Cathedral.


 Thanks to Philip Dixon we also had the opportunity to visit both the nearby Bishops Palace and Lincoln Castle and were able to understand the conservation approach within the City of Lincoln as a whole from our guided tour with Arthur Ward.

Calke Abbey, the ‘un-stately home’

by Conor Meehan

On Thursday, we joined Nick on a visit to Calke Abbey, where he is the overseeing architect of the present work. For me, this visit proved to be one of the highlights of the programme so far. Calke Abbey is a National Trust property which is unique in the way it is presented to the public. Hidden amongst ancient parklands, Calke Abbey is a snapshot of the decline of the country house estate, exhibiting peeling walls, rampant cracking and unruly vegetation.

Calke AbbeyThis freeze-frame accurately portrays how so many once proud country houses fell victim to neglect and were lost to the ravages of time. The National Trust has frozen Calke Abbey in this state of decline and visitors are encouraged to explore the estate while the building seems to suffer in silence!

Calke Abbey porch&interior.jpg

‘Melted’ stone of Calke Abbey’s porch; the country house in decline, Calke Abbey interior

After a tour of the building, Nick challenged us on the philosophy of the conservative repairs which are been carried out on the building presently. Although the elements are laying siege to the building and its fabric, large scale works and efforts are being conducted to preserve the structure in its present state, without improving the image of the building and without falsifying the effect. This challenging decision was discussed with the Scholars and the workers on the southern scaffolding, and the inevitable question regarding each individual repair was put to each of us – “What would you do?” It was this thought provoking exercise that illustrated clearly to me the real challenges that face every architect and engineer in the field of conservation – each building stands alone and must be judged on its own account. This insight into the philosophy of the conservation professional was stimulating and left a lasting impression on each of us. Thanks to all hosts for a great week!

Calke Abbey Vs. Time

The Bells

By Conor Meehan

Week 14 kicked off with a visit to the legendary Whitechapel Bell Foundry which has been casting bells of all shapes and sizes since 1570, including the famous Big Ben. This is a craft of immense precision which continues to the present day – Whitechapel Bell Foundry cast the bell which rang out at the beginning of the London Olympic Games.

Alan Hughes and Scholars at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Alan Hughes and Scholars at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

The Scholars were shown around the entire foundry by the managing director, Alan Hughes who shared his vast knowledge of the craft process with us. This tour also included a run through of the bell and bell frame inspection that would be carried out in a typical church. We were on the look out for tell tale signs of ageing, damage, corrosion and tampering.

Whitechapel BellsThe following day, our newly acquired skills were put to the test as Alan brought us up the tower of the magnificent Norwich Cathedral where we assisted him with a condition survey of the bells and bell frame.

Norwich Cathedral bell and bell frame survey with Alan Hughes

Norwich Cathedral bell and bell frame survey with Alan Hughes

On Wednesday, we were hosted by the SPAB Scholar and architect, Nick Cox who we had previously spent time with at Wells Cathedral – on this occasion, we were introduced to the architectural historian, writer and broadcaster, Jeremy Musson. Both Nick and Jeremy guided us on our choices for the Plunket section* of the Scholarship, which is fast approaching, in the beautiful setting of Worton House, Oxfordshire where we were kindly hosted by Mr & Mrs Axtell, the owners. We also made a visit to the exquisite Blenheim Palace, where Nick and his associates have been working recently.

The magnificent Blenheim Palace, with Nick Cox Architects*The Plunket section of the Scholarship programme has run since 1980 and provides an extra three months of intensive study into architecture and the allied arts in some of the country’s finest stately homes. The Patrick Plunket Memorial Scholarship is named in memory of the 7th Lord Plunket, Deputy Mater of the Royal Household to Queen Elizabeth II

Week 14 Part 2 to follow tomorrow –  Calke Abbey, the ‘unstately home’